"And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel" (Nehemiah 8:1).
That was an amazing congregation there in the street of Jerusalem that came together that day just to hear Ezra read the Bible and explain its teachings. Ezra's previous chapter had just enumerated over 42,000 people who had returned from Babylon to rebuild the city.
Even if "all the people" is not meant to be understood literally, but representationally, this was still a very large assemblage. It even included all but the smallest children (Nehemiah 8:2), and they all stood up (!) throughout the reading and exposition (Nehemiah 8:5,7), from morning to noon (Nehemiah 8:3).
Presumably all they had was the Pentateuch (tradition says that Ezra, who was doing the reading, eventually compiled the rest of the books with it into the Old Testament Canon), but this was enough, and "all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law" (Nehemiah 8:9). Ezra not only read the actual words, but also "gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading" (Nehemiah 8:8). He further explained that, although they had been guilty in breaking God's laws, they had been redeemed and God was fulfilling all His gracious promises in restoring them to their land. Thus they had joy as well as grief over their sins.
So should it be today. That is, when God's Word is simply read and explained, that should be enough both to generate sadness and repentance over sin, and also true joy in salvation. Then, as it was to the returning Jewish exiles long ago, "the joy of the Lord" becomes our "strength" for true worship and obedience (Nehemiah 8:10). HMM