Nehemiah 12

Nehemiah 12
by Pastor Mark Hudson

Nehemiah 12 begins with a long list of names but then we proceed to the dedication of the walls. Essentially, we have two groups going around the city meeting at the temple.  One group led by Ezra and the other group with Nehemiah in the procession.  After all this work, all the opposition, the danger coming to Jerusalem, the funds needed to build, the teamwork to protect and build at the same time, the financial and emotional drain on the people, now that the city was protected by walls it was time to rejoice.  Every step of the way had to remind the choir of all the work over the last few years.

Notice all the singing!  This was a happy, joyful time.  Is it any wonder that our music director, Rose Stevens, recently told me that Nehemiah is her favorite book in the Bible?  Singer, music, choirs, get top billing.  Christianity must be the singiest (is that a word?) group in the world.  Which group sings more than the church?  Apart from a few protest songs, “anti” groups may sign, who has this repertoire the church has?  The civil rights groups sang but they were often, not exclusively, spiritual songs.

The singing is not haphazard nor is anything in this chapter (or in our Bible).  They take their lead from
‘David the man of God’ (v. 36).  They are everyone and everything is purified (v. 30).  These priests are legitimate going back to when Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem.  This is written down or ‘recorded’ (v. 22).  Much of this is recorded in the Book of the Chronicles (v. 23).  This last book probably does not refer to the Biblical book of 1 or II Chronicles.   Some of them were gatekeepers (v. 25) and some we know had different jobs, setting up and taking down the tent, carrying the tent, keeping the fire going, etc.  But some were singers.  What fun they must have had worshipping the Lord!

Take note that they were not making this up as they went along.  That is idea I get from some Protestants when it comes to worship.  For some, being led by the Spirit, implies no planning or preparation since planning is at odds with the Spirit.  My need to talk, give a testimony, because the ‘Spirit’ prompted it (can’t be verified of course) trumps your planning.  While there are times for spontaneity, I certainly would not want that for any medical procedure I undergo.  I like planning.

Also notice the praise is to God.  Nehemiah or Ezra do not receive a plaque (not that that would be or is wrong).  They are all focused on praising God.  We depend on our Teaching and Ruling Elders to maintain that God-centered direction along with all our musicians.  But that is also true of every part of our public worship.  All who speak, pray, sing, preach, or read are directing our attentions, minds, and heart to God.

You can’t help but be surprised by their generosity.   We found this same spirit at the end of chapter 10 beginning at v. 32.  After Ezra read from the Bible, the exiles experienced a revival.  They are still responding in chapter 10 where they say, “We also take on ourselves the obligation to give yearly a third part of the shekel for the service of the house of our God.” Then from v. 32 to 39, the author lists all the ways God’s people promise to support and “not neglect the house of our God.”  How much money did they have after a 3-month journey to Jerusalem, working on the wall, and thereby stretching their finances?  Yet, the promise to support the house of God is firm.

God’s people are generous.  Why is that?  First, I think since God is compassionate, so are we.  Second, God’s people know there is always enough money to give.  He promises to supply us our needs.  He “will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness”  II Cor. 9:10.  Third, there are so many encouragements to give and to be generous in the Bible.  Fourth, money is no small topic in the Bible.  Money and how we think about it and spend it is on interest to God.  Finally, our faith, as James 2 teaches, is not just about believing and no action.  But faith working itself out in works. We know we can’t tell someone to be well-fed and warm without providing practical help.

For those of us who would like to give more but cannot, God sees what every person can and does give  In Luke 21:1ff., Jesus praises the generosity of a poor woman.  We give to God and for God’s kingdom not to be noticed by others.  We are so thankful that there are always some big givers know to only a few in the church.  They help us also.  But all of us have an obligation to give.  We should all be giving just as we should all be praying, signing, and growing in our faith.

What I find interesting in vs. 44ff is the level of organization we see in terms of giving.  The Levites knew this was part of their responsibilities, “required by the Law.”  As you read vs. 44ff you are reading about giving, singing, and purification.  These are all aspects of worship.  Purification involves coming to God the way He ordains.   These different people were “appointed” (v. 44), did this “according to the command of David and his son Solomon (v. 45).  These ministries and people were “set apart” for these tasks.

We certainly would like to see that these efforts of renewal lasted for years.  But we see in the next chapter after Nehemiah returns after – well, we don’t know how long – the good times did not last very long.  But Nehemiah and those who loved the Lord did make a difference.

Lord, we worship and praise Your glorious Name.  We love to sing and worship You because You deserve all the praise human beings, angels, and redeemed saints can offer and that forever and ever.  And our worship will still not be enough since You are eternally glorious.  In gratitude, we gladly support the work of Your church and give to help those in need and Your work around the world.  We rejoice in Your everlasting love and the ability to praise You in corporate worship.  In Your glorious Name, Amen.