Bible Study: 13 Days in the book of Nehemiah
Have you ever had one of those times in your life when you look at the mess that you’re in and ask yourself, “How did I get here?” It’s a somewhat rhetorical question, for we generally know the answer, and if not God will quickly remind us. And then we say, “Oh…. Yeah. I remember.” I’ve had too many of those times to count, I could possibly write a book titled “How I got here…. Again.” I may be the greatest slow learner of all times.
Regardless of our state of decay, God is faithful to hear our cries and bring us back into a state of redemption. The further away we are, the longer it takes to return, but the return begins with the first step we take toward Heaven.
In the book of Nehemiah, he took the first step for his country when in Chapter 1 verse 4 he said “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” How long was certain days? He began praying in the Hebrew month of Kislev, which is November/December; the next scene takes place in the month of Nisan (2:1), when he asks the king for permission to return to Jerusalem. The Hebrew month of Nisan is March/April by our calendar; so Nehemiah had been praying day and night for four months! The further away, the longer it takes….
There is a certain number of days that God has for our return, and it depends on how far out we’ve gone from where God wanted us to be. I don’t believe when we begin the journey that God will give us a countdown, he might… but I doubt it. In faith we’re going to have to begin this journey by acknowledging the distance we’ve gone, the condition we’re in and our seriousness of return. The Hebrews of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, were exiled to Babylon 150 years before Nehemiah’s time. The Hebrews had been in captivity for seventy years when the Persians under King Cyrus overthrew the Babylonians in 539 B.C. The new king established a policy of letting foreigners return home, but upon their return they discovered it wasn’t like they’d left it. The walls were torn down the gates were burned with fire, their city was in ruin and the remnant that had returned were in great affliction. They were far from where God wanted. So Nehemiah prayed for 4 months before even beginning the journey home. That speaks volumes about the power in prayer and the need to hear from God before we begin trying to right a wrong.
Whether we speak of a nation, or a personal decision to get back in a right relationship with God, the journey is the same. It requires dedication, an open and tender heart to God’s guidance and a broken and contrite spirit acknowledging our part in where we are. Let the journey begin…
Nehemiah 2:19-20 – But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king? Then answered I them, and said unto them, The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we his servants will arise and build: but ye have no portion, nor right, nor memorial, in Jerusalem.
Day 2 of 13 in the book of Nehemiah
Yesterday my thought was on getting back to building and restoring a right relationship with God. A must for a successful life! That journey will begin on the first step, but to think that it will be smooth sailing and without opposition is far from realistic. When Nehemiah informed others of his intention to build back the wall of Jerusalem there was a select few (and that’s all it takes) that the Bible says “it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.” They were not happy about Nehemiah’s decision. In verse 19 it says “they laughed us to scorn.”
This same attitude holds true for a child of God who decides that today is the day that I’m going to build my relationship with God, I’m going to dedicate myself to His service and get serious leading others in the way of Christ. That statement just set the demons in Hell against you. It grieves Satan to see an on fire Christian. I think because even the words “on fire” remind him of the fate he has sealed for himself. But, in the words of my Lord, “FEAR NOT!”
Did you catch Nehemiah’s response in verse 20. Wootwoot! That should put you on shoutin’ ground! Nehemiah informed them that the God of Heaven would prosper his way. And He did. God allowed Nehemiah’s unsaved boss to give him the time off from work, send guards to protect him, and paid for the material to rebuild the gate! Hallelujah that’s my God! Nehemiah also told his adversaries of their position in the scheme of his life, “You have no portion, no rights, and we’re not even going to remember who you are in Jerusalem!”
When I read scripture like that I feel like I could fight a bear with a switch! No matter what you have going on in your life God can help you repair it. He can rebuild what you or someone else has torn down. He’ll build it back stronger and send folks into your life to encourage you along the way. Oh sure, Satan will send his minions in to try and wreak havoc. Hang on to Nehemiah’s words and repeat them to Satan “My God is in control, you have no portion of my life, no rights in my world and we are not even going to remember you in Heaven!”
The book of Nehemiah chapter 3 is one of those chapters that I have to really strain my brain to read due to it being an historical account of those who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. And by historical account I mean it is a list of names and titles and positions and so on and so on and…. Well you get the picture. But I always like to give those chapters my best attention (which is sometimes limited when it’s not a tale of excitement) but warranted because God wanted us to know who these folks were! How awesome must it have been to have been named by God as a person of significant value in the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem. So at zero dark thirty this morning I read each name and each title with great awareness that there was something that God wanted me to glean from this chapter.
And it was good!
Out of the fifty names or groups of people named in this chapter there was a multitude of talents, but it did not say that any of them were masons. There were priests, goldsmiths, rulers, merchants, women and others, but no professional brick layers, carpenters or construction aficionados. They were just ordinary people who showed up on scene and said, “Lord, use me.” The Lord made no mention of any in a greater respect than the other, only listing their contributed area of the wall.
I am the first to kick myself to the curb saying, God, I’m not worthy of being in a position of leadership. Daily it’s a struggle for me because Satan tells me I don’t belong. But each day as I meet with the teens at the Calhoun Middle High School, I have to keep telling myself, this is my part of the wall. And If I fail to do what the Lord has laid upon my heart to do, then there is a breech and we are vulnerable to attack. My fifteen minutes may not seem much to those who watch me walk into the school, down the corridor and into the gymnasium. I walk past multitudes of confessed Christian kids who often turn for fear that my gaze will see into their soul and I’ll know what they’ve been into. (By the way, that cracks me up every time!)
But waiting at the other end of the gym is a group of 15-20 young people who have picked up their tools and are working alongside the rest of us to rebuild the wall that has been torn down by my generation and those before. I’m so proud of them. I honestly believe that somewhere in Heaven is a book with their names written down beside their title and contributions; and when they get to Heaven, Jesus is going to show them the fortress that they cannot see now, but that they are building.
I pray today that you’ll pick up the trowel and help us repair the breech of Christian faith in America.
Nehemiah 4:1 ~ But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.
The Madness of Mockers – I’ve never understood those that mock the faith of Christianity. Even unsaved I knew better. It’s a vile arrogance from the pits of Hell that would cause a person to ridicule and discourage Christians. And if they were honest, it’s their fear of the faithful that causes them to react in such a manner. People do not bother to oppose what they truly believe to be of no effect on them. They just laugh and go about their lives. The very fact they find us worth their time and effort to refute proves that they feel at least somewhat threatened by our work. And work it is.
The Jews were determined to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, but the desire alone was not enough. The fortitude necessary to finish the task came from their faithfulness to God and their loyalty to the leadership of Nehemiah. It was a failed leadership that had gotten the wall in that mess to begin with through the Jews captivity by Babylonia. And without a God focused leadership the wall would have stayed in ruin.
Sanballat’s bullies were not just mockers, they meant business, but so did Nehemiah. It is in the manner that Nehemiah dealt with this trial of faith that we can find strength to go on in ours
Build the W.A.L.L.
Watch – Day and night the Jews watched from the wall, guarding the breaches. For too long Christians have let their guard down allowing the world to sneak subtly into homes. If you could see me right now, I’m lifting my hand shouting “guilty.” As my girls grew up in my home I allowed garbage to come into via the internet, television and radio that I thought was “harmless.” Satan deceived Eve with a piece of fruit, it looks harmless, but that one piece stole the peace of mankind. One television show with a bad attitude can set your child in that frame of mind, one piece of music with a bad message can sow that seed in their heart, one opportunity on the internet unchecked can expose your child to world of harm. Watch!
Ask – Nehemiah began and ended the battle with prayer. He continually let his request be made known to God which is an essential part of our lives every day to build back the wall around Christians that will let us survive in a world full of spiritual bullies. I prayed for the youth at the school this morning that God would hedge them about from the bullies that seek to tear them down spiritually. I prayed that their light would shine so that together we could build a wall of faith inside their school. Good times…
Lean on Family – Nehemiah set the families together guarding their section of the wall. Whether its blood relative or the family of God we need to stand together. There is safety in numbers. If one falls, another can hold them up, if you’re standing back to back you’ve got all sides covered against Satan. What one may let slide, another can say no. Families may disagree, but for the good of the cause, they stand together in a unified body. Is there not a cause?
Live in Christ – To live in Christ is to Abide in the Lord, being held secure in a permanent relationship. Christ told us in John 15:4 “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
Keep your relationship alive in Christ by staying connected to Him. If the fruit falls from a vine, it begins to die immediately and so do we spiritually.
Nehemiah 5:9 ~ Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
To set the stage for today’s topic you need to understand the conditions that Nehemiah spoke of and to whom he spoke. The condition was such that the Jewish rulers had taken it upon themselves to make a living by exploiting their fellow Jews during hard times. They were charging interest on money that had been borrowed to buy food; when they couldn’t pay any more, they took their land; and when that was exhausted they took their children as slaves.
When Nehemiah heard of the plight of the very people who had sacrificed it all to rebuild the wall he was angry; a righteous anger. There is such a thing you know. But before he allowed the anger to get the best of him, he “consulted with himself” in verse 7. Meaning before he acted he took some time to think it over and pray about it. And then God turned him loose on the rulers! He went up one side and down the other about the dangers of what they were doing to the brethren, which ended with repentance on the part of the rulers and the all that was taken in err was restored
A lesson for leadership…
In the work of the church the heart of the servant is the same in the eyes of God, whether it is the heart of a leader or the heart of an ordinary member of the congregation. To think of the leadership as merely “foremen of the followers” is ridiculous! We are to lead by example. In verse 5 of chapter 3 Nehemiah mentioned the Tekoite nobles who “put not their necks to the work of the LORD.” This ought not to be.
I love my husband David for a multitude of reasons, but one such reason is his work ethic. He’s in the chief position of the company he works for, and yet, if there’s hard labor to be done, he’s in the thick of it beside of those who work for him. He leads by example. Those who work for him are without excuse if they choose not to labor. Hello leadership?
Nehemiah did not say that leadership should not prosper. But they for sure shouldn’t prosper at the expense of the brethren. And as church leadership the body of Christ should be working side by side, in unison for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. Amen! Get me a mattock, I’ve got some ground to cover…
Nehemiah 6:9 ~ For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done. Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.
When victory was apparent the enemies of the Jews began to devise a plan to call Nehemiah out away from the work and destroy him, thus destroying the work. Shemaiah tried to convince him to shut himself up in the temple, but this too Nehemiah perceived as a plot to instill fear in him.
Boy, does that though resonate in me this morning. One of Satan’s greatest weapons with the believer is fear. Fear works to destroy not only us, but our witness to other believers and more importantly, the lost. If Nehemiah had run into the temple and cowered down in fear of Sanballat and his bullies what would the remaining Jews have done? If they’re leader abandoned the work of wall, what hope was there for them?
Nehemiah the mighty leader stands to the test in verse 11 when he says “And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.
For 52 days Nehemiah and the Jews had rebuilt the wall to completion. The enemy was not happy! They tried to draw Nehemiah out, and that didn’t work. They tried to instill fear in him and that didn’t work so they moved on to threatening him. The same scheme Satan uses today. He draws people away from church for a number of reasons; he keeps them away from the Word of God and convinces them there is reason to fear; he continually hammers the mind with threats.
Man your post! Satan’s first tactic is to get you away from the wall of protection that is provided within the church. He’ll give you any number of reasons to leave, and believe me when I say, you are prey for the taking when he gets you outside. If he can’t get you outside, he’ll begin working on you with fear.
Fear will cost you your peace:
If Satan has began using the tactic of fear it is because you’re on the road to victory. Just as the bullies tried to draw Nehemiah away from his work to do him harm, that is Satan’s desire for you! He wants you away from living the life God desires for you and off the path you’re on. If he can get you to cower down in your faith, he’ll rob you of the joy of God’s abundance.
Secondly Fear will cause you to lose your perception
Live in fear for just a little while and you’ll lose sight of the path God had you on completely. If Nehemiah had gone in and hidden in the church he not only would have lost sight of the work he’d been doing, but those who were still there would have lost sight of their leader. The Church rises and falls on leadership!
Third – Fear will conceal the proof
There is a world seeking the peace of God and the only way they’ll find evidence of it is in us. If we abandon the work, we’re damning souls to Hell. Harsh? Yep, but its reality. If they don’t find the peace of God in us who are called to be His children and leaders in the Kingdom, where will they find it?
Nehemiah, at God’s direction, begins to number the children of Israel within the walls of Jerusalem. The chronological lists of family names and the number of them serve as a historic record and most important was the fact that God had promised that Christ would be a descendant of Abraham, David, etc. The nation of Israel continued and its lineage was kept, so this promise could yet be fulfilled. This relatively short list of people totaled about 50,000. Not too many, considering the number against them on the outside of the wall.
The verse that struck a chord in my heart this morning was verses 63-65 of the 7th Chapter.
And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name. These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.
I am one who wants everyone included. As a child I was on the outside of the “in” circle on more than one occasion. So throughout my life I’ve striven to insure no one ever felt outside of my circle. But when it comes to the Holiness of God, His ways are not my ways. And although God assuredly wants everyone within the wall faith there are conditions of being in that number and God is NOT an all inclusive God. In the numbering of the Jews one had to be able to prove their blood line through family genealogy. The same is true in the Kingdom of Heaven. The churches who do not preach the blood are going to be in a heap of trouble on judgment day! The bloodline mattered then and it matters now.
The good news is, although the gentiles who could then lived within the wall were not considered children of God, we because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ can live and be numbered in the Holy head count! Hallelujah! But we still have to come there by the blood. Churches who have linked hands with other religions and say we all serve the same God are preaching damnation to the souls of their congregations. God will not allow children who profess another father to live in His house.
So, are you numbered in the Holy head count this morning? If not, it would be a good day to right that wrong. Today’s the Lord’s Day and the house of God is open for business. But choose carefully! Make sure you choose a church who preaches that the blood of Jesus is the ONLY WAY to salvation.
Do you have to go to church to be saved? No. If you can’t get there for whatever reason, you can make that profession of faith where you are by believing that Jesus Christ was indeed of the lineage of Abraham, that He was truly God and man, that He died on the cross of Calvary and was risen again the third day. He then ascended back into Heaven where He now resides and stands at the right hand of God, that He might intercede on behalf of all those who call Him Lord, and forgive their sins.
If you believe that, then you are numbered among God’s children. But you still need a church to teach you in the way’s of God! Pick a good one! Amen.
Nehemiah 8:1-3 ~ 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. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
I came to Victory Baptist Church in 1996, not long after the church was completed. Never in my life had I met a people more desirous for the Word of God. It was as if the whole lot of them showed up to a picnic of epic proportion after having been fed bread and water their entire lives. That’s literally how I felt. For the first time in my life I felt as if I was hearing the Word of the Lord, and it was water to a dry thirsty soul. What made the difference?
Many of us had a lot in common with the congregation in Nehemiah’s day. We were in bondage. Not the bondage of slavery as Israel had been, but the bondage of dead religion, false religion or no religion. We would have gathered in the parking lot of Victory if that’s what it took to get the Word of God. We were that hungry. If you’ve never been that hungry, then you can’t possibly understand. But don’t stop reading! I have something to tell you.
The fire goes out on one lone log…
It’s hard to catch on fire when you layin’ in the midst of a bunch of soggy logs. I’ve sang in my share of dead churches, but always in the congregation (as my friend Tracy Miller reminds me) you’ll find a head “nodder;” that one person who enjoys the spirit of the service and worships in spite of those around them who just don’t get it. I’d always leave wishing that person’s fire would either spread, or they’d leave before someone doused them with sogginess. Just as the congregation stood before Nehemiah as one man, we need to be in a church where others desire to hear the Word of God as much as we do.
The congregation asked Ezra to bring the book and then they stood there in the streets of the city from morning until midday listening to him read it. It didn’t say he preached, there was no music, or anything other than the Word of God being read. Satan has lulled churches into the belief that there has to be a gimmick to keep the congregation entertained or they will not stay. That is a lie! I love the music at Victory, we have some of the greatest singers and musicians in the country, but I’m not there for them, and I sure hope no one is there for me. I’m there because my Pastor speaks the Word.
In verses 5 and 6 Ezra opens the book, and every one stands up. He blesses the LORD, the great God, and they answered Amen, Amen! They lifted their hands, they bowed their heads and the worshipped the LORD with their faces to the ground.
When’s the last time you’ve been in a service like that?! If you say never… you may be among soggy logs.
Nehemiah 9:1-3 ~ Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the LORD their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the LORD their God.
The wall was finished, the Word had been read, and a realization of how far they had come away from God, again, was being acknowledged. A right heart with God requires a discipline that the world has a hard time swallowing. Christians, especially Americans, have a hard time depriving themselves of anything. Mark me guilty as my sausage fries in the pan this morning and biscuits are in the oven.
But Israel got it! Regardless of stature, there was no fancy meal or beautiful apparel. They ate nothing, their clothing was crude and uncomfortable and they were dirty before almighty God, just as we truly are. We can pretty and polish ourselves ‘til the cows come home and it won’t fix anything. True repentance, the kind that gets God’s attention is raw and it’s emotional. I’d dare say it was loud! When they cried out to God, even though they were separated from strangers, I’d venture a guess the strangers heard them. They didn’t lie down; they stood and confessed, not only their own sins, but the sins of their fathers. For one quarter of the day they read the book and another quarter they spent confessing and worshipping God. I’ve heard folks whine because the preacher didn’t stop at exactly noon, and his message only began about 30 minutes prior. We’re in trouble! The only way you get folks to stay late for church is to feed them; and Israel was fasting, so that wouldn’t work. I’m told that if my blog gets read I have to keep it to 500 words or less, or people lose interest.
I’m at 360. So I’ve only got 140 more.
We’re brats, myself included.
God attention getting repentance requires deprived flesh, disciplined faith and devoted service. It means getting serious about Who God is, and who we are. It requires time.
What would happen if we showed up to church and a basket sat on the foyer table with a sign that read, “Put your time piece in here, and give God a piece your time?”
Let’s do it! Whew… 60 words to spare.
The Israelites had entered into a covenant and curse with God on how they would rededicate their lives. It was a sealed document with signatures by leaders acknowledging their intentions to live by the Word of God and walk in His ways, and the penalties (curse) for failing to do so. It was a serious commitment written in detail of their separation from the world, financial commitment and sacrificial giving of the first fruits of the ground and the first born of their sons and herds. And their closing promise in Nehemiah 10:38 “…and we will not forsake the house of our God.”
How handy is that for me on a Wednesday! While many churches have altogether stopped having service on Wednesday night and others have a handful of attendees, it speaks volumes to where the heart of Christianity is and our dedication to things of God. Some would rather sacrifice monetarily as if it’s a holy payoff for not having to attend and others figure their presence on Sunday morning is sacrifice enough; it is the weekend after all. And Sunday evening? That’s for diehards. Yep, you guessed it, I’m a diehard.
As I sat in a revival meeting last night listening to Shad Martin, a young minister of the Word, pouring his heart out about the bondage he had come out of, and the gratitude he had to God and to the man of God who shared the gospel, I cannot help but liken him to Israel at this point. They’d come out of bondage, they’d had to rebuild their lives because of their mistakes and they were determined to right the wrong with God. They’d had enough of the world and they wanted the blessings that came from communion with God; and to do that they had to make some changes. They were not going to forsake the house of their God.
Shad said that if he could find a service seven nights a week he’d be there. I can identify. I love church. I think it comes from the bondage factor. When I discovered the peace of God after I had lived for 34 years in the bondage of heartache and sin, I wasn’t letting go of it! I’ve learned that the closer to God I am, the further away I am from bondage and I’m not planning on going back!
You may never have to go through what Shad or I went through. But if you’re forsaking the house of God, you’re in bondage. You are denying yourself the most precious gift of God and that is being in His presence. I was in it last night! Heaven came down in that little country church in Five Forks, West Virginia. All because 50 or so people decided they’d had enough of the world and sought revival. Tonight I’ll be with the youth of Victory Baptist Church. If you’re in the neighborhood, come on out! Or if you’re in the neighborhood of Five Forks, stop by and hear my friend Roger Carter preach; it’s bound to be good!
So, what’s your plan for this evening?
Nehemiah 11:2 ~ And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
The wall was built, but the work was far from over. Nehemiah chapter 11 is somewhat of another role call. Other than the rulers of Jerusalem who lived in the city it was decided that one out of every ten of the remaining Israelites would also serve there while the other nine tenths dwelt in other cities in the land. This may have required them to leave their families, land and homes to begin again in that city, but it says that it was a sacrifice they willingly made. The Word says that lots were cast to decide who would stay in Jerusalem. An interesting note from this chapter is the same that were chosen and willingly offered themselves were many of the men listed in chapter nine praying and confessing sins. Coincidence? I think not, for we know that nothing “just” happens. God chooses who He uses, and it’s usually done so by those with a repentant heart and humble spirit for service.
The service of the Lord is a sacrificial work in one respect but the blessings far outweigh any sacrifice. Dwelling in Jerusalem would have been labor, but what joy would have been there!
God has allowed me to serve in a number of capacities of leadership. I’ve been a singer, teacher, speaker, artist and general jack of trades in our church. I’ve put in late nights and early mornings. I don’t say that to boast, for I have nothing to boast of, it’s a privilege to serve God! To understand the calling of God upon your life is to acknowledge the Creator of the Universe asked you to do something. Wow…
For those in the “Holy Head Count” of scripture who were chosen by God to stay in Jerusalem and begin working in that city, it may not have seemed like much at the time: but it may have been a bigger deal if they’d have realized that God was still talking about them 2500 years later! They’re sacrifice really did not go unnoticed!
In the scheme of things in the ministry while we’re building in the year 2011, soon to be 2012, we really have to keep our focus on the eternal. What we do may not seem like much, but if in so doing we meet someone on the streets of that City 2000 years from now who reminds us that they are there because we were here… Joy! Unspeakable Joy!
Nehemiah 12:27 – And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.
As we begin the week of Thanksgiving I have too much to be thankful for, to whine about the things I struggle with; most of which were created by me anyway. Just in the past two days I have had a dear friend, Kyle, in a serious car accident and another friend, Jessica, lose her home to fire; both played out on the scanner within minutes of each other. In our community we rely on the scanner to keep us apprised of emergencies, both of an accident or weather related issues. And because we live in such a small area, if it’s an accident word travels fast through Facebook and phone as to who it was and the extent of injury. Although Kyle is still hospitalized with serious injuries, and Jessica’s home was a total loss, they’re families are intact, and they will have another day to Praise God!
I’m not sure how Nehemiah got the word out to the Levites who lived in other villages around Jerusalem as to the dedication of the wall, but it was a celebration of epic proportion and they needed to be there. The Levites were to lead the thanksgiving and singing at the dedication, also using various instruments of music. I love the Levites already; I’m pretty sure they are the original bluegrass lot. This event was important enough to dedicate an entire chapter listing the participants and the historic facts of the event. The celebration consisted of two groups, one lead by Ezra, and the other by Nehemiah, one group marching in one direction around the wall, the other group marching in the other direction. Singing and praising God, playing instruments, shouting… hallelujah what a day that must have been! The ceremonial march concluded with their families at the temple where the rejoicing continued and scripture says the joy of Jerusalem “was heard even afar off.” Loud people, I knew I loved them!
This week would be a good week to put some of their rejoicing methods into play in our lives. So…. You say, nobody’s having a celebration. Lead one, even if it’s in your home, you are a leader somewhere. Just as Jerusalem needed and celebrated the wall that was built to protect them from the enemy, we have a spiritual wall around our home through the work that God completed on the cross of Calvary. We have a great reason to celebrate. The Jerusalem celebration concluded with “great sacrifices,” ours celebration began with the final sacrifice.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to dedicate the wall! You could start by marching you and your family to church on Sunday morning and being loud! Not loud just for the sake of being loud, but in a God lead praise and worship kind of way.
It also says that they made some appointments of responsibilities to the business of God and the people rejoiced because of it. This would be a good time for you to accept some responsibilities to the business of God too! I’ve never regretted a second of my service for the Lord. It has brought me joy unspeakable from the smallest thing I’ve done to the greatest. The Israelites ceremony serves to remind us that God wants us to celebrate the victories in our lives. Sometimes the victory is of a monumental proportion; sometimes it may just be getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other. March!
Nehemiah’s closing prayer was that God remember what he had done in Jerusalem. And God did, because 2500 years later, here I sit on a Monday morning in awe of Nehemiah as this part of the story closes out in Chapter 13. In awe that Nehemiah stood up in such a bold manner when I feel so weak in so many areas of my life. Although Nehemiah wasn’t super human or any such nonsense, I feel like he needs a cape and tights… probably not a good image for a man of the God though, but he’s a super hero of the faith in my book!
How quickly we forget…
Nehemiah left Jerusalem for a short time and returned to work for Artaxerxes king of Babylon as he had promised. But when he returned to Jerusalem he again found that many were not living according to the laws they had promised to obey. One such person was the Priest
There went the leadership…
The priest had allowed an enemy of Israel, Tobiah, to use the store room of the temple for storage of his personal household belongings. The storeroom that had been sanctified for the purpose of holding tithes and offerings to care for the Levites, singers and other servants of God, which was obviously not being done either. Nehemiah in a super hero kind of way (much like a new testament story) chucked Tobiah’s belongings out of the chamber and began to cleanse the temple again, restore the offerings and place faithful people in charge of overseeing it once more
Nehemiah followed this by taking on local heathen merchants that were selling in Jerusalem and to the Jews on the Sabbath day outside the gates of Jerusalem. He first testified against them and talked to the city nobles warning them that this disobedience was what got them in this mess to start with. He ordered the gates shut the evening before the Sabbath and warned the merchants to leave. For two nights they returned until Nehemiah warned he’d lay hands on them if they didn’t stay away. He was serious!
Nehemiah wasn’t finished. Many of the Jews had married other people from heathen nations, and had accepted their ways and language in their homes. Their children could not speak nor understand the Jews language. Enough was enough. This must have been a breaking point for Nehemiah for he says in verse 25, “And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.”
What is our breaking point? I’m not saying that we should lay hands on people, but we should be every bit as serious about getting the sin out of our lives and churches as Nehemiah was.
As I close out Nehemiah, my super hero of the faith, I am reminded of what a failure I am. I’m not nearly as holy as I should be. Three times in chapter 13 Nehemiah cries out to God, “Remember me.” And as I said, God did. I too cry out for God, but to forget, rather than remember. Please forget all my failures and forgive my sins. I don’t cast stones at the children of Israel because my glass house is highly visible. God is so faithful to His promises. I long for the day that He returns and we no longer live in this sin fallen world, but until then, I will continue to cleanse this temple I call Shari day by day, and try to rid myself of the “merchants” who have sold me a bill of goods. Amen.