Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/08/15 Sermon - Recruiting and Dedicating

“Recruiting and Dedicating”

Nehemiah 11 & 12


We left off last week with Nehemiah explaining how the Jewish nation had written and signed a covenant with God, renewing their commitment to the commandments from God. The Israelites had heard the Word of God and understood how faithful God had been even when they had been wrong. They understood how difficult things were for them, but also realized how wrong their living had been and desired to set things right again.

Today we discover in Chapter 11 that the Israelites were not only going to put their new commitment in writing, they were going to put their new commitment into actions. In order to make sure the city of Jerusalem would remain a city for the Israelites they realized more people needed to live inside the city walls so many families would need to change their place of residence. They realized that in order to honor the work they had done in building the new temple with Ezra, and rebuilding the wall with Nehemiah, and the spiritual renewal they were experiencing, the Jewish people had to commit to getting more people to live in the city of Jerusalem.

In order for a city to prosper and thrive it needed to be heavily populated. More people would need to be living, in the city, in order to make sure the city could be well defended should a battle arise.

Verse 1 begins with, “Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem”.

What a great way to start the process. The leaders were leading by example. They realized they couldn’t expect the people to move into the city if they were not willing to live there.

The rest of the people, we are told to cast lots to see who would have to move. They submitted themselves to a lottery system, and one out of ten would be chosen to move from their home in the surrounding area, into the city. This meant at least 10% of Judah’s population would be living in Jerusalem. We also read that there were some men who voluntarily chose to move into the city.

These men received a special blessing.  You see the leaders had an obligation to live in Jerusalem and those who were selected by the lottery also were meeting an obligation.

But those who chose, on their own, to live in the city had a special adventuresome spirit. They willingly took on a hardship and were willing to endure discomfort to serve God and further His kingdom.

If you think about it, a blessing was warranted. Because, to dwell in Jerusalem meant you had to re-order you entire lifestyle, beginning with your view on material things.

The first thing you would have given up was your land, in the previous region you were living. And in order to make a living you would have to take up some kind of business in the city.

You would also have to rearrange your social life. Your friends and family would be left behind as you set out to establish new relationships.

You needed to have a mind that was willing to endure difficulties and stresses. Living in Jerusalem at this time meant there would certainly be problems.

It had been a ghost town for 70 years now, and although the walls and temple had been re-built, the general essence of the city was dilapidated and needed of a lot of work.

Living in Jerusalem meant you needed to be ready for the enemy to attack at any time. Before the walls were built only bands of robbers spent time and energy attacking the inhabitants. But now that there was a formable wall, armies would be thinking of attacking in order to seize the city for their own use.

These obstacles remain with us today. The Bible tells us, in Revelation chapter 21, verse 2, there is a city coming down from heaven to earth, and it calls that city, “New Jerusalem”.

And when you think about it, people today don’t want to be citizens of the New Jerusalem for the same reasons they didn’t want to be citizens of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem.

There are only a few who have the adventuresome spirit and are willing to step out of what is “normal” and comfortable in society and choose to follow Jesus, wholeheartedly.

The obstacles for not doing so are similar to those who chose to stay in their safe places during the need to populate the city of Jerusalem.

If you follow Jesus, you may be asked to give up what you want, your land, your home, your job, your comfort zone, in order to be in a place where God uses you to further His Kingdom on earth.

If you choose to follow Jesus, you may be asked to rearrange your social life. You may have to let go of your old friends, and sometimes even family to either go someplace God has called you to, or to keep from doing things God doesn’t want you to do.

Being a Christian automatically brings trouble. Life is guaranteed not to be easy. John 16:33, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

You will need to expect difficulty and be willing to endure the stress and hardships it brings.

And the fact remains, the enemy will always be around seeking to conquer and keep Christians from living a joy filled life. “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.

We need to remember, blessings still come to those who chose to follow God’s direction for our lives.

Chapter 11 continues with the names of those who chose to live in the city of Jerusalem. This list continues into chapter 12, until verse 27, where we read about the dedication of the wall.

Nehemiah, with some help from his fellow Jews, and the prophet Ezra, had covered every detail necessary in securing the city of Jerusalem for the people of God. Now it was time to dedicate the wall unto God. And like any dedication service, it would not be complete without songs of worship and praise, to God. The Levites, who were the tribe set aside to guide in the life and worship of Israel, were the ones who lead the people in these songs.

They did not do so a Capella, we read they had musical instruments such as cymbals, stringed instruments and harps. In fact, there are several different instruments mentioned in the Bible, including the lyre (an ancient guitar), horns, trumpets, flutes, tambourines, drums and bells.

There were also a group of people who lived close together who were specially appointed singers. In order to a part of this group one had to be good at singing, and more importantly have a heart for worship.

Before the dedication began, the priests and Levites purified themselves, they purified the people, they purified the gates, and they purified the wall. They knew the importance of cleansing themselves before worshipping God. In the day of Nehemiah, the Levites had a purification system that was used to clean their sins and the sins of the people, in order to recognize the purity of God and His righteousness.

We are called to do the same thing today. When we come to worship and we come before God, we need to remember, He is holy, He is pure and in order to come before him, in worship and in praise, we need too need to be purified.

Today we can be made pure and clean before God by doing what the New Testament tells us to do. In 1 John 1:9 we are told, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Let’s not just read and understand God’s Word, let’s do it –

PRAY, confessing our sins and asking for forgiveness, and to be cleansed from all unrighteousness.

In Nehemiah, they didn’t stop at purifying themselves, they also purified the gates and the walls. That is not such a bad idea, even today. The spaces we live in, the rooms we work in, anywhere you spend most of your time, could use a good purification. I am not talking about getting out a bucket of hot water and Lysol, but just as we pray over ourselves to purified, we should be praying over our surroundings. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And those spiritual forces are everywhere and prayer is the only weapon that binds them and keeps them from having power.

Once everything was purified, Nehemiah assigned two large choirs to give thanks. Isn’t that what praise and worship is all about? Thanksgiving. And we read that the singers sang loudly and lead the others in worship, everyone, participated in this tremendous experience of worship. Nehemiah wrote that the women and children also rejoiced. Verse 43 reads, “The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.” If you were anywhere within earshot of the city, you may not have been able to hear the words, but you were able to hear the joy the singers expressed and the musicians played. The results of this manner of dedication, with the choirs assembled and the people all spread out, overwhelmed the participants with joy and thanksgiving.

This aspect of joy did not stop with the singing. In verse 44 we are told at the same time, some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings. This was also a day of giving. The people demonstrated their joy by bringing their offerings, first fruits and tithes to the storehouses of the Levites, as they had heard they were to do from the Word of God.

This day of dedication was a day of thanksgiving, a day of joy, a day of purity and a day of consecration, when holy things were set apart for God.

Today, we live in the post resurrection period, when God has fulfilled his promise of Messiah and we have the opportunity to be freed from our sins and rejoice on a daily basis. We no longer have to purchase a perfect sacrifice and take it to the priest and have its blood shed for our sins. We have the privilege to talk with God, on our own and seek forgiveness through the blood of Jesus.

I think we should consider every day a day of thanksgiving, a day to dedicate to the Lord, a day of joy, a day of purity, and a day of consecration. Every Sunday I ask Robert Sewall how he is doing and his response is always something like, “Great, I woke up didn’t I.”

Whether our lives resemble the war torn city of Jerusalem in the day of Nehemiah, or the glorious temple built by Solomon, each of us have reason to dedicate them to God, with thanksgiving and joy.

May our lives be like the city of Jerusalem, on that day of dedication, that when those around us see us, they recognize the joy of the LORD as our strength.

Let’s pray.