“You Never Know Who God Will Choose”
Nehemiah 11 – 12:26

Quick review of what we have been reading in the Book of Nehemiah. The first six chapters described the rebuilding of the wall. The initial reason Nehemiah left his cushy job in Persia. With the wall completed, the city of Jerusalem was protected, but very few people lived there. The Jews who had returned from exile chose to live outside the city, where they could grow crops and keep flocks in order to feed their families and make a living. However, the walls came up and the prophecies were fulfilled and God’s Word was read and what the people heard brought confession of sin, in chapter 9. In chapter 10 they renewed their commitment to their original covenant. Now in chapters 11-12 we will read how the city became repopulated. 

Have you stopped to wonder, why is Nehemiah still in Jerusalem? The wall has been completed for four chapters. He accomplished what he had set out to do. I think it’s interesting that he has been hanging around. The Persian palace of the king had to have been a more comfortable and pleasing place to live. The wall was completed but Jerusalem was still a broken down city and as we have read very few people lived there. No houses had been built yet. Why does Nehemiah choose to stay in an outpost of the empire with few people and little worldly significance instead of returning to his post as cupbearer for the king? 

Maybe it had something to do with that in that broken down dump God was at work in the world to advance His kingdom?

Many Christians today have the concept that they should be as excited in worship as they are at a game of their favorite football team.  And maybe you look at stadiums and coliseums and places where they play basketball games and such and you think, the church, by comparison, seems so insignificant and so unexciting. Yup, you’d be right. It’s always been that way, as far back as Nehemiah’s day and still today. 

You never know where God will choose or who God will use to accomplish His purposes. One thing for sure, it’s not where the world thinks He should. Just as He did back in Persia and Jerusalem, God continues to build churches that are made up of seemingly insignificant people, who live normal lives, with normal issues. 
Chapters 11-12 of Nehemiah can be divided into three parts. Today we read the first part which begins at chapter 11 and goes to verse 26 in chapter 12. The Jewish tradition of writing down names. It may not be glitzy or exciting, but it is significant.  The tradition of writing down the lists of names of ordinary people who lived long ago to be remembered gives ordinary people like me hope. The second part, verses 27-43 of chapter 12, tells how the wall was dedicated and the third part, from verse 44-47, describes the provisions made for the temple. 

Today we will look at the first part. In Nehemiah 11:1-2  we discover the only people who settled in Jerusalem were the leaders. Everyone else lived in towns outside of the wall. In order to populate the holy city, everyone who lived outside of the wall had to draw lots and the short straw meant you had to move to the city. 
The ordinary person didn’t want to live in Jerusalem because it was dangerous. Armies had reputations of coming through and seeing a walled city and thinking there was money and resources inside the walls, and so they would attack. They didn’t pay much attention to the lowly houses outside the wall. Living inside the walls was like putting a target on your back. It also meant you had less land, less crops, less flocks and herds. 

Maybe that is why in verse 2, we read that people praised those who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. Whether that meant those with the short straw or maybe some who simply volunteered, either way those who were moving into the city were putting God’s plan over their personal desires. Jerusalem was unimpressive but it was where God was at work. 

Do we have a group of people today we could speak well of who are willingly offering to do what is less advantageous for themselves in order to pursue God’s kingdom? Hopefully you immediately are thinking about the missionaries we support. But what about those who serve God right here, behind the scenes? 

We have those who take time out of their lives to prepare a lesson plan for children’s church, or create, copy and fold the bulletins, or clean up after potlucks. It’s not like they don’t have other things they could or may want to be doing. These people voluntarily do unglamorous things. Just like living in Jerusalem, they have found a way to show their love for God. 

This record of people in Nehemiah 2 is a record of ancient, pre-Christ, Christlikeness. 
Jesus gave the prime example of one who left what was advantageous to Himself to go to a place that was unpleasant, not exciting, in fact, down right humiliating. He was crucified. We should be prepared to give up some benefits for others as we follow His example. Here at DBC I count it a blessing that there are so many who are glad to do things for the sake of others. So keep visiting the elderly, keep encouraging one another, it makes a difference, it reveals that Christ is still alive.

The new residents of Jerusalem are named from verse 4 in chapter 11 to verse 26 of chapter 12. They courageously chose to dwell in Jerusalem for the sake of God’s name. That’s valiant. You want to be valiant? Live for God. Live for the truth of the Scriptures. Lay your life down for these things. That’s heroism. That’s courage. To live for what matters most, even if it costs your life.

This weekend our country has chosen to set aside a day to do just that, recognize that there have been those who have chosen to lay down their life for others, to serve our country and in the process their life was taken. But also in the process we are able to live in a country where we can meet here today and worship without repercussions or disruption.  There are lists of ordinary men and women who have died in service for our country. Ordinary men and women who were someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father. Let us observe a moment of silence for those we know and don’t know who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. 

A moment of silence. 

The lists given in Nehemiah were written to emphasize the legitimacy of those who had returned to the land. 
This legitimacy was established by their genealogical continuity with those God had redeemed from Egypt.
These were God’s people. Under the old covenant God chose a nation. The purity of that nation was for worship.
So these lists, ultimately, were about right worship. They reflect God’s holiness. They tell us that God’s people understood God’s holiness and the responsibilities of the redeemed.

We have a similar list today. The list of those who have chosen to worship with others at the Damariscotta Baptist Church. That list may be small, but it is significant. It represents the names of those who have been delivered from the path to destruction and put on the path to life. As we prepared for our 200th anniversary we sorted through the lists of previous members. Many of those names were ancestors of some currently on the list. 
Not much difference from those in Jerusalem with Nehemiah. The real list we should be concerned about is the Lamb’s Book of life. These names we can’t pronounce will be there. Is your name on it? If you are worshiping the one true and living God through Jesus by the power of the Spirit, then the answer is yes. That is my prayer. 

Let’s pray.