“Embrace What God Is Doing”

Nehemiah 12: 27-47

Last week we read in Nehemiah 11 and the first part of chapter 12, the names of those who were called by God to inhabit the city of Jerusalem. The walls and gates had been completed and now it was time to repopulate. Take into account what it must have looked like. Ezra had managed to help rebuild the temple of God, but that was about the only building of significance. Other than some houses for the leaders of Israel, it was much like a ghost town. A place that had once been a bustling city, but had been invaded and left to ruin. People had to draw straws, and the losers had to move there. 

Once they had accomplished deciding who was to live in the city, Nehemiah set out to dedicate the wall. Notice, in order to get the Levites involved they had to send for them. 

The Levites were the ones who performed the temple duties such as singing, preparing sacrifices and making sure the temple services ran smoothly. They also performed construction and maintenance for the temple. They also served as guards and performed various duties at the temple. They didn’t actually live near the temple, because a system had been established where they didn’t work at the temple full-time, but rather only two weeks out of the year. The rest of the time they were farming or had herds and worked to take care of their family. 

Nehemiah also called for the singers who lived around Jerusalem. He was putting together an elaborate worship celebration. Before things started, the priests and Levites spent time purifying themselves, the people, the gates and the walls. No one knows what type of purification ceremony that was performed, but most likely some sacrifices and some washing of the premises. 

This was a celebration where God was invited so they needed to be ready by setting themselves apart to be pure for the worship of God. 

Once everyone was purified and ready to go, in chapter 12, verse 31, Nehemiah brought the leaders up to the top of the wall. He also split the Levites and singers into two groups and had one group go one way on the wall, led by Ezra, and Nehemiah went the other way with the other group. They were to meet at the Temple of the Lord. 

Notice Nehemiah had people walking on top of this wall. Back in chapter 4, Nehemiah had been taunted by Tobiah that “if a fox climbed up what they were building, it would break down their stone wall!” Where was Tobiah during this celebration, where two sets of choirs were walking on the wall? 

There had been people who thought the wall was impossible. That the task of rebuilding the wall was either too difficult for them or beneath them, either way thought Nehemiah was doomed to fail. 

Yet, small things placed in God’s Hands produce amazing results. 

Notice in verse 31, Nehemiah makes a point to invite the leaders of Judah, those who had doubted the process, up onto the wall so that they could see just what God had done, first hand. 

Nehemiah made sure that each choir had significant lay leadership, priestly leadership and musical representation. However, it doesn’t sound like they had time for rehearsals, or figuring out who would sing which parts when. 

They simply climbed up on a wall, were told which way to walk, and told to celebrate. Now don’t get me wrong, I am sure it was a joyful noise, but I suspect the singing was nothing compared to what Nehemiah had experienced back in Persia. I am sure the music was probably better in Persia as well. But that wasn’t the point. We are told in verse 43, 

“That day they offered great sacrifices, an exuberant celebration because God had filled them with great joy. The women and children raised their happy voices with all the rest. Jerusalem’s jubilation was heard far and wide.”

They weren’t celebrating to impress, they were celebrating because they were full of joy. The world looking in may have been unimpressed, but God was in their midst, that was enough. 

When they arrived at the Temple, they continued worshipping and praising God. While there, we are told provisions were made for the temple. Further evidence that they had been listening to the Scripture that had been read. Because the Torah stipulated the provision for everything they were doing. We also read that the people were pleased with the ministering priests and Levites. These men met the qualifications, descending from Levi and Aaron, and they were set apart for the worship of God. The people rejoiced over those who would lead them in worship. 

In verse 45 they followed through with the service of their God and the service of purification, just as David and his son Solomon prescribed. The temple they were standing in was not the original temple of Solomon, it had recently been rebuilt. But those standing there believed that God was still dwelling with them at the temple, in Jerusalem. They also believed that from that temple, from that city, God’s glory would spread over the whole earth. 

Within that belief, the returnees also continued to give their daily portions. This too was significant. Those in Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day weren’t exactly rich. In fact, it was a time of economic and political crisis. The Israelites were barely getting by and yet they were sacrificially giving to support the worship of God. It wasn’t about how much money they made or how much they could keep. Their perspective was focused on their relationship with Yahweh. That was what their lives were about. 

Why should our perspective today be any different? Why are we concerned about what we have, before we are concerned with what God wants us to do with what we have? How much do we really need? 

God doesn’t need our wealth. The entire Biblical story is how God uses the insignificant to demonstrate His glory. God chose Abraham, a man with no children, and He told him He would bless the world with his descendants. When Abraham’s descendants multiply, they end up as slaves in Egypt. God sends Moses, a has-been Pharoah’s adopted son, who was tending sheep in the wilderness, to free His people, who were slaves. God chose David, the youngest son of Jesse, whom Jesse didn’t even bother to invite to the naming ceremony because Jesse didn’t expect David to be chosen. In our recent books of Ezra and Nehemiah, God chose seemingly second-hand workers in the Persian court to rebuild His chosen place of worship and a wall. 

And God continues to choose people like us, and churches like ours for the manifestation of His glory and the advancement of His kingdom on the earth. 

History proves that the size of our congregation is irrelevant when God is in our midst. 

Let’s be those who embrace what God is doing. Rather than look at what we are not, let’s take God’s Word and embrace the history God has given us, and seek God’s plan for what we are. May we be like those with Nehemiah and Ezra and celebrate because God has given us great joy. Then may we offer that joy to those who need it. 

Our source of great joy today isn’t a wall or a temple, it’s represented today with the Lord’s Supper.