Title: CELEBRATING A JOB WELL DONE
Text: Nehemiah 12:27-47
In November of 1989, Americans were celebrating Thanksgivings like they had done for years, but in Germany there was a very special thanksgiving celebration going on. The Berlin Wall that had separated and incarcerated family members and countrymen for 28 years was finally coming down. The power of the communist regime had developed too many cracks and had begun to crumble. Almost as quickly as it was put up in August of 1961, it came down in jubilant celebration as man, woman and child grabbed sledgehammers, picks and anything they could grab, and began to demolish that which was the symbol of the restriction of their freedom. Among the chaotic efforts of the novice demolition workers, there was a mass celebration of cheering, dancing and singing, hugging and crying. It was a thanksgiving that was heard around the world.
The thanksgiving celebration in 1989 was at the destruction of a wall. Ironically, there was a thanksgiving celebration at the completion of a wall several thousand years ago in Nehemiah’s time that sounded forth the same joy. The cheering and celebration of the East Germans was like an echo of the sights and sounds reverberating in Nehemiah 12. Behind Jerusalem’s broad wall, a renewed vision was beginning to be developed. That vision was bringing about fresh signs of growth in a barren city. Commerce was springing up again…homes were being built overnight, and there was an influx of visitors and new residents that awakened Jerusalem from a long winter’s nap. Read Text.
1. After a long list of names, Nehemiah resumes his story with preparations for the dedication ceremony. 12:27 Since this is a dedication celebration, what was it dedicated to?
Insight: This was no memorial to a person or to remember an event…it was a dedication of a wall of protection that symbolized God’s protection that hovered above them all through the years…it was a dedication to God. Ps. 30:1
2. Pulling off a celebration of this caliber was no easy task of just a few phone calls. How so? See 11:20.
Insight: The greater the celebration, the more effort and help is needed in order to do things right.
3. Why contact all the Levites?
Insight: The descendants of Levi were specialists in temple and tabernacle activities. If the wall was to be dedicated for the glory of God, these men should head up that effort.
4. What gives you an indication that this dedication was no solemn assembly? (Celebrate with gladness, hymns of thanksgiving with various instruments.)
5. In verse 28 there was a special group invited to this celebration. Who were they? (Probably a special singing ensemble selected from the Levitical families who are charged with passing on the songs of Israel’s faith.)
6. If this was a dedication of the wall, why did the priests and Levites have to purify themselves before the ceremony? 12:30
Insight: Most likely the dedication would include sin offerings made on behalf of the people, and before they could offer such offerings, the priests needed to made sure their hearts were cleansed. When sin has been dealt with, their celebration could be enjoyed without reservation. Do you find that to be the case in your own life?
7. Next Nehemiah explains how he organized the celebration: 12:31, 38 Imagine yourself in the streets below the wall…wanting to see and be a part of the dedication celebration…but there isn’t room next to the stage area…then you see them span out across the wall in both directions with instrumentalists and singers and special ensembles. Describe your feelings as you imagine these sights and sounds taking place as you look upward across a newly constructed wall with brand new stones. Ps. 42:4
8. How is this event also a repudiation of a previous scoff of their enemies? See 4:3.
9. According to 12:40, where did the celebration procession end up? (At the house of God, the Temple, for the sacrifices to be offered.)
10. How was their joyous celebration unparalleled by any other? 12:43 (It was heard from afar.)
11. Sometimes in church services today, especially among visiting non-church-goers, the offering time is begrudged. How was this not the case on this dedication day? See 12:44-47 What makes the difference?
2 Cor. 9:7
Insight: It’s obvious that a prevailing spirit of joy of gratitude for services rendered has an affect upon the heart of the giver. For those who can’t give cheerfully, it makes you wonder what the prevailing spirit is.
When your faith is vibrant, it’s unmistakable. When you celebrate God’s goodness with joy, people around you notice it. Such was the case this celebrative day in Israel…no one who heard their boisterous praise had any doubts about the vibrancy of their faith. Perhaps what we’ve learned tonight can put that bouncing step of joy back into our pace.
An atmosphere of happiness surrounds God’s people when they celebrate His goodness. The presence of joy is contagious…some need to catch the fever. Joy is a magnetic and winsome force in any church or neighborhood. Prov. 15:13
Music is one of the most expressive ways to communicate happiness. You will look a long time to find a genuinely happy Christian who doesn’t hum a tune or listen to music. But you don’t have to look very far to find someone who is downcast that is singing. The song of your soul can soothe their troubled spirit, like David’s music that calmed King Saul’s torments. Eph. 5:18-19
A joyful spirit will have far-reaching effects. It wasn’t the great choirs or the instruments that was “heard from afar”…it was the joy of Jerusalem. No church sound system or radio tower can match the sending power of joyful Christians who are expressing their delight in God openly.
Joy is not dependent upon outward circumstances, but upon inward focus. In doubt about this? Look at the circumstances surrounding the Israelites in our story…both before and after the dedication they were still under Persian authority, living in a city filled with rubble, constantly hounded by outside enemies that mocked them. But this same group of people celebrated with such joy that their enemies down the road took note of it. How was this possible? Because their focus centered completely around Jehovah. Happiness is a matter of the heart…not circumstances. Even in tough times, a smile can brighten someone’s dark corner.
Most of us are experts at trying to control our circumstances and other people in order to secure our own happiness. Yet the harder we try, the more frustrated and depressed we become when things don’t go the way we planned. The wonderful truth is that when we devote ourselves in becoming what Christ wants us to be, He fills us with joy unspeakable, beyond what the world has to offer.
The bottom line in securing the joy of the Lord is not by pursuing happiness…but rather by devoting our heart to pursuing God fully.
How far is your joy heard?