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Faithlife

Nehemiah 12:27 ff

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In the section of God’s Word before us, we have a description of
the worship service in Jerusalem
on the occasion of the dedication of the city’s walls.
In , Nehemiah is referred to in the first person (again; cf. 7:5), suggesting that
this account of the dedication comes from Nehemiah’s own personal record.
What follows is a detailed description of the ceremonial procession and praises
with which the walls of the city were dedicated to the Lord:
27 "At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sent for the Levites wherever they lived and brought them to Jerusalem to celebrate the joyous dedication with thanksgiving and singing accompanied by cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 "The singers gathered from the region around Jerusalem, from the settlements of the Neto / phath / ites, 29 "from Beth-gilgal, and from the fields of Geba and [AZ may veth], for they had built settlements for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 "After the priests and Levites had purified themselves, they purified the people, the city gates, and the wall. 31 "Then I brought the leaders of Judah up on top of the wall, and I appointed two large processions that gave thanks. One went to the right on the wall, toward the Dung Gate. 32 "Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed, 33 "along with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 "Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, 35 "and some of the priests’ sons with trumpets, and Zechariah son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph followed 36 "as well as his relatives—Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David, the man of God. Ezra the scribe went in front of them. 37 "At the Fountain Gate they climbed the steps of the city of David on the ascent of the wall and went above the house of David to the Water Gate on the east. 38 "The second thanksgiving procession went to the left, and I followed it with half the people along the top of the wall, past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39 "above the Ephraim Gate, and by the Old Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel, and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate. They stopped at the Gate of the Guard. 40 "The two thanksgiving processions stood in the house of God. So did I and half of the officials accompanying me, 41 "as well as the priests: Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 "and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. Then the singers sang, with Jezrahiah as the leader. 43 "On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy. The women and children also celebrated, and Jerusalem’s rejoicing was heard far away. 44 "On that same day men were placed in charge of the rooms that housed the supplies, contributions, firstfruits, and tenths. The legally required portions for the priests and Levites were gathered from the village fields, because Judah was grateful to the priests and Levites who were serving. 45 "They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, along with the singers and gatekeepers, as David and his son Solomon had prescribed. 46 "For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there were heads of the singers and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 "So in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the singers and gatekeepers. They also set aside daily portions for the Levites, and the Levites set aside daily portions for Aaron’s descendants.” ()
Amen, this is God’s Word...
I’ve entitled this message: Then ingredients of joyful worship as a church!
43 "On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy...” ()
Here’s a picture, a snapshot, of God’s people doing what we were created to do: Word God!!!
I. Its right to have joyful worship.
The God who has given us life, wishes also that we should respond to this gift which shall move us joyfully;
the God who always refreshes & overwhelms us with grace and mercy, desires that
we should fulfil our mission; in that obedience produces joy!
II. Its occasion for joyful worship. God’s grace, which has strengthened, protected, assured us, it’s only right to respond in joyful worship!
III. What actually is joyful worship? Joyful worship raises itself to God, it’s a joy in Him, that is, becomes a service to God and our neighbors.
The purpose of the occasion is made very clear: it was “...to celebrate the joyous dedication with thanksgiving...” ().
Two choirs walked in opposite directions around the city, symbolically enclosing the entire city within their praise.
It was a symbol of consecration. Musicians playing stringed instruments, trumpets, and cymbals accompanied the choirs.
Ezra proceeded with the southern group, and
Nehemiah with the northern group.
The climax occurred when both choirs entered the temple, where 43 "...they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy. The women and children also celebrated....” ()
Four features of the celebration are worth noting carefully.
ONE. PURITY. The entire procession began with the ritual of purification:
30 "After the priests and Levites had purified themselves, they purified the people, the city gates, and the wall.” ()
Priests, Levites, the people, the walls, and the gates were purified.
Nehemiah does not provide us with details of what this cleansing ritual involved, but we may
infer from passages in , , and and 19
that it involved such actions as
ritual sprinkling with water,
animal sacrifice &
fasting.
The priests and Levites as well as the people in general needed cleansing.
The great obstacle in worship is sin.
God is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” ().
For sinners to come into God’s presence, the defilement of sin must be removed.
The filth of sin needs to be washed away. These purification rituals were symbolic of the need for spiritual cleansing.
The filth of sin needs to be washed away.
These purification rituals were symbolic of the need for spiritual cleansing.
Baptism, too, is a cleansing symbol.
But why did Jesus need a baptism? “I have a baptism to be baptized with,” Jesus said,
referring to His impending death on the cross as our Substitute and Sin-Bearer ().
Jesus took our sin upon himself.
He assumed the position of one in need of cleansing
even though he was sinless:
“Which one of you convicts me of sin?” ().
Jesus was (and is) “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners” ().
Why did he need to be baptized if he had no sin?
The answer lies at the heart of the gospel—he was made sin for us ().
Substitutionary atonement means that our sin is imputed to Jesus and punished in him.
The ritual of purification pointed to the fact that our hearts are spiritually unfit for the worship of almighty God.
The one who may enter into God’s presence has “clean hands and a pure heart” ().
The only way that we may come into God’s presence is through our union with Jesus Christ.
Only by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone can our sins be washed away.
In Christ, “I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (51:7).
Even the walls and gates were purified. These formed the outside perimeter of the holy city.
This points us to an easy error that we must avoid.
We mustn’t ensure ritual cleanliness while avoiding the purity of the heart.
External things like ritual’s (or for us, coming to church) achieves nothing if the worshipper treasures unconfessed sin.
But there’s a couple of take a ways from this thought of purification and our chief end as a church.
It that though the passage speaks of a special occasion designed to celebrate a unique moment in Israel’s history,
it nevertheless teaches an abiding truth that
we may worship God only with clean hands and clean hearts—
hands and hearts washed by
the cleansing blood of Jesus Christ—typified in the ritual itself.
Also, the occasion probably included other elements—fasting and so forth, each underlining the need for careful preparation and consecration.
This was a special occasion, and the care that the people of Israel took to prepare themselves for worship
is in stark contrast with
the casualness and flippancy that sometimes characterizes worship today.
May God purify our worship.
Then SECONDLY. MUSIC.
Singers were gathered up.
28 "The singers gathered from the region around Jerusalem, from the settlements of the Neto / pha / thites, 29 "from Beth-gilgal, and from the fields of Geba and AZ - may - veth, for they had built settlements for themselves around Jerusalem.” ()
The choirs were divided into two groups:
one choir, along with Ezra and some of the leaders, processed in a southerly direction around the city on the top of the wall;
the other choir and half the leaders went with Nehemiah (“and I followed them,” v. 38) in a northerly direction.
Levitical musicians playing “cymbals, harps, and lyres” () and “trumpets” (vv. 34, 41) accompanied the choirs.
The term harp refers to a plucking instrument small enough to be carried.
The choirs sang (v. 27) to the accompaniment of musical instruments and under the leadership of jez ruh HIGH uh (v. 42).
The church is blessed when it is gifted with musical leadership of this quality. We read something similar in
"The Levites stood with the instruments of David, and the priests with the trumpets. 27 "Then Hezekiah ordered that the burnt offering be offered on the altar. When the burnt offerings began, the song of the Lord and the trumpets began, accompanied by the instruments of King David of Israel. 28 "The whole assembly was worshiping, singing the song, and blowing the trumpets...” ()
Played by Spirit-gifted individuals, instruments
· accompany,
· support, and
· support, and
· enrich the
· enrich the
intelligent praise of the gathered congregation.
There’s no need for worship wars in the church. Where do the two divisive terms “traditional” & “contemporary” worship comes from?
Our worship is traditional! But ours is contemporary!
The Scripture settles the issue.
When you come to this place, you’ll hear Psalms read, hymns, and spiritual songs.
"Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” ()
We have them all.
We have them all, because God commands us to and because we love Christ, we’ll all those genres going.
Whatever musical instruments to Lord might see fit to have up here in the future, all of them must serve to the end of enhancing the public praise of the people of God.
True, the occasion is a special one.
But every act of worship should be marked with
celebration and joy and
the sound of glorious,
God-exalting music,
in which we address “one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord” with all our hearts ().
So we’ll worship as a church with purity and with music!
THIRDLY, with GRATITUDE!!
Paul’s exhortation to sing in is grounded in a thankful heart: “singing and making melody …, giving thanks always.” Nehemiah writes with the identical frame of reference. The choirs
27 "At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, they sent for the Levites wherever they lived and brought them to Jerusalem to celebrate the joyous dedication with thanksgiving ...” ()
They are also described in v38 as those who gave thanks, 38 "The second thanksgiving procession went to the left...()
Later, when they arrived in the temple, Nehemiah describes the worship as similar to that which had been offered in the days of the first temple:
46 "For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there were heads of the singers and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.” ()
Do we sing enough?
Enough to sustain our own joy in salvation?
Enough to give God the honor and appreciation that is his due?
How much singing to God have we
done today—
did we do yesterday—
shall we plan to do tomorrow?
showed us something of God’s work of revival, and the extraordinary
extraordinary passion and power of people’s devotion when revival has touched their lives. Repentance, which humbles, and praise, which excites, are still the two activities which, with God’s blessing, lead most directly into spiritual renewing, and joy and self-giving are still the two activities in which spiritual renewing most naturally expresses itself. We see it all here, and the story should stir us to seek a similar quickening for ourselves. Responsive meditation on , as we reflect on the way God visited and renewed his people in Nehemiah’s day, might take us some distance along the revival road.
passion and power
of people’s devotion when revival has touched their lives.
Repentance, which humbles, and
praise, which excites,
are still the two activities which, with God’s blessing,
lead most directly into
spiritual renewing, and
joy and
self-giving
are still the two activities in which spiritual renewing most naturally expresses itself.
We see it all here, and this account should stir us to seek a similar quickening for ourselves.
Gratitude leads to joy. When the Jews arrived at the temple, "On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy. The women and children also celebrated, and Jerusalem’s rejoicing was heard far away.” ()
What a lesson this is to us today!
Knowing the Savior should make us sing, too—
sing loudly enough that the neighborhoods in which we live and worship hear it.
Renewed hearts are difficult to hide.
How then shall we worship?
Purity, Music, Gratitude, and finally in
FOURTHLY…GIVING. A significant issue rounds off the passage we are studying, introduced by the phrase in v44“On that same day...”
It is a sign of the genuine sense of spiritual well-being associated with
the events described in recent chapters
that Nehemiah now describes the commitment of the people
to give to the support of their spiritual leaders—the priests and Levites:
44 "On that same day men were placed in charge of the rooms that housed the supplies, contributions, firstfruits, and tenths. The legally required portions for the priests and Levites were gathered from the village fields, because Judah was grateful to the priests and Levites who were serving.” ()
47 "So in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the singers and gatekeepers. They also set aside daily portions for the Levites, and the Levites set aside daily portions for Aaron’s descendants.” ()
The laypeople in Judah “rejoiced” in what the priests and Levites were doing ().
They were pleased because the priests and Levites, singers and gatekeepers performed the service of their God …
according to the commands of David, which vv24,45 describe.
In other words, these appointed leaders worshiped according to a regulative principle:
Their model (and ours) for worship are not the current fads but biblical instruction.
They were careful to follow what was stipulated in God’s Word.
The ministers may have been torn between scriptural authority and the pull of creativity to adapt to a new situation.
God demands faithfulness to His revelation.
As a result of faithful worship, the people gave willingly and thankfully.
Regular, full-hearted giving to the ministry of God’s Word should be done with enthusiasm and commitment, that Nehemiah describes here.
It is from such passages as these that the New Testament church encouraged Christians
not only to give regularly to the work of God as an act of worship,
but also to do so cheerfully and with enthusiasm: "Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of compulsion, since God loves a cheerful giver.” ()
When God is at the center of our lives, everything we have is viewed as His,
and support for gospel ministry is a joy and not a burden.
When the gospel governs our giving, it is always an act of gratitude.
How then shall we worship? There must be pure worship of God, not with nice dress clothes on Sunday, but hearts that have been purified by the gospel!
God-centered music, Psalms, Hymn, and Spiritual songs, that increase and strengthen our joy will attend our worship.
How then shall we worship? With a deep-seated heart of thanksgiving & gratitude!
How then shall we worship? When God is at the center of our lives, everything we have is viewed as His,
and support for gospel ministry is a joy and not a burden.
When the gospel governs our giving, it is always an act of gratitude.
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