Title: The Joy of the Lord is your Strength
Text: Nehemiah 11-12
CIT: God has fulfilled his promise to restore worship to Jerusalem through the efforts of ordinary, regular people.
CIS: God is accomplishing his will through regular, ordinary obedient people. This is how the church is built and the Gospel is spread.
Introduction: As we’ve seen over the past few weeks, God has been faithful to his people – to bring them back from exile to this place. And here in Jerusalem, their Temple has been rebuilt, the walls have been rebuilt and houses have been constructed. In Nehemiah, the 1st six chapters describe for us the rebuilding of the Wall around the city of Jerusalem. 7.1 informs us that it is finished.
In this 2nd phase of the book, the identity of the people is re-established in chapter 7, with the re-reading of the Torah in Chapter 8, which leads to the observance of the Festival of Booths. Chapter nine moves to a time of open confession of their sin and a recommitment to keeping the covenant in chapter 10. Now, in Ch. 11, Nehemiah comes back to the beginning of Ch. 7 – like he’s picking up where he left off.
What he does in these two chapters then is to explain to us how the city is repopulated, the glorious celebration of dedicating the Wall and he closes with the appointment of those who will serve in the Temple.
- Repopulating Jerusalem w/ the people of God
- Dedicating the Wall in a glorious ceremony
- Appointing Men to their service in the Temple
Turn to ch 7 in Nehemiah and let me show you how this all fits together as we look at this 1st section:
I. Repopulating Jerusalem with the people of God (11.1-12.26)
exp.: 7.1-4 is our introduction to today’s lesson in Chapters 11&12. Nehemiah gives us a overview, a thesis statement for the rest of his book. Rd 7.1&4; 7.1 aligns w/ the end of 12(44-47); 7.4 concludes where 11.1 continues; that is where we are when we get to Ch. 11. Rd 11.1a; this then, is an overview of this chapter –
- The Leaders live in Jerusalem and they are outlined for us in detail in v3-24
- The People live in other towns surrounding Jerusalem; we read about them in v25-36
So we see the problem in 7.1-4 (that is there is this big wall surround a large, wide city with few people in it) and we find the Solution in 11.1b; select 10% of the people to move into the towns to populate it. rd v 2;
That’s nice, the people bless them – willing to move from the country side villages to the city. But I think there is more here. Look at the outline:
- Judah (v4-6) the leaders in Jerusalem from the tribe of Judah
- Benjamin (7-9) the leaders in Jerusalem from the tribe of Benjamin
- Levites (10-14; 15-18; 19) the leaders in Jerusalem from the tribe of Levi – the Levites, the priests, the gatekeepers;
V 20 – then restates that the rest of the people (Israel, i.e.: Judah & Benjamin/ the Levites/priests) lived out in the surround countryside, villages and towns.
V 22-24 deal the overseers for the Levites. Indeed, we see the overseer for each group (except Judah) in each section. V 9 has the overseer and 2nd to him for the Tribe of Benjamin; v 14 has the overseer for the Priests; and you just saw the overseer for the Levites in v 22;
But there is something else very interesting about these men – Nehemiah tells us they are Valiant Men; rd v: 6, 8, 14; Why? Dr. James Hamilton in his commentary on Nehemiah lets us in on this quandary: What is valiant and valorous about these people is their willingness to risk their necks for the kingdom of God. They courageously chose to dwell in Jerusalem for the sake of God’s name. That’s valorous. That’s valiant. Furthermore, if an attack were to occur, this is the first place the attack would take place. These men have chosen to live for God. They’re willing to make the changes necessary to see God’s Kingdom be established.
app.: What are you willing to risk for God’s Kingdom? Where are you willing to go? Chapter 12 picks up with the list of those who were the first returnees with Zerubabbel. We read about them in Ezra 2. They, too, stepped up and were willing to sacrifice what was established in their lives and return to establish the Kingdom of God, as they understood it. Where would you go? (or) What would you do to establish the Kingdom of God?
exp.: I love verse one of Chapter 12, because it mentions Zerubabbel, son of Shealtiel. He is a type of Christ. He is governor, because his forefathers were Kings from the house and line of David through Solomon. He is also from the priestly line, because he is of the house and lineage of David, through Nathan. You can read about his genealogy in Luke 3 and Matthew 1. I’ll leave that for you to study. However, let me re-iterate: He is pointing us to Christ. Zechariah prophesies about this in his book chapter 3 and in chapter 6. If I recall correctly, The prophecy of the Branch is in reference to Zerubabbel and to Christ.
now, the outline of those returnees is pretty simple: v 7-8 identifies those of the time of Jeshua and his lineage; that continues down to v 11; at v12 we see a 2nd generation; and in v 22 the 3rd generation. Rd v 26;
t.s.: Nehemiah has repopulated Jerusalem with Jews who can prove their lineage. V27 then turns to the dedication of the wall.
II. Dedicating the Wall in a glorious ceremony (12.27-43)
exp.: rd v 27; in 1 Chronicles 24, David created 24 divisions of priests and Levites for service. They lived in the towns of Israel and served there, but for 2 weeks out of the year, they would come to Jerusalem to serve in the Temple. We also read about this in Luke 1 and 2 when Zechariah was charged with serving in the Temple. He and others with him left their homes and traveled to Jerusalem to serve. Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, was then selected among those men to be the one who went into the holy of holies. That is where he saw the angel of the Lord and was stricken mute until his son was born. You know that story. Well, here we see the Jews have organized themselves according to the Law and were actually serving as commanded. All of these men are summoned to Jerusalem for the Dedication of the Temple. Look at v 30; so they’re ready now; rd v 31; Two choirs are formed and brought up onto the wall. One went south and the 2nd (v38) will head north. Rd v 38; v 40 tells us they ended up in the Temple. This must have been truly amazing to watch. All of those people up on the wall.
ill.: I’m reminded of Nehemiah 4.3 – 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”
Well, Nehemiah showed them. I can just picture Nehemiah walking on the wall, the groups are singing. There is Tobiah on the outside of the city, looking up at the wall and all of the men singing and parading around to the North side. Nehemiah spots Tobiah – and winks! Nah, I just made that up. That’s the evil side of my heart, ya’ll pray for me! Nehemiah wasn’t that way.
app.: But this goes to show you the strength of the wall – and the goodness of God in blessing them with this work. No wonder they praise him and dedicate this wall to him. rd v 40; they gave thanks, look at v 43;
t.s.: What a glorious day it must have been. Well, Chapter 12 closes out with the appointing…
III. Appointing Men to their service in the Temple (12.44-47)
exp.: rd v 44-46; The prescription for these servants is found in 1 Chronicles 24-26; rd v 47; they kept the requirements as prescribed by the law.
Conclusion: Now, if I asked you to close your Bible and begin listing for me the names of those who served as gate keepers, singers – who were the song directors and who were the leaders of praise – could you tell me? My guess is no. I couldn’t tell you either. But just because their names are not known, doesn’t mean that they are insignificant. Their rolls are important.
God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong. He uses the silly things of the world to confound the wise.
- God chose Abraham – a childless, old man to become the father of a nation.
- He chose his descendants – slaves in Egypt, to become his people. Who would pick a nation of slaves to be their people – God!
- He chose Moses – a shepherd for 40 years in the wilderness – so afraid to speak in front of people that he made God mad because he didn’t want to do what God was calling him to do – lead those slaves out of Egypt into a land that would become their own.
- God chose David to be his King. A kid so insignificant, that when Jesse’s sons were summoned, Jesse didn’t even call him in from shepherding the sheep. He evidently didn’t think he would be the one.
- God chose to bring his son into the world in the most unusual way. To be born to a lowly couple, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough.
- He chose to let him die on a cross – a stumbling block for Jews and folly to Gentiles;
- He chooses still today…to use people who seem insignificant by worldly standards.
Let’s close with some “take-a-ways”
- Jerusalem is more than stonewalls and a Temple; the Church is more than mortar and brick. I know this is nothing new for you – the church isn’t a building, so much as it is the people of God.
- God’s call still requires sacrifice and service on the part of those who would follow. That is how God chooses to make this Body of Believers function right. It takes money. It takes time. It takes teachers. It takes leaders. It takes singers. It takes servants. It takes gatekeepers. It takes people who organize. It takes people who aren’t afraid to stand up in front of others and others who are – who like working behind the scenes. It takes people who work on projects alone and people who work in groups. It takes people who are willing to sacrifice and serve.
- God still calls normal people – just regular, ordinary people. Is he calling you today?
I was telling someone earlier this week how blessed I’ve been. I’ve been to Europe, I’ve been to South America, I’ve been to Mexico, and I’ve been to Asia. I’ve seen many different parts of this world – seen the grandeur of the land from Mountain Tops. I’ve swam in the ocean and walked along the most beautiful of beaches. I’ve fed fish – I mean, had them eating out of my hands. I’ve stood at the edge of Volcanoes. And watch a lava flow catch a spontaneously combust from the heat, before it’s flow reached the tree itself. I’ve felt the earth rumble beneath my feet as the thunderous waves the size of buildings fell to the beach and have felt the earth tremble at an earthquake. I’ve experienced tornadoes and felt the wind as it roared in a blizzard.
As a kid I walked through castles in Europe and wondered what it would have been like to grow up there when the king ruled. I feel like James Taylor to say: I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I am a blessed man. But can I say, of all the wonders of the world that I’ve been privileged to experience – Nothing compares to the church of God. How he takes everyday ordinary people and calls them out from their ho-hum lives to a life of inexpressible joy.
Nehemiah 12.43 – 43 And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
Do you know that joy? They could feel this way because Nehemiah had told them in 8.10 – for the joy of the Lord is your strength…