In Nehemiah chapter
eleven we learn that the city of Jerusalem had been
without a protective wall around it for about 150
years. From the destruction of the city by
Babylonian invaders in 586 B.C. until Nehemiah
arrived in 444 B.C. the city was unprotected.
leadership the city had been ravaged by invading
armies and stripped of everything valuable over the
past century and a half. The people who lived in
Judah resided in small hamlets and villages away
from the city of Jerusalem. The city was still
filled with the rubble and ruin of the destruction
years earlier. Only the leaders lived in the city
(11:1, 3). Jerusalem was not a nice piece of
well-groomed land in suburbia ready on which to
build. It was filled with rubble.
The city was now secure.
It just needed to be repopulated.
Nehemiah 7:14 tells us
after the wall was completed there was plenty of
room for future growth. "Now the city was large and
spacious, but the people in it were few and the
houses were not built" (Nehemiah 7:4, NASB 1995).
The people living in
Jerusalem were few and there were no houses. The
people had built for themselves spacious, lavishly
furnished homes on the hillsides and valleys. In the
city they would have to remove the debris, rubble
and stumps before building houses.
An uninhabited capital
city is not of much use.
With chapters eleven and
twelve, we see fresh signs of growth from a barren
city. Business begins to bloom again, homes are
rebuilt, and people were moving into the city.
Jerusalem was coming alive again.
Not only did the wall
need to be rebuilt, but the city also needed to be
restored. You cannot have a city without having
people live there.
How did Nehemiah go about
getting people to resettle in the city?
"Now the leaders of the
people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the
people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in
Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained
in the other cities" (v. 1).
The tenth were chosen by
casting "lots." Nehemiah went through the towns and
numbered the people, counting them off by tens, and
then they threw a dice (actually the word is die),
with ten numbers on it and whatever number came up
the man with that number was expected to move his
family to Jerusalem.
The relation between
verses one and two are a little ambiguous. However,
if you relate this drafting of people in verse one
with those who "volunteered" in verse two it is
apparent that when a man was chosen to move to
Jerusalem it was because God wanted him to do this.
It would appear that the man was permitted to
decline if he wanted to. God moved the hearts of His
people to desire to live there. Then the lot would
be cast again and another name chosen. The people
commended those who chose to go to Jerusalem. "And
the people blessed all the men who volunteered to
live in Jerusalem."
The leaders moved into
the city and then the people cast lots to select one
out of every ten Israelites to join them. God worked
in the hearts of the people, and it may have been
that some who hadn't been chosen volunteered to live
in Jerusalem (v. 2). They were moved by God to go
and live there. These became the inhabitants;
perhaps 10,000 people living there of the 100,000
living in Judah.
The word "volunteer" is
from a Hebrew word meaning "to impel, to incite from
within." The idea is filled with generosity and
The people of Judah were
active participants in the resettlement of the city.
There was an orderly arrangement upon which the
population as a whole agreed (v. 2).
There was a total of 1192
priests selected to live in Jerusalem of whom 822
"carried on the work from the temple" (v. 12). These
were namely officiating priests who offered
sacrifices, offerings and performed the rituals of
worship. Another 242 were "heads of families" (v.
13) who did counseling, administration, civil
affairs, etc. and who ministered to priestly
families. Another 128 men defended the city as
"brave warriors" (v. 14). They were probably the
security guards on the walls and at the gates.
There were men who
maintained the exterior beauty of the temple and
temple grounds. There were "Levites, who were in
charge of the outside work of the house of God" (v.
Let's not overlook one
person of special interests. His name was Mattaniah,
"who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at
prayer . . ." (v. 17). He had a prayer ministry in
He was the prayer leader.
Every great ministry has someone on his or her knees
before God. C. H. Spurgeon had a large group of men
who met in the boiler room before and during every
service praying for him.
Alan Redpath tells of
visiting in the home of an invalid member of his
church who greeted him saying, "Please don't offer
your sympathy. I don't need it. I would not have
missed the experience of these past nine years for
anything in the world." Why? Because she had an
intercessory prayer ministry. "I remember yielding
my life completely to the Lord saying to Him, 'Lord,
I am ready for anything You may want me to do for
You or be for You.' Only a few weeks later His hand
touched my body and laid me aside. Through these
past years He has become so infinitely more precious
to me than He could ever have been in all the busy
round of Christian service." She had a long prayer
list, and every day she spent hours in prayer for
missionaries, preachers, and teachers of the Word of
I thank God for those
faithful prayer warriors who had upheld us in prayer
through the years of our ministry.
Jerusalem was the tribal
territory of Judah (11:4-6), and bordered with
Benjamin (vv. 7-9). Most of the people carried into
Babylonian captivity were from these two tribes,
which composed the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
Nehemiah tells us 468 "brave men" from Judah
volunteered to live in the city, and 928 men from
the smaller tribe of Benjamin. The descendents of
Perez who lived in Jerusalem totaled 468. That is
the lineage of the Messiah (Matthew 1:3). He was
regarded as one of the heroes of the nation.
There were special groups
of singers (vv. 22-23) "for the service of the house
of God." They led the song service day by day. These
were musicians who developed their talents and gifts
as a ministry in the Temple to the glory of God.
Observe how many people
were involved in the Temple ministry in chapter
eleven. Their lives were dedicated to God to
minister to others.
This also helped to
establish a strong religious community that focused
the people's spiritual life on the LORD God. "A
strong religious commitment is essential if a
democratic form of administration is to succeed.
Without adequate spiritual values it is hard, if not
impossible, to retain the idea of obligation and
responsibility," writes Cyril Barber.
As an application the
repopulating of Jerusalem is a reminder that God is
building His eternal city, the New Jerusalem. It is
not like the old one, made of bricks and mortar, but
a new city built with spiritual stones. In deed,
"living stones." The apostle Peter writes, "you
also, as living stones, are being built up as a
spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up
spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus
Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
purchased by the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of
God, will inhabit the new city of God.
In 12:1 Nehemiah looks
back almost a hundred years to the time when
Zerubbabel led the first group of exiles back to
Jerusalem in 537 B.C.
Of interest is that
12:8-12 traces the priestly line down to a priest
known as Jaddua. The "priest named Jaddua" was the
source of a great deal of criticism of the book of
Nehemiah a century ago by scholars who wanted to
place the writing of Nehemiah in the time of
Alexander the Great (323 B.C.). This would place the
book 100 years after Nehemiah lived. When Alexander
was ready to invade the city of Jerusalem he was met
by a company of priests led by the high priest,
named Jaddua. He showed Alexander the prophecy in
Daniel chapter eight regarding the he-goat who would
be a world conqueror. Alexander was so impressed he
abandoned Jerusalem and invaded Egypt and
established the city of Alexander. The modern
critics of Nehemiah seized on the name of this
priest "Jaddua" to prove you cannot trust the early
dating of Nehemiah and that the Scriptures are not
trustworthy. However, numerous archaeological finds
have proven their theory incorrect because there is
evidence to prove there were several priests named
Jaddua, and several governors of Samaria named
Sanballat. Men passed their name on to their sons.
As we move on to chapter
twelve we see things from God's perspective. Never
judge God by your circumstances. Always look at your
circumstances through the eyes of God. Let Him
interpret your situation. Get eternity into the
picture. In Nehemiah 12 the people are happy because
their eyes are on the LORD God.
The people of Judah have
now experienced revival and rededication, and they
are now ready to throw the biggest celebration party
Obviously, they have
postponed the event until the city was repopulated.
The wall was rebuilt, the gates hung, the city is
secure and filled with people. The time has come to
celebrate and dedicate the wall.
DEDICATION OF THE WALL
It is now time to
celebrate. Dedication means giving the object of
dedication to the Lord for its use and control.
worship (v. 27-29)
The Levites come to
"celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns
of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment
of cymbals, harps, and lyres" (v. 27).
One of the elements of
true celebration is the expression of joy. Their
hearts were right with God and they expressed it.
This group was probably a
special ensemble selected from among the Levitical
families. They may have been music teachers. "So the
sons of the singers were assembled from the district
around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the
Netophathites," (v. 28).
The Hebrew word for
"gladness" means "gaiety, pleasure, delight."
The musical instruments
were cymbals, much like cymbals of our day. The
harps were possibly like mandolins with several
strings. The lyres were probably string instruments
with two arms joined at the top by a crosspiece.
A time for
purification (v. 30)
"The priests and the
Levites purified themselves; they also purified the
people, the gates and the wall " (v. 30).
Purification is necessary
for celebration. You cannot celebrate with a
God does not do
His work with dirty vessels.
These were probably sin
offerings on behalf of the Levites and the people.
The people's hearts needed to be pure, cleansed form
sin through confession and sacrificial offerings.
ceremony for the priests and Levites was probably
ceremonial washing of themselves and their clothes,
fasting, abstinence from sexual intercourse, and
presentation of sin offerings.
The people probably
washed themselves and their clothing. The gates and
the wall were dedicated by using a hyssop to
sprinkle them with the blood of sacrifices.
To minister the Word of
God our hearts must be clean before God. "Holiness
precedes happiness." We who minister the Word of God
must do our personal spiritual preparation before we
stand before God and the people. You cannot fake a
clean heart before God. Moral carelessness and
borderline sin is a disgrace to the ministry. Every
spiritual ministry must begin with purification.
How do Christians
Christians do not purify
themselves by rituals, or cutting themselves, but by
confessing our sins, and believing that the
all-sufficient death of Jesus coves all our sins.
"If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John
1:9). Confess your sins to God and believe they are
all under the atoning sacrifice of Christ. We
receive immediate forgiveness and are made useful
vessels that He can employ to His glory.
The verses that follow
(vv. 31-38) present the amazing picture of hundreds
of singers and musicians gathering on the newly
constructed wall getting ready to celebrate God's
With verse 31 the
first-person narrative style is resumed again as it
was in the first half of the book. Nehemiah is back
in the leadership position, whereas Ezra was in the
lead during the revival and rededication of the
people. Now as we proceed to the dedication of the
wall Nehemiah is in charge once again.
Remember what Tobiah the
Ammonite said to Nehemiah about the early stages of
the wall? "Even what they are building—if a fox
should jump on it, he would break their stone wall
down!" (4:3). Who is laughing now Toby?
The procession of
worshippers singing (v. 31-43)
Verse 31 informs us the
first great choir proceeded to Nehemiah's right, on
top of the wall toward the gate down at the bottom
of the city, the Refuse Gate. Verse 38 tells us the
second choir proceeded to the left, while Nehemiah
followed them with half of the people on the wall.
They are probably singing all along the way.
Ezra was in the first
choir; Nehemiah was with the second choir. The two
groups circle the walls, which Nehemiah built and
come together at the spiritual center of the nation.
Hundreds of singers,
instruments, and thousands of people converge at the
temple singing praise to the LORD God.
Singing has always been
an important feature of the Old Testament and
Christian worship. It is characteristically full of
joy. Christians have composed the great oratorios.
Christianity is full of joy, and joyous worship.
Christians have the greatest reasons in the world to
J. G. McConville says,
"When the people march on the walls to the Temple
they do so after having placed the Temple once again
at the center of their thoughts (10:32-39). The
walls [are] . . . God's gift for the protection and
perpetuation of His name in the world."
In the Old Testament the
action of walking around an object, or a city, or a
piece of land is a way of claiming it for God. They
were claiming Jerusalem as God's city.
Have you ever done a
prayer walk around your city or neighborhood? Claim
it for God.
Moreover, "on that day
they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because
God had given them great joy, even the women and
children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was
heard from afar" (v. 43).
These two great choirs
sang atop the Temple walls, "So that the joy of
Jerusalem was heard from afar."
The words "rejoiced,"
"joy," "rejoiced," and "joy" are stressed in verse
43. They had this joy "because God had given them
great joy." This is what the apostle Paul meant when
he said, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it
again: Rejoice!" (Phil. 4:4).
That is the way churches
in Latin America worship. They turn the volume of
the public address system at the highest level. It
is not that no one can hear in the building; they
want the whole wide world to hear! They sing and
yes, "you can hear the joy afar."
also included financial giving to the ministry (vv.
A great offering was
taken at the service in the Temple. The people gave
these offerings with great joy. They were cheerful
They were given
"according to the command of David and his son
Solomon." That was 500 years earlier! The wonderful
shadow of David's love for Yahweh still cast itself
over the people of Judah.
"They sat aside a portion
for the Levite." God takes care of those who serve
The people on this great
day of worship had their complete focus upon the
Joy is not dependent upon
your circumstances. Nothing had really changed in
Judah. These were still hard times. The difference
was their focus was on the LORD. You will never be
happy if your focus is on becoming happy. When we
become what God wants us to be in Christ we are
exceedingly happy. He fills us with joy unspeakable.
Our primary goal in life is to glorify God. When we
do that our hearts overflow with His presence.
William Barclay wrote:
"The Christian is the man of joy; the Christian is
the laughing cavalier of Christ. A gloomy Christian
is a contradiction in terms, and nothing in all
religious history has done Christians more harm than
its connection with black clothes and long faces."
PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
1. God remembers
your faithfulness to Him. "For God is not unjust so
as to forget your work and the love which you have
shown toward His name, in having ministered and in
still ministering to the saints" (Hebrews 6:10). You
may have only one gift, but determine to use it
fully to the glory of God. He never overlooks one
deed done for His glory. Thank God, He never
goes by the latest popularity polls. He is not
concerned about how popular you are as a preacher.
He is not concerned about your TV ratings.
2. "The joy of
Jerusalem was heard from afar" (12:43). How far can
the people in your community hear your joy in the
Lord? They "rejoiced because God had given them
great joy." Do you sing the song of Jesus? Do you
sing the new song of the Lamb (Rev. 5:8-14)? Does
your worship service celebrate the joy of the Lord
with praise in singing? Every worship service ought
to be filled with joy and great Christian hymns.
"And do not get drunk
with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled
with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms
and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making
melody with your heart to the Lord" (Ephesians
3. "A joyful heart
is good medicine," writes the author of Proverbs
(17:22). "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but
when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken"
(15:13). People want to be around a joyful heart. No
body wants to be around a whiner. Even whiners do
not want to be around one another.
depends on the heart, not the circumstances.
5. Have you noticed
that Christians sing on all occasions, even at
funerals? It is a time for celebration when a person
dies in Christ because we know our loved one and
friend is with Jesus Christ in heaven.
6. John R. Sampey
told his classes in the seminary, "Give all the keys
of our life to Jesus. Give Him all the keys. Give
Him all the keys." That is what Nehemiah meant by
dedication. God is sovereign in our lives. "Lord
here is my all. I give it to You."
"Therefore I urge you,
brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your
bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to
God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And
do not be conformed to this world, but be
transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that
you may prove what the will of God is, that which is
good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:1-2).
7. There are never
any songs of joy in the wayward Christian's life.
Thanksgiving and rejoicing come from obedience and
full surrender to Jesus.
"Through Him then, let us
continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God,
that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His
name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for
with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews
Alan Redpath reminds us,
"It is not what we give to Jesus but what we take
from Him that makes us strong and victorious day by
day. To discover that in the Lord Jesus all the
fullness of the God head dwells bodily, and to know
that we are complete in Him, to know that there is
nothing we need at all for life or character which
is not in Him, and held by Him for each one of
us—that is His purpose for us" (Victorious
Christian Service, p. 174).
Index to this Series on
11-12 Dedication and Worship at Jerusalem's Wall
Series: Nehemiah: A
Leader with a Focused Faith