THE DEDICATION OF THE REBUILT WALL INVOLVED AN ELABORATE CELEBRATION BEFITTING THE CULMINATION OF SUCH A SUCCESSFUL REVIVAL
Not many Mother’s Day messages from our text today in Nehemiah 12. I am always amazed when preaching through a book of the Bible how we arrive at just the most appropriate text on various special days. So we can continue our progress in the book and still make application to the focus of the special day.
Matt Day: All of those examples of celebration were for a reason, in response to something significant, something good happening. Celebration is reactive, it’s something that we want to do. It’s human nature to want to mark special happenings and it’s enjoyable, it benefits us, it feels like a ‘right’ response.
Dictionary – “holding of festivities to mark a happy event, public praising of something.”
The bigger and better the event, the greater the celebration.
Fundamental to any celebration is ‘thanks’, giving ‘thanks’ to the person who has made the whole thing possible.
Reminds me of 2 Sam. 6 and the ark being brought into Jerusalem
THE PRESENCE OF GOD SHOULD EVOKE HOLY REVERENCE AND
EXUBERANT CELEBRATION – 2 KEY EXPRESSIONS OF WORSHIP
4 ELEMENTS OF CELEBRATION:
I. (:27-30) SIGNIFICANCE OF DEDICATION – A CELEBRATION OF VICTORY
[Most of emphasis on this first point]
Why are you holding the Celebration? What’s the significance?
A. (:27) The Special Occasion
“Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem”
This was a big deal occasion; normally I am not much for elaborate celebrations;
Look at what God had accomplished for His people in such a short time —
We have baby dedication services – Why? Part of the celebration of motherhood – bringing new life into the world and nurturing it so that the life glorifies God
When men finish some great building project, they hold an impressive dedication ceremony to reflect on the enormity of the accomplishment and to look forward to the usefulness of the building – usually a big political event with everyone who thinks they are anybody there lined up with a shovel to get their picture taken; politicians are always looking to take the credit; here all of the credit goes to God
You might think that you have nothing to celebrate this morning .. Where is my great Victory? How does this apply to me? My walls of defense and protection don’t seem to be built up?
– Wall was protecting the temple in God’s holy city so that they could worship in safety
– Look at the tremendous access to free worship we all enjoy
o Worship in spirit and truth – not bound by specific locality
o Not tied to the ministry of the Levites and priests – we have been made a kingdom of priests; we have Christ as our great High Priest
o No longer bound to offer animal sacrifices continually – Christ sacrificed Himself once for all and has sat down at the right hand of God – talk about Victory to celebrate!
o Ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us
o United with the very life of Jesus Christ who came as the fulfillment of OT types and shadows; we have the fulfillment; the substance
B. (:28-29) The Special Music – Lot of Planning and Preparation involved
“they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres. So the sons of the singers were assembled from the district around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites, from Bethgilgal and from their fields in Geba and Azmazeth, for the singers had built themselves villages around Jerusalem.”
1. Designated Singers – special talents – not just everybody participating equally
Later we will see that the whole congregation participates in the offering of praise and the singing and the thanksgiving
Brings up the question: How professional an approach should we take towards our special music? Never forget that it is a ministry with an orientation towards worshiping God and not an entertainment performance oriented towards pleasing men.
Brings up the question: Is there a different standard of participation for special music in NT times than in OT worship that was centered around the temple? Centralized worship vs decentralized – makes a difference in how much money we put into the splendor of the building; does it make a difference in terms of our approach to special music? Probably can’t afford to pay a professional orchestra to be dedicated to playing top level music
Different contexts are going to call for a different level of quality control.
2. Devoted Spirit – No question that same spirit of love and devotion and passion still applies
With gladness – Heart of Joy
With hymns of thanksgiving – Heart of Thanksgiving
With songs to musical accompaniment – Heart of Devotion
This is the essential aspect of worship – must be genuine, heart-felt; not just going through the motions
You definitely want someone who knows the Lord and can sing with conviction from the heart. God is never pleased with just an external show; He always looks at the heart.
Why do Christians get the reputation of being so glum – look at the exuberance that should be expressed in our worship. If our hearts are truly glad, we should do more than mumble the words of a song. Look at how excited we get when singing our college fight song at the football game. The triumph and victory of what Christ has accomplished for us should be reflected in our singing.
3. Diverse Musical Instruments – cymbals, harps and lyres
Why no mention of musical instruments in the NT??
Some church groups would argue that musical instruments should not be used for accompaniment in this church age; that Christ advocated a very simple style of worship; that the content of our singing should focus mainly on the Book of Psalms.
Seems that the Holy Spirit has given us a lot of freedom in this regard.
Certainly God is still giving out musical gifts and talents and abilities – these should be used to the glory of God
Ephes 5:19 singing and making melody – 2 different words used
Does instrumental music and accompaniment of our singing enhance our worship experience?
Raises the question of what type of musical instruments would be appropriate? Why not drums? As long as you follow certain principles of worship:
– Should be truth-based, not something where you check your intellect at the door
– Should be consistent with peace and harmony and orderly worship rather than some chaotic dissonance
Could say a lot more about principles of music related to worship – in this context, God is looking for the type of music that supports and encourage the celebration of this momentous occasion
Should we have different congregations oriented around different styles of music?? Traditional vs contemporary?? Our worship should be uniting us, not dividing us into different styles – but this seems inevitable
Maybe some of you have written a special Mother’s Day song that you plan to surprise Mom with later today!
Kidner: Elaborate festivities can be hollow, but where the occasion is great, the demanding business of planning, proclaiming, assembling and rehearsing makes good kindling material for the emotions; not a substitute for the more searching preparations seen in verse 30 (where nobody and nothing was left unpurified), but not by any means to be despised. If the New Testament emphasizes what is inward and spiritual in worship, it has a place too for the natural means of encouraging and stirring us. Our Lord went to Gethsemane fortified not only by prayer but by a ceremonial meal and corporate singing, matters which engage not only the spirit but the body and the senses.
C. (:30) The Special Purification Rites – 4 areas of concentration
Purification is essential to Dedication and Celebration – Once again leaders must lead
“The priests and the Levites purified themselves; they also purified the people, the gates and the wall.”
Different types of celebrations require different types of preparation. A spiritual celebration of God’s activity in granting us victory requires spiritual preparation of the heart.
Gates / Wall — Possibly involved the sprinkling of the blood of sacrificed animals on the gates and walls
Our Moms are coming over after church so we can celebrate and honor them with a nice cookout. We won’t be setting the table with dirty dishes from last night – I’m sure they will be pleased to see that we will be eating off clean plates = purified plates
It is impossible to offer God praise and thanksgiving without first purifying our hearts and making sure we are confessing any sins and seeking to be pleasing to Him in how we live. Otherwise God says forget the charade – He does not want us to draw near with our lips if our hearts are far from Him.
Breneman: included fasting, abstaining from marital intercourse, making sacrifices, and perhaps bathing and using clean garments
Swindoll: In order to enjoy the city upon completion of the wall, their hearts had to be pure. By consecrating the wall, they consecrated themselves to the Lord. We, too, need to remember that to lead other people in a godly manner – whether in ministry, politics, the military, or business – our hearts must be clean before God. Holiness precedes happiness. Never forget that the firststep to a happy countenance is a clean heart.
So we have learned first of all that we celebrate when we have something significant that is worth celebrating.
II. (:31-39) SONGS OF THANKSGIVING – 2 GREAT MUSICAL PROCESSIONALS
Word for “songs” should be translated “choirs”
A. (:31-37) First Great Choir – led by Ezra the scribe
You thank all the people who made this great day possible; cf. Award ceremonies; Dedication of a new hospital wing – thank the donors – here all the thanks goes to God
I think God must like marching bands. I know Karen enjoyed her experience in high school back in San Antonia. Then when she got to Princeton she discovered that the football halftime show was just an excuse to exhibit irreverent behavior rather than musical class and precision.
Remember the march around the walls of Jericho in Joshua 6:1-5. Music has often been part of God’s divine instructions to His people. He seems to especially like trumpets. If I had chosen to play anything when I was growing up, it would have been a trumpet. I loved that cavalry call on Rin Tin Tin that announced the troops arriving on the scene to save the day.
Most elaborate celebrations have some type of fancy processional involved:
– Weddings – as the bride comes down the aisle
– Graduation ceremonies – time of the year for those
You are drawing attention to the significance of the event and making a statement – It is also a way for people to participate physically; get them out of just the spectator role; engage them
Here the purpose of the processional is explicitly stated to be the giving of thanks
Breneman: According to Kenyon’s excavations, Nehemiah’s wall was nearly nine feet wide.
Wiersbe: The enemy had said that the walls would be so weak that a fox could knock them down (4:3), but here were the people marching on the walls! What a testimony to the unbelieving Gentiles of the power of God and the reality of faith. . . It was a symbolic act by which they “stepped out by faith” to claim God’s blessing. In that day, to walk on a piece of property meant to claim it as your own.
Getz: The choirs began near the Valley Gate, which interestingly is the place where Nehemiah began and ended his nighttime inspection of the ruined walls months earlier (2:13-15).
We have come full cycle – Enjoying the completion of the project
B. (:38-39) Second Great Choir – led by Nehemiah himself
Breneman: These villages were not all in the same area. Netopha was southeast of Bethlehem; Gilgal was near Jericho; Geba and Azmaveth were northeast of Jerusalem in the Benjamite area.
Whitcomb: For both groups the order of procession seems to have consisted first of Levitical singers “that gave thanks” (v. 31), followed by princes (vv. 32,33), then the priests with trumpets (v. 35; cf. 41), and finally Levites with stringed instruments (v. 36).
Psalm 48:12-14 “Walk about Zion and go around her; count her towers; consider her ramparts; go through her palaces, that you may tell it to the next generation. For such is God, Our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death.”
Heb. 13:15 “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.”
That is one of the main reasons not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together; but it is not enough just to come; did we come with thankful hearts? Are we actively expressing our thanksgiving?
III. (:40-43) SACRIFICES OF JOY – EMOTIONAL EXTENSION OF OUR THANKSGIVING
A. (:40) United Worship in the House of God
“Then the two choirs took their stand in the house of God. So did I and half of theofficials with me”
Worship should bring God’s people together – because the focus is on God; in our sinfulness we have much more in common than we might think; where the great gulf exists is between our sin and God’s holiness
Kidner: Every inch of these ramparts had its special memory for one group or another. Nevertheless, the destination was the house of God (40), for the walls were, appropriately, the circumference not the focal point of the celebrations, and it was the choirs, not the officials, who led the way.
B. (:41-42) Worship Leaders — Priests with Trumpets and Leading Singers
Key individuals singled out
C. (:43) Universal Rejoicing on the Part of all the People of God
“and 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.”
Two Main activities described on this day of celebration
I would have expected feasting – while that was probably included, it was not the emphasis here
1) offered great sacrifices – came at a cost to the people – but a happy price to pay
2) rejoiced – Set aside inhibitions
Our joy must come to us as a gift from God in association with the victory over sin that He provides; the deliverance from bondage and futility; the enjoyment of our redemption and of our fellowship with Him through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Note how the entire community fully participated – including the women and children
Note the testimony that extended to both saved and unsaved who might have been afar off, but still impacted by this celebration of joy
To what extent is your life characterized by joy … not just joy, but great joy that has been given to you by God?
What other lives are you impacting by the joy of your testimony regarding what God has done for you that has been so special?
Review: Significance of the celebration / Thanksgiving and Joy Involved
Now we are going to address some practical matters that ensure the ongoing support for future worship; how are we going to sustain this worship?
IV. (:44-47) SUPPORT FOR LEADERS – SUPPORT FOR MINISTRY
3 Key areas of Administation: ( just touching on this section – then we want to move to our application today of Celebrating Mother’s Day)
A. (:44) Administration of Gathering and Distributing the Contributions
“On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the citie the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over th priests and Levites who served.”
Spiritual leaders give themselves to ministry; to service
The People express their appreciating and rejoice in supporting these essential efforts
Giving in the context of privilege and joy – not grudgingly or of necessity
It was not a burden to support their spiritual leaders
Getz: The storerooms to which the people were to bring their contributions, firstfruits, and tithes that were required by the Law were side rooms on the temple (cf. 1 Kings 6:5; 1 Chron. 28:11; 2 Chron. 31:11; Neh. 10:37-39; 12:25; 13:4, 12-13).
B. (:45-46) Administration of Worship Leaders – Praise and Thanksgiving to God
“For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God.”
Many details of worship to take care of; elaborate sacrificial system
Importance of the Book of Psalms in worship – role of Asaph
C. (:47) Summary: Overall Administration of Giving
“So all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah gave the portions due the singers and the gatekeepers as each day required, and set apart the consecrated portion for the Levites, and the Levites set apart the consecrated portion for the sons of Aaron.”
We come now to our special day of celebration = Mother’s Day
APPLICATION TO MOTHER’S DAY: 5 AREAS OF FOCUS:
– Time to Express Appreciation and Support to Mom – Day of Great Celebration
o How are you going to do that today with your family?
o Have you considered how much Moms need your encouragement? Consider how unselfishly they labor for such long hours at repetitive tasks where there is very little intrinsic satisfaction in order to provide for your needs
o Don’t lose sight of the significance of this special day
o Maybe we should have our own procession from room to room in our house as we relive the memories of all of the good things we have experienced at the hand of our Mom
– Tradition of Family Unity – drawing everybody together for time of celebration; in our culture it is so easy for the family to get split up and move away to far geographic corners; at least on Mother’s Day we make an effort to come together and celebrate the family unit
– Teaching Moment for Ourselves – Reminding us of the Goodness of God
All the ways in which God has provided for us; think of how helpless we were as infants; how little encouragement we gave our Mom when we were young; time to make up for that
– Thanksgiving to God
o Do you think of your Mom as a gift to you from God? I can assure you that they consider each child to be a gift to them from God
o You don’t get to choose your Mom; God sovereignly placed you in the home of His choosing for His divine purposes
– Testimony to Others – of the Power and Majesty of God – what He can accomplish
Many homes where Mom is not appreciated and honored and respected
Are you whole-heartedly participating in celebration today?
Enjoy this special Mother’s Day with a genuine spirit of Celebration!