Nehemiah 12:27-47 - Dedicating the Project to God

Steve Viars January 4, 1997 Nehemiah 12:27-47

- This morning we're going to work on Nehemiah 12:27-47
- This is a great part of the book, because these verses record the dedication service the people held to dedicate the wall to God.

- You may remember that at several points in our study, we've stopped and said, "Isn't it amazing how many of the things that these people were doing 2500 years ago are the same or similar to the way we worship and grow in our relationship to God today?
- that stands to reason because Christians are people who carefully study the Scriptures--so that would lead to continuity from one generation of God's people to the next.

- the overall story line of these verses is this:
1) The Levites were called to lead the service and first went through acts of purification.
2) Then Nehemiah organized two groups of choirs and musicians and had them march up on the wall.  One group went one way and the other group went the other.
- They played their instruments, sang, and rejoiced in God.
- Verse 43 says that the "joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar."
3) The group entered the temple and had more of a formal dedication service there.
4) The chapter ends with a discussion of those who were set up to receive the contributions of God's people...and some details of the ongoing organization of the temple.

- here's what I'd like to ask you to do.
- Instead of just reading the verses together, I'm going to ask you to survey them in this way.
- We've got four sections in our SS class
- I'm going to ask each section to skim the verses looking for one key word, and then be ready to report to the class where those key words are found.

1) Group One - Singing

2) Group Two - Musical Instruments

3) Group Three - Joy

4) Group Four - Thanksgiving

(Note - look for these words or any related to them)
(Give a few minutes for the groups to work, then come back together)

- In the time we have left, let's study "Three Elements of Right Dedication to God."

- A theme verse for what we're talking about this morning could be:
Hebrews 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.

I. Dedication to God Requires Holiness

- I think its important that we take a minute and think about:

A. The "timing" of the service.

- Some folks might think that it would have been more natural for the dedication to service to have happened back around chapter 7, right after the wall was completed.
- But that’s not the way the events were timed...and there are reasons why the events were timed the way they were.
- the spiritual work that took place in chapters 8-10 had to happen before any legitimate dedication of the wall could be done.
- It's been interesting to watch the way Nehemiah stepped back and had Ezra lead this 7th month that we've been studying these past several weeks.
- Even though Nehemiah was a driver---it was important to get that wall up as quickly as possible...he didn't let the desire to have a dedication service rush him from seeing that the spiritual work was done in the lives of the people.

- we see that same emphasis here in chapter 12:

B. The importance of the leaders being purified.

- The text is making it very clear that when the Levites were gathered, [which is significant in and of itself because the people did not want to make this some sort of secular celebration]
- but when the Levites were gathered, verse 30 tells us that they purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the walls.

- of course this is referencing parts of the OT ceremonial law which we would not follow today as NT believers.
- But the principle is a important one --- God wants His people to come to Him with clean hands, and a pure heart ---- and because we're sinners, that means that the work of repentance and confession has been done  [cf. Prov. 28:13]
- Let's think about some of the obvious applications of this part of the passage to us.
- We're planning a dedication service for our offices and educational building sometime in March.

INPUT - Why is it important, that as we move into these new facilities and seek to use them for God, that we give careful attention to the matter of personal holiness?


(Emphasize Swindoll's point --- God wanted this to be a time of rejoicing ---- and you can't fake that with unconfessed sin in your heart --- cf. p. 184-185)

- a second truth that flows out of these verses is that:


II. Dedication to God Involves Joy

- There's no question that living for God requires work and effort and diligence.
- That’s why, when Jesus talked about the kind of life His disciples could expect, He didn't' offer them a lollipop---He offered them a cross.
- There's no promise of ease....there's no promise of an ongoing party-like atmosphere.

- However, there's no question that the Bible places an equal amount of emphasis on joy.
- those ideas seem to be a paradox to our world --- how could work and joy go together?
- How could sacrifice and joy go together?

- But we know as believers in Christ that they do together.
- We mean it when we sing --- "There is joy in serving Jesus"
- We believe verses like:

1) Hebrews 12:2 - "...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

2) John 13:17 - "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."


3) Psalm 1:1-3 - "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season, And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers."

- So the point is -- that yes, as God's people we sacrifice, and we work, and we serve...but that is anything but a somber, joyless existence....in fact its just the opposite.
- One of the uniqueness of Christianity compared to the religions of the world is that God's people are people of joy...regardless of circumstances, regardless of even how they might "feel on one level"
- God promises to give us deep, abiding, joy  (cf. Gal. 5 and many other passages)
- There are some reasons why these folks would be especially joyful:

A. Because of God's triumph of His (and your) enemies.

- When you picture these men and women and children marching around on the top of the wall, singing and playing their instruments in worship and celebration...you can't help but think of what one of their enemies said about the strength of this wall before they began the project.

- Do you remember the sarcastic statement that was made?

Nehemiah 4:3 - Now Tobiah the Ammonite was near him and he said, "Even what they are building-- if a fox should jump on it, he would break their stone wall down!"

- Many of the people in our church today have had significant victories over the enemy  (We all have to some degree or another if we've grown in Him)
- That ought to give God's people a great deal of joy and satisfaction as we think of the power of God working in and through us.

- So it was natural for these folks to be happy...to be rejoicing in Him.

B. Because God is the giver of joy.

- verse 43 is worded in a very interesting way: (READ)

- One of the main points of this section of Scripture is that this was a time of great joy for God's people.
- We make a mistake, if when we think of our God, our thoughts simply gravitate toward Him being a God of....
1) regulations
2) do's and dont's
3) duty and obligation

- All of those things are there to some degree --- but fundamentally He wants our relationship to Him to be one of joy.
- Believers in Jesus Christ ought to be joyful people.

- Of course that leads us to an obvious question, doesn't it?
- Are you a joyful person?

- INPUT - Hindrances to joy?  What prevents us from rejoicing and enjoying life the way these men, women, and children were doing?

- When we were having the pastoral transition last year, I was talking to Jay Adams around that time, and he said --- Be sure you enjoy it (speaking of the new responsibilities I would have).
- At the time, thought that was an odd thing to say -- just because of all the other things that could have been said.
- I understand it much better now.
- In fact, one of the things I want to work on this year is being a more joyful individual.
- In MOF, I plan to do a series on "Overcoming Grumpiness" --- but I don't mind telling you that I want that study to have an impact on me.

- I don't have any trouble working hard, doing the organizational work, having the appropriate concern for folks who are struggling with sin, and issues that have to be handled, and working with folks in physical need, etc.
- But it is possible to get involved in the details of "ministry" and lose sight of the purpose, and lose sight of Who's ultimately responsible for what happens.

- I wonder if I may be talking to some other folks who need to work hard at cultivating Godly joy in this new year.
- These men and women had the right emphasis on that area of their lives.


- there are several things I'd like you to note about this joyful dedication service:

1) Their worship was purposely exuberant.

- I don't think it would be a fair reading of the text to imagine these people up on the wall in staid, single file lines.
- They were happy -- this was a "godly celebration" --- I don't think we'd be pushing it to say it was a "godly party."

- It's possible for us to be so afraid of appearing to be charismatic that we go in the ditch on the other side of dead orthodoxy.
- We talk a lot around here about not living by our feelings, but that certainly doesn't mean that we don't have feelings, and that we don't exercise them in the appropriate ways and the appropriate times.

2) Their worship was organized.

- Nehemiah took time to organize this service, and give attention to the details.

3) Their worship involved music and singing.

- The emphasis in the text on music can't be missed.
- Unfortunately, music has become such a source of contention these days that people don't enjoy it.
- that’s too slow, that’s too fast, that’s too loud, and on and on.

- and we certainly ought to give attention to whether we believe our music is biblical and honors the Lord...these folks didn't miss the fact that their use of music could be a source of great joy and great blessing.

4) Their worship was specific.

- Its significant that Nehemiah had the people start on the wall and then move to the temple.
- He did not want this to be an abstract praise service.
- he wanted it to be specific -- He wanted the folks to retrace their work on the walls...to think about how good God had been to them as they had built it...to be reminded of what a joyful thing it is to let God use you to accomplish something for Him.

- Let's conclude our time by thinking about the last few verses in the chapter.


III. Dedication to God Requires Ongoing Obedience.

- in verses 44-47, arrangements are made to store the tithes and offerings of God's people.
- You remember that back in chapter 10, the people had signed a covenant saying that they were going to do certain things...and one of those things was to support the work of God with their finances and their labor.

- now these verses are showing that while this dedication service was an important event, it was not an end in itself.
- the people planned to continue to grow in their relationship to the Lord.
- they planned to continue to work.
- they planned to continue to give.

- Dedication is a wonderful thing --- but it’s wonderful only to the degree that those who were involved in the ceremony follow through on what they've said.

 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987.  He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and they have three children. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church.  He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of Vision of Hope and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

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