Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 27 2019 - Nehemiah 12:27-47 – Dedication of the wall

The Levites were summoned from the various towns and villages where they lived so that they could come "to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication [of the rebuilt walls] with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres" (v. 27). Nehemiah had the leaders of Judah go up onto the walls accompanied by two choirs. One choir processed around the top of the wall in one direction while the other processed in the opposite direction, each followed by half of the leaders of Judah. Ezra the teacher of the law led the first procession while Nehemiah followed the second. Both processions ended up in the house of God. There, in a tremendous spirit of rejoicing, they offered sacrifices of thanksgiving to the Lord. It really must have been quite a spectacle.

The chapter ends by recording the arrangements made for keeping the gifts of firstfruits and tithes safe within the temple storerooms.

The final chapter of Nehemiah (which we are skipping over in our readings), records that during a period of Nehemiah's absence in Susa, the storerooms in the temple had been misused. One large storeroom was given to Tobiah for his personal use. Tobiah, you will remember, had been a fierce opponent of Nehemiah's work. On Nehemiah's return he "threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense" (10:8-9). Nehemiah also found that the tithes had not been paid to the Levites who had consequently returned to their fields to support themselves and their families. The house of God was being neglected. He also discovered that the Sabbath was being broken and that intermarriage between Jews and their unbelieving neighbours was rife. Many of the reforms he had worked so hard to introduce when he first came from Susa, were quickly dropped as soon as his back was turned. Nehemiah did his best to reinstate these reforms and to call the people back to the obedience they had promised in their solemn agreement.

It is sad to see how quickly the determination to be faithful to God could degenerate into accommodation to the demands and behaviour of an ungodly world. It is sad also to see that the spectacular celebrations of God's faithfulness that marked the dedication of the rebuilt walls had so little lasting effect in shaping the daily lives of the people of God.

But how is it with us? We also are called to be a holy people whose lives are to be wholly dedicated to God. When we meet together for worship we celebrate God's faithfulness and mercy and give thanks for all that he has done for us in the Lord Jesus. Our hearts may be deeply moved as we sing some of our favourite hymns. But to what extent does our worship and celebration when met together on a Sunday shape the way we live day by day? Do we really want to be holy – as holy as it is possible for human beings to be? Do we want to be like the Lord Jesus? Do we hunger and thirst for righteousness?

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)

Father God, we give you our thanks and praise for the incomparable gift of our salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. We confess that we are no longer our own but have been bought with a price. Help us then by your Spirit to seek to glorify your name in all we say and do. Keep our love and zeal from growing cold and our obedience from becoming half-hearted. Help us rather to grow in godliness and to show the world something of the beauty of holiness.

Peter Misselbrook