A.) The Structure (7:1-3)
B.) The Organism (7:4-65)
1. The burden (4-5)
2. The people (6-38)
3. The called (39-60)
4. The unsure (61-69)
C.) The Provisions (7:70-72)
I often drive about an older part of the city. I just love some of the older buildings. But I suppose there are not much more sadder sights than seeing one of these formerly glorious buildings in decay. Windows bordered up. Holes. Peeled paint. Run down yard. Rotten wood. Bad roof. Ruined gutters. There is one house I often go by which has recently been going through the process of restoration. The three story outside brick wall was smoothed and pointed. Windows and sashes are being refurbished. And though it is not done, one can see the former glory coming alive. Section by section it is being restored.
We have this picture of restoration or rejuvenation here in chapter 7 of Nehemiah. Rejuvenation in Webster's is defined as " to restore to youthful vigor, appearance, etc.; make young again; to restore to a former state; make fresh or new again." There seem to be at least three parts to rejuvenating something, each being crucial to the maintenance of the true restoration: the structure, the insides or organism and the support for the organism. If we used a person as an example, we would say there is the body, the life or soul and the provision to keep that life alive. They depend upon each other. At some point in the past, this wonderful house had one or more problems that resulted in the decay of the whole. Let's now discuss these three parts as we find them in chapter 7 of Nehemiah.
A.) The Structure (7:1-3)
All along I have emphasized that Nehemiah's goal was not merely to rebuild the wall. The wall was important to the welfare of the community and city. The wall is like our skin which protects us from evading enemies. The enemies might not be so obvious but they are present. Without the wall, the enemies would be much more apparent. Regarding Jerusalem, we have been acquainted with some of their strong enemies. When the defenses of the city were down, these enemies were strengthened. But when the defenses were put up, then the influence and power of these enemies decreased. This is the reason they kept coming up with plans to foil them in their rebuilding of the walls. However, it is obvious that it would be wise as a church, society, family or individual never to let our defenses be lowered in the first place and allow the enemy in. This is what is happening all around us now.
However amidst all the campaigns to hold back the building of the wall including threats of all sorts, the wall was rebuilt. In the 52 days to rebuild the wall, we find that Nehemiah found an immense amount of opposition. But at the same time through extreme dedication, trust in God and cooperation with the people, the wall was rebuilt. No doubt in this case the wall could be rebuilt in 52 days because they did not start from scratch. He merely restored the broken down places. But I can imagine they had to rebuild a lot of the gaps in the wall from the bottom up. Once the alignment is out, one has to go back and make major adjustments.
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What is it that Nehemiah did once the wall was rebuilt? Nehemiah 7:1-3 says,
"Now it came about when the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed, that I put Hanani my brother, and Hananiah the commander of the fortress, in charge of Jerusalem, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. Then I said to them, "Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot, and while they are standing guard, let them shut and bolt the doors. Also appoint guards from the inhabitants of Jerusalem, each at his post, and each in front of his own house."
A whole list of things were quickly done. Nehemiah immediately had set up the doors or gates. Gatekeepers were appointed. Singers and Levites were appointed. Furthermore, he put Hanani his brother in charge of the fortress and Jerusalem's defense. He gave special instructions to those manning the gates. He also set up a local militia. Basically, these things can be collected under two broad categories: defense and focus.
As to defense, we can see Nehemiah was greatly interested in protecting the work that they had just accomplished. The wall was rebuilt but there would be attempts to destroy the work they had done. Guards were appointed. Gatekeepers were given specific directions as to when and how to open the gates. Security was of most importance. He found the most trustworthy person to be the commander of the fortress. He could not afford anyone to be bought with a favor. People can deceive another. We need to take extra precautions in crucial areas of leadership.
The second interesting thing he was concerned about was the focus or vision. We see that he appointed singers and Levites. This has to do more with securing the life within. Remember that the three parts are interdependent. Nehemiah could easily be content with the building of the wall in 52 days, but this defense is nothing unless the peoples' focus is corrected. They must focus on the intention of the wall. It would be very easy to just settle down to normal and satisfied lives. Once the structure is built, they could stop worrying about the world out there and get busy with restoring their own material lives. After concentrating so intensely on material things, it is easy to forget the greater goals in life.
Nehemiah however, by appointing the singers and the Levites, was saying that the wall is not the goal. They had done well, very well. But there is more to what they were doing than the mere repairing of a wall. The world would be content with that but God's people are not. The defense is in place so that we can go further in our spiritual lives. I think often how many Christians are content to go only so far in their Christian lives. They stop at a certain point because their lives are focused around the wall rather than the Lord. Or a church which has focused on the building of a church building. How often they become content with the building of it even though the building is nothing but a curse without a growing ministry of love and evangelism. By establishing the singers and Levites, he turned the focus back around the Lord. They were all of a sudden realizing something greater than the wall is being rebuilt and that they must take interest in it. I find two immediate applications to the rebuilding of the wall.
Application #1 Actually, there are two ways to start a church. Some start from the outside and then build the inside; others start on the inside and wait for it to develop before building the outward structure. What did the Lord do in His redemption plan? He did both at the same time. The frame of salvation was planned and carried out in the work of Jesus Christ. There is no doubt that it is on the basis of faith in what Christ has done that saves. Salvation does not come about because we are better and better. We simply step in the walls of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the favor of God, His precious work on the cross all become instantly ours. The wall of salvation surrounds us. Praise God. Anytime we have doubts and fears, we only have to look a the wall and send back the Accuser with all his lies.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. ...Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm."
We must utilize the authority we have in Christ Jesus. The Lord has rightly protected us and told us about our spiritual armor. But what fools we are if we are to neglect them. What fools we are if we do not take them seriously. Let me ask you, have you taken your armor seriously.
Application #2 The lesson is very apparent. Take advantage of the protection we have received. I think of the command in Ephesians 6:10-15,
There are four parts to this life spoken here.
1. The burden (4-5)
Salvation can well be represented by the walls or the clear proclamation of the Gospel based on the precious work of Christ. Salvation is also importantly the bringing of the people into the walls of salvation. Many in Christendom do not think salvation includes the bringing of God's people into the wall of salvation, but clearly this is the testimony and intent of the scriptures to let us know that salvation from the start to the end it is the grace of God. Let me state this a bit clearer. Many Christians think that Christ is God's gift to us; they are right. But then they say that faith is our gift to God. Here they are wrong. We have nothing to bring to the gracious throne of God. The scriptures say that we were chosen before the foundation of the world because of His choice. The scriptures state that no man searches for God or is even able to - that is, without the Spirit's aid. The scriptures state that even faith is the result of God's wondrous saving power. In other words, man is trying to hold on to his independence. Man is prideful about his right choices. The scriptures are clear that it is God's wonderful grace in that He does not only provide justification of the righteous but that He justifies them. Christ is not only the sacrifice, but also we know that God our Father actually justifies us. It is not up to the bright, the intelligent, the more knowledgeable, the zealous, or those of a certain heritage. John 1:13 says, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."
Birth is of the Lord. We do not say we want to be born. We are born and one day realize the life we have. John 3 again confirms this by saying we are born from above or born again. Ephesians 2:8 10 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."
So we find that the Lord has both the walls and the people in the walls of salvation all planned out. This leaves no room for the pride of man. All the glory goes to God. What can we do but give great thanks to such a God! This is what paul does in Romans after covering the discussion of salvation, sanctification and election. Romans 11:33-36 says, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR?
Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN?
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
2. The people (6-38)
Who is it that came back from captivity? Well, first of all we discover in verse 7 what seems to be a list of twelve separate individuals who led other exiles back to the land. The scriptures say, "who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah." we recognize maybe a few names but most of them we do not even know of. If this verse did not list them, we just wouldn't have had a clue that there was such a serious movement to come back to the land.
Application This reminds me that many great men and women of God are scarcely mentioned in the annals of men and history, but God remembers them. God sent them just like Nehemiah. I am sure their calling was different but the effect was the same. They led those who were exiled back into the land of promise. I hope God has men like this here in this church. I hope he has those faithful and obedient servants are just willing to do what God calls them to. I know you might not feel especially gifted. These men all could probably say they did not have the connections, the flair, the gifts, the wealth of Nehemiah. But note all of their names were written down because they were faithful.
But I also want you to not starting at the end of verse 7 is a whole list of families of Israel that had returned. It was not enough to applaud those who led them back but the actual families that came back are identified. Again we know of some of the names or city names, but most we don't know. Isn't it good that we are not God?! Isn't it good that judgment don't rest upon our memories?!
Application This leads us to wonder if for any reason that you were chastised by God, would you come back to Him? Would you gripe and forget Him? Would you love Him or your new set up?
3. The called (39-60)
In verses 39-60 we find those that had a special duty or calling. Most of them had some duty regarding the temple service. If we remember in the Mosaic Law, the families were linked to temple service. Depending upon who your father was, you might be a priest if you were male, of age, and ceremonially clean. This was the same for the singers, gatekeepers and servants. Again we find that for a whole healthy community, they needed some from each position. We will read later how at times they had shortages of certain offices such as priest. We don't know how important each position is until it is not rightly being done. Then we all sense a great need.
Application I hope you are not wrestling with god's call on your life. I hope that you can see that God had chose you for it. Whether it be up front or down behind the scenes, we recognize that the Lord has gifted and called each one of us for a special role. If you think you are in a tight spot, just remember that the Lord back then called men according to their heritage. We really need to stop fussing and just excel at what we are called to do.
4. The unsure (61-65)
Lastly, we turn our thoughts for a moment for those who did not fit in. There were two kinds of 'lost' families. One kind was the typical family except they lost their family records. No one could vouch for who they were. Of course the importance to them was that they could not prove any land was theirs as an inheritance. But this could be easily worked through no doubt because so many others did not come back to the land.
However, the other group were those who called themselves priests. They search and search among their ancestral registration but could not find their names in there. How was it to be handled? They were very careful. They were not blaming these priests. They did not do anything wrong. It is just that they could not prove their ancestry and therefore their calling. Instead of just taking their word for it, they considered them unclean and excluded from the priesthood. E might think this was too strict but when one is trying to put things back together we must be careful it is done according to the original model. In the end, they would wait until a priest arose with a Urim and Thumim which to this day is still a vague thing. It was an instrument which enabled the priest to discern the will of God in such a matter. The families had to wait who knows how long. And even at that, they might still be excluded.
Application I think it is important for us to be careful on allowing people to join the church. We must verify their faith and calling. We have them write testimonies. But for those being called into the ministry, we must even be more careful. We should not just take anyone. The church of God has standards that are set out in I Timothy and Titus very clearly. It is true we do not judge people on their place in the church anymore by who their father is, but instead by the lives they live. There are strong demands that in our broken society are more and more difficult to fulfill.
Once the shell, the wall was built, then the insides needed to be focused upon.
Nehemiah knew if God would rebuild the wall, then the insides would have to be restored to. He had full confidence that if God would work out the wall of the city, then He would certainly work out the insides of the city. We can be that sure with the great work of salvation. It is the wrong response to say that if God provided for salvation, then we do not need to do anything about the bringing in of the people. No. Actually, we are responsible to get the people inside. We are the evangelists. One of the great burdens of D.L. Moody, the Father of Mass Evangelism, is that when he started his training institute in Chicago, he built it with the express purpose of getting laymen involved in evangelism. He himself was a Sunday School teacher. But he knew God enabled him to spread the gospel. He believed God intended not only pastors to share the gospel as was common back then, but for the body of Christ to beckon the world into its lovely doors.
We have a great and serious obligation to usher people to the love doors of God's kingdom. We trust God to work it all out. He is sovereign. He is Lord. He is the Redeemer. He is the Savior. But He has called us to join Him in His glorious saving plan by sharing the gospel and making disciples. As part of His great plan, we therefore get to share the rewards and the honored position of being with our Lord.
C.) The Provisions (7:70-72)
The third crucial part of this healthy community was its life support. We have the wall which is the basis upon which the community was protected and defined. Secondly, we have the life that is living within the city. But now we must remember the importance of supporting this life. It is insufficient just to put people in the city walls with the best plans possible and trust all be well. They need to be provided for. Yes, there are many means for them to be supported, but we should not be so naive that God's work can go on without provision.
Just like our bodies which are our structure or working framework for our lives or souls. We need to feed our bodies, nourish our souls. They obviously thought about this need. In verse 70 we read that the heads of the fathers households gave to the work. They had the most wealth; they led in the giving. What did they need? They needed a lot of temple equipment. Some even provided priests' garments. Altogether these patriarchs gave 20, 000 drachmas and 2,200 silver minas. This was a sizeable start. Then the people themselves joined in and matched the golden drachmas and silver.
There was a need and the need was met. Was there sacrifice? No doubt there was. But we must remember that the only way these people got this wealth was because of the way God treated them in the exile. God blessed them. Now they could have had this wealth hold them back from returning. But they saw it the right way. They saw their wealth as the Lord's. They would do with it what their Lord wanted.
Application Too often we see our wealth and resources as ours rather than the Lord's. We are prisoners of this wealth as long as we do not freely give as the Lord leads. And often it is not of our wealth but of our gifts or skills. The Lord has given these resources so that we could keep the organism living and keep the administration flowing.
As a result we find in verse 73 that all of israel lived in their cities. Things could get back to some level of normality. The wall of the capital city no doubt played a strong role in establishing the identity of God's people. They could not easily organize or support. However, once the wall was rebuilt, then everyone began to get more and more encouraged. They could see how God would fulfill other dreams. Because of the wall, the temple could get its right attention. They were not allowed to just be content with security. They were not to live for security but for God's will. If we live for our security, then we are just imprisoning ourselves in a needless prison. We live by faith in our living and loving God.
Biblical Foundations for Freedom