Arise and Rebuild Series
The Book of Nehemiah
“Rebuilding Requires Priorities”
As I mentioned last week we have come to the halfway point in our series in the book of
Nehemiah. The first six chapters focuses on the rebuilding of the walls and city gates in
Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. Chapters eight through thirteen focuses on
spiritually rebuilding the people through Nehemiah’s reforms.
As I have pointed out several times during this series, the city of Jerusalem and the
surrounding territory were essential to the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies. Therefore,
Nehemiah’s rebuilding project had direct messianic and redemptive significance. But the
people of Israel were also essential for redemptive fulfillment. The Lord was pleased to
give the people of Israel, as a church underage, ceremonial laws, containing several typical
ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, His graces, actions, sufferings, and
benefits. (WCF XIX.3)
Commitment to Spiritual Priorities
Therefore, it was important for Nehemiah to challenge the people of Jerusalem and the
surrounding territory to renew their commitment to spiritual priorities and that is what
the second half of the book of Nehemiah will focus on. It is important to remember the
people living in Jerusalem and the surrounding territory during the time of Nehemiah were
exiles who had returned from Babylonia. This returning remnant had been held as exiles in
Babylon for seventy years. These people were Jews, but they had lived in a foreign land for
the minority if not the entirety of their lives. They had not received consistent biblical
instruction and had not been challenged to live their lives in biblical obedience to God’s
Our text this morning comes from chapter seven. In the seventh chapter of Nehemiah, we
come to another list of names, similar to the list of builders of the wall in chapter three.
This list is important because each of these people were important to God, in that they did
what so few of their fellow Jews would not do. They returned to the promised land after
they had already set down roots for seventy years in the Babylonian empire. These are the
people who were willing to endure hardship and discomfort because they had a call from
God that was more important than their own comfort. Life was easier in Babylon, but it was
better in Jerusalem! Since only about two percent of the Jews who were carried away into
exile by the Babylonians came back, these people were pioneers of the faith. This list of
names is mentioned twice in Holy Scripture. Once in Ezra chapter two and here in
Nehemiah chapter seven. Brothers and sisters, our names will not be inscribed on the
pages of Holy Scripture, but we should be greatly encouraged that our names are written in
the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev.20.15)
As we look at this list of names this morning, I want you remember that each individual
was important to God. Every family was important to God. And their contribution to the
Lord’s work was important to God. And so, it is for every member of God’s family today!
You are important to God. Your family is important to God. And your contribution to the
work of the Lord is important to God.
A Community of Worshippers
Notice that verse one tells us that when the wall was rebuilt, and doors of the gates had
been set up. At that point Nehemiah appointed the gatekeepers, the singers, and the
Levites. Verse one reads, “Now when the wall was rebuilt and I had set up the doors, and the
gatekeepers and the singers and the Levites were appointed.” (7.1) The Levites (7.43), the
singers (7.44), the gatekeepers (7.45), and the temple servants (7.46-56) were different
categories of temple staff who assisted the priests in their service at the temple altar and at
the great feasts and festivals. These were the ones who led the people in worship to the
Remember the temple had been rebuilt several years prior but the people were hindered
from worshipping safely while the walls and gates remained demolished. But now that the
walls had been rebuilt and the doors of the gates had been hung the people could worship
in peace and safety. The purpose for rebuilding the city wasn’t so that the returning
remnant could live in a nice town. They were rebuilt the city so they could worship God
with greater glory and freedom than ever before while looking forward to the coming
So, the first thing Nehemiah did was to appoint those who would lead the people in
worship. Worship was the number one priority. Worship is what set this people apart from
the world. Gathering together as God’s people to hear the Word of God. Gathering together
as God’s people to offer prayers and thanksgiving to God. Gathering together as God’s
people to offer sacrifices from the heart and to praise the God of heaven. These are the
things that set the people of God apart from the world and you will hear more about these
elements of worship in the weeks to come.
Brothers and sisters, if our forefathers in the faith were willing to endure hardship and
discomfort to obey the call of God and establish faithful worship what gives us the right to
think that we can forsake the assembling of ourselves together? (Heb.10.25)
The next thing on the list of priorities was to appoint community leaders. As Governor of
the territory Nehemiah appointed his brother, Hanani in charge of the city and Hananiah in
charge of the fortress. Verse two reads, then 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. (7.2) This would make Hanani, Nehemiah’s brother the mayor of
Jerusalem and Hananiah the chief of police. Law and order are the bedrock of any
community and Nehemiah knew he needed trusted and experienced individuals to fill these
Hanani already demonstrated his concern for the city by making the long trip to Babylon in
chapter one to share with Nehemiah the dreadful condition of the city and the people. (1.2)
Hananiah is described as a faithful man and feared God more than many. Brothers and
sisters, believers in Christ are called by God to submit ourselves for the Lord’s sake to every
human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by
Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. (IPt.1.13-14)
Nehemiah appointed make Hanani and Hananiah to punish evildoers and to praise those
who do right. The Word of God urges us to offer entreaties and prayers, petitions and
thanksgivings, . . . for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and
quiet life in all godliness and dignity, and this is what Nehemiah wanted for the people of
Jerusalem. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. (ITim.2.1-3)
The Community of God’s People
After Nehemiah appointed those who would lead worship and those who would lead the
city he writes, “Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the
people to be enrolled by genealogies.” (7.5) Nehemiah follows the list that was originally
composed by a fellow reformer, Ezra. This is the community of God’s people. The list
contains nine categories. These are the people of the province who came up from the
captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who
returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his city. (7.6)
National Heroes (7.7)
First on the list were those who led different groups of exiles back from Babylon to
the land of promise. These men were known as national heroes.
Patriarchs and Towns (7.8-38)
Next is a list of eighteen family patriarchs from whom the current residents were
descendants and a list of twenty towns in which the returning exiles settled.
Priests, Levites, Singers, Gatekeepers, and Temple Servants (7.39-56)
Next is a list of the priests and those who assisted the priests in leading worship.
Descendants of the Servants of Solomon (7.57-60)
Next is a list of descendants described as the sons of Solomon’s servants who would
have been employees hired to help with practical aspects of Temple activities.
Those of Questionable Ancestry (7.61-65)
Next on the list is a group whose ancestry was questionable. These people are listed
in two categories: laymen and those who claimed to be priests. The problem is that
their family name and family homesteads could not be found in the ancestral
records. This omission prohibited these people from being considered a citizen. The
situation with the self-proclaiming priests was most serious and the decision was
made to exclude these people not only as citizen but also from priestly functions.
This situation reminds me of those people today who claim to be a Christian,
citizens of the kingdom of God, but there is no evidence in their life that their names
have been written in the Lamb’s book of life. These people know Christian words,
but they don’t know Christ. They know their way around the church, but they don’t
know Christ. Brothers and sisters, the one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and
does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever
keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that
we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same
manner as He walked. (IJn.2.4-6) Are you in Christ today? Is their evidence that you
have been made heir to the promises of God through the grace of Jesus Christ?
The Total Number (7.66-69)
The list concludes with the total number of 42,360 not including the number of their
servants, singers, and animals.
Why Chapter Seven?
The question must be asked why would God put this long list of unpronounceable names in
His Holy Word not just once but twice? Chapter seven is one of those chapters you dread
when you come to it in your Bible reading. I believe chapter seven is recorded on the pages
of Holy Scripture because there are times in our lives when it is easy to think that God
doesn’t remember our name and the Lord has forgotten you. But the fact is Lord has not
forgotten you. The Prophet Isaiah tells us that the Lord has tattooed your name on His
hands. (Is.49.16) The Prophet Malachi tells us the Lord has written a book of remembrance
with the names of those would revere Him. (Mal.3.16) Jesus told us that His sheep hears His
voice, and He calls them by name. (Jn.10.3) Brothers and sisters, by the grace of God
through Christ our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev.20.15) As we look at
this list of names this morning, I want you to remember that each individual is important,
and the Lord knows your name. You are not a forgotten remnant. You are a child of God.
You are a member of God’s family, and the Lord knows your name.
Contributing to God’s Work
Last week as we concluded chapter six Nehemiah told us that several wealthier Jewish
families teamed up with Tobiah in opposition to Nehemiah plans and reforms. (6.17-19)
But the last part of chapter seven shows us that not all were opposed to Nehemiah. Look at
the closing verses of chapter seven.
Some from among the heads of fathers’ households gave to the work. The governor gave to the
treasury 1,000 gold drachmas, 50 basins, 530 priests’ garments. Some of the heads of fathers’
households gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 gold drachmas and 2,200 silver minas.
That which the rest of the people gave was 20,000 gold drachmas and 2,000 silver minas and
67 priests’ garments. (7.70-72)
Everyone contributed to the work of the Lord. It is difficult to determine the exact worth of
the gold and silver contributed by God’s people, but if the scholars are correct the amount
in today’s currency would be well over five million dollars. The people were ready to
financially support the work of temple worship. Jesus told us that where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also. (Mt.6.31) And it seems that the people’s heart was focus on
worship and ministry. If you are a member of God’s family through Christ, I want to
challenge you to financially support the work of worship and ministry here at Christ
Covenant. We all need to contribute to the advancement of the kingdom of God from and
through this church.
As a I was preparing for this sermon, I came across biblical commentary on chapter seven
entitled “Counting for God.” I thought about how that is a perfect title for this chapter. So
many times, in our lives we are counting on God. Counting on God for a healing. Counting
on God for a new job. Counting on God to recuse ourselves or a member of our family from
a dreadful situation. Counting on God the future. Counting on God to make a way when
there seems to be no way.
But as we are counting on God in so many ways are our lives counting for God? Are we
willing to make the personal sacrifice to leave the pleasures of Babylon and follow the
Lord’s calling to return? Have we committed ourselves to be faithful in assembling with
God’s people for worship? Are our names written in the Lord’s book? Have we committed
our support to the Lord’s work in His church? Do our lives count for God? I think that is
what chapter seven is all about.
The Lord Jesus Christ is here to receive us unto Himself. Come to the altar this morning and
allow God to make your life count for God.