Arise and Rebuild Series
The Book of Nehemiah
“Celebrating God’s Grace”
Through this series of sermons in the book of Nehemiah, we have seen the city walls rebuilt
in the first seven chapters and the spiritual renewal of the people in chapters eight through
ten. Today we come to chapters eleven and twelve where we see the city of Jerusalem
repopulated and God’s people celebrating God’s grace.
For a city to prosper and be great, it must be populated. Nehemiah told us in chapter seven
that the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few. (Neh.7.4) For more than
seventy years, Jerusalem had been nothing but a ghost town. Over a period of eighty or so
years it had been repopulated, with a new temple built (under Ezra) and the walls rebuilt
(under Nehemiah). But the city still needed more people. Nehemiah also knew the bigger
the population of Jerusalem, the greater the resources for defense and strength in battle. He
didn’t rebuild the walls just to see some conquering army come and break them down
But even more important the city of Jerusalem was a holy city and the proper
administration of the city of Jerusalem was essential for the advancement of the kingdom of
God prior to the coming of Christ. Nehemiah understood that the land of Judah, the Temple,
and the city of Jerusalem were all chosen by God to fulfill His redemptive purposes. We see
Nehemiah understood this theological truth when he quoted the words of the Lord in
chapter one saying, “If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you
return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been
scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will
bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.” (Neh.1.8b-9)
Nehemiah knew that Jerusalem was the place where the Lord had chosen to cause His name
to dwell. Nehemiah knew that a functional city of Jerusalem was eternally connected and
essential to the fulfillment of the purposes of God in Christ.
Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people . . . remained in the
other cities. (11.1)
Verse one of chapter eleven tells us that the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the
rest of the people remained in other cities. While it is great to see the leaders setting a good
example Nehemiah knew that something had to be done to repopulate the city of
Jerusalem. So, lots were casted to select one out of ten to move from their country estate
and to live in Jerusalem. While this method might seem strange to us it seems that all the
people wanted Jerusalem to prosper and were willing to move to Jerusalem if by God’s
providence the lot fell on their family. These people were willing to live where God wanted
them to live to serve His purpose. It is important to understand that this was not a forcible
uprooting of families but rather an indication of the participatory spirit that prevailed
among the people.
The application for us is obvious. Even though the leaders in the church should set a good
example of servanthood and participation in the church’s work and ministries, all of God’s
people are called to participate in the ministry of the church. Our Church Fathers called this
the “priesthood of all believers.” The ministry of the church belongs to every believer in
Christ not to just an ordained class. The moment God choses you by His sovereign lot, you
become a citizen in God’s New Jerusalem. As a citizen of the New Jerusalem, you are called
to volunteer your time, talents, and treasures for the advancement of the kingdom of God in
and through the church. God does not force His people. We are not to serve the Lord under
compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God with all eagerness. (IPt.5.2)
Brothers and sisters, we all must seek the Lord for the spirit of participation to willingly
serve the Lord in whatever area that is needed at that time. When I first felt called to the
ministry, I went to my senior pastor with the hope of getting more involved in ministry. Of
course, I thought he would have me preach the next Sunday. But instead, he confirmed my
calling and asked me to come early before the Sunday night service, vacuum the sanctuary,
and straighten the chairs. He also said that the church needed a children’s church ministry
on Sunday morning during morning worship service. I explained that conducting a
children’s church would take me out of any participation during the worship service on
Sunday morning and he explained that at that time the church needed a children’s church.
So, Barb and I started a children’s church the next Sunday and wouldn’t you know that
chairs and children have been part of my ministry for over forty years! We must all have a
volunteering spirit to serve the church in whatever capacity it needs at that time. It might
not be your number one gift. It might not be your number one choice. But we all are called
to rise up because the church of Jesus Christ needs each one of us.
Four weeks ago, over thirty men of Christ Covenant attended a luncheon after the morning
worship service where we enjoyed a time of food and fellowship. During our time together
I asked the men to volunteer for different areas of ministry in our church and all the men
responded with a willing spirit. What a blessing! Brothers and sisters, when the spirt of
participation floods the church all of God’s people praise the Lord. Verse two tells us that
the people blessed all those for whom the lot fell and who willingly volunteered to live in
Jerusalem. The church will always need God’s people to stand in the gap to serve. There will
never be a time when the church will not need your involvement. If you attend a church
that never asks for your participation you should find another church. Brothers and sisters,
willingly serve God’s church. Serve the church with joy and not with grief, for this would be
unprofitable not only for you but for all of God’s people.
Lists of Names
Chapter eleven includes a list of names of those from the sons of Judah and the sons of
Benjamin who lived in Jerusalem. (11.4-36) In some ways this list of names is less
interesting than the lists in chapters three, seven, and ten. But as I have pointed out in the
past these lists of names show that every individual in God’s family is important. You are
not a forgotten remnant. You are a child of God. You are a member of God’s family.
I want you to notice that many of the sons of Judah and the sons of Benjamin are not listed
by name but are distinguished by the total number in that family. For example, verse six
reads, “All of the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 able men.” (11.6) These
groupings demonstrate the countless number of God’s people who serve behind the scenes
without recognition. The body of Christ is filled with countless number of people like this.
You never see them up front, but they do what God has given them to do. They are like your
vital organs, you never see them working, but when one of them shuts down, you’re in big
trouble. For these able servants’ faithfulness is the issue, not fame. Churches and ministries
around the globe would shut down in a week if there wasn’t those who faithfully serve the
Lord behind the scenes.
Chapter eleven lists the heads of families in Jerusalem (11.3-9); the priests (11.10-14); the
Levites (11.15-18); the gatekeepers and temple servants (11.19-21); various officials
appointed by the king of Persia (11.22-24); and the people who lived outside the city
(11.25-36). Each served for the effective operation of the holy city and the kingdom. Those
who lived outside the city farmed to provide food for those inside the city. It is important to
see that each had a different role, but each role was vital for overall success. And so, it is in
the body of Christ. We all serve in different ways, but every part is vital for the overall
function and health of the body. (ICor.12.12-30)
Dedicated to the Lord
Now that the people had been chosen and everyone had been given their functional role it
was time to dedicate the city walls and celebrate God’s grace. The word “dedicate” means to
“to give” or “to offer up.” When an object is dedicated to the Lord it signifies that object as
given to the Lord for His use under His control. When a person dedicates himself or herself
to the Lord it is to give themselves to the Lord for His use under His control. Have you
dedicated your life to the Lord? The priests, the Levites, and the people offered themselves
first to the Lord and now it was time to dedicate the gates and the great wall.
Verse twenty-seven reads, “Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem 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.” (12.27)
Celebration of God’s Grace
The rest of chapter twelve describes the celebration of God’s grace. The celebration begins
with a festive wall-walk with two choirs. One led by Nehemiah and the other by Erza the
priest. The action of walking around an object or a piece of land is a way of claiming a
certain thing for God. For example, Abraham was told to walk around the land of promise
and God would give it to him. The children of Israel walked around the city of Jericho.
31 Then I had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall, and I appointed two
great choirs, the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall toward the Refuse Gate.
37 At the Fountain Gate they went directly up the steps of the city of David by the stairway of
the wall above the house of David to the Water Gate on the east.
38 The second choir proceeded to the left, while I followed them with half of the people on the
wall, above the Tower of Furnaces, to the Broad Wall, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, by the
Old Gate, by the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the
Sheep Gate; and they stopped at the Gate of the Guard.
40 Then the two choirs took their stand in the house of God.
These two choirs marched in different directions around the wall and joined together again
on the eastern side before the Temple.
It must have been a wonderful sight, with colorful banners flying, instruments playing, and
choirs singing. This is where the book of Nehemiah comes together in a display of glory and
praise to God. Remember the book of Nehemiah has two parts. The first and longer part
concerns the building of the wall in which Nehemiah played a major role. The second and
shorter part concerns the revival led primarily by Ezra the priest. Here in chapter twelve
the two parts, rebuilding and revival, circle the walls and meet at the Temple to celebrate
43 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.
The people had every reason rejoice. The Lord had moved Nehemiah’s heart to leave his
position as cupbearer of the king to lead the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem. The Lord
had given the people the mindset to arise and build. The Lord had given Nehemiah and the
people great courage to overcome a barrage of opposition. The Lord had given the people
the skill and determination to finish the rebuilding of the wall and the gates in record time,
even though they were not skilled carpenters or craftsmen.
The Lord had birthed a national revival in the hearts of the people resulting in sincere
repentance. The Lord had given the people a willing spirit to participate in the purposes of
God. The Lord had gathered the people to conduct a festive wall-walk on the same wall that
the sceptics had said that if a fox should jump on it the wall would collapse. No wonder the
people offered great sacrifices and rejoiced with great joy.
I love the ending of verse forty-three that reads, the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.
Have you heard the phrase, “bad news travels fast?” Well, here we see that the celebration
of God’s grace sailed across the countryside for all to hear. All too often all the world hears
from Christians is criticism and complaints. Brothers and sisters, we need to celebrate the
greatness of God’s grace and let the world hear it our praises to God from afar.
Let us in this place and at this time purpose to speak to one another in psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving
thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God. (Eph.5.19-20) Let the word
of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with
psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Contributions for the Continuance of Celebrating God’s grace
The final section of chapter twelve describes the contributions given for the continual
celebration of God’s grace.
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 cities the portions required
by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites
who served. (12.44)
Notice that even though these contributions, first fruits, and tithes were required by the
law for the priest and the Levites “Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served.”
The people valued the ministry of the Gospel and willingly supported the ministry of the
church underage. They gave these contributions, first fruits, and tithes cheerfully for the
continuance of celebrating God’s grace. God’s Word informs us that our offerings mean
nothing if they are not given cheerfully. If you can’t give with cheerful heart, I can honestly
say that God does not want your gift. Since I’m just returning from Scotland, I must share a
story told about an old man from Scotland who inadvertently dropped a gold sovereign
worth over four hundred dollars in our currency in the collection bag at a church service. In
Scotland, when they take up the offering the ushers use a long pole with a bag on the end of
it which they pass among the pews. This old Scotsman put in a gold sovereign by mistake
when he meant to put in only a shilling. Which is like a quarter in our currency. As soon as
he realized his mistake, he tried to retrieve the gold sovereign. But the usher pulled the bag
back and said, “Nah, once in, always in!” The old man said, “Ah weel, I’ll get credit for it in
glory.” The usher replied, “Nah, you’ll get credit for the shilling!” Brothers and sisters, God
knows the motive of our hearts even in our giving.
Verse forty-six tells us that these contributions, first fruits, and tithes were given according
to the command of David and Asaph. What is interesting is that David and Asaph lived five
hundred years before Nehemiah, so we see that God’s people throughout the centuries had
supported the continuance of worship.
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. 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. (12.46-47)
The people not only valued the ministry of the priests and Levites, but they also valued the
ministry of the singers, the instrumentalist, and the gatekeepers (ushers) in Temple
worship. Worship was important and the people willingly supported those who lead in
Temple worship. Brothers and sisters, worship is important because it is our personal,
physical, and emotional demonstration of God’s worth. Worship is showing “worth-ship” to
God and every generation of God’s people should value the opportunity to worship
together with God’s people. I thank God for a congregation in Hollywood Florida who over
thirty years ago had a vision to plant a church in southwest Broward to assure the ministry
of the Gospel would continue for decades to come. I thank God for the members of Christ
Covenant who twenty-five years ago had a vision to build a worship facility for people they
would never know. I thank God for the decades of faithful giving that has allowed us to
continue the ministry of worship and the Word here at Christ Covenant. I thank God for this
congregation who has supported the work of the church throughout the pandemic, now
during the renovation project, and as we look to future ministries. And I thank God for
those who will come after us so that the ministry of the Gospel through joyful worship and
passionate preaching will continue until the Lord returns.
No matter what we do here on earth whether big or small, it is just a snapshot of the
glorious celebration of God’s grace we will experience in the New Jerusalem.
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count,
from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne
and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they
cry out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the
Brothers and sisters, God has chosen us as His people to participate in ministry together
here in this place. By God’s grace our names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life. We are
not a forgotten remnant. We are the people of God in this place for such a time as this!
Therefore, let us dedicate our lives to the Lord Jesus this morning and celebrate the
continuance of God’s grace by receiving the Lord’s Supper. For as often as we eat this bread
and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. So, let us celebrate with
joy, in purity, and with thanksgiving unto God!