Devotional Reading: Psalm 105:1-11
Lesson Scripture: Nehemiah 12:27-36, 38, 43
Lesson Aims: To appreciate the thoroughness of the Jews’ worship; to acknowledge God’s faithfulness towards us; and to praise Him at all times with the very best that we have.
Background: God kept His Word to His people. The prophets warned them to repent or judgment would come. For the most part, their warnings were ignored. So finally, God allowed Israel, the northern kingdom (ten tribes), to fall to the Assyrians in 722 BC. By 586 BC, Judah, the southern kingdom (two tribes), were defeated at the hands of the Babylonians. God did exactly what He said. Where the prophets’ messages were doom and gloom, they also included hope because God promised to restore them.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah chronicled the restoration period. Beginning with three waves of people returning to Jerusalem in 538, 458 and 444 BC, the Jews, by God’s grace, were taking steps towards restoration! With each accomplishment (safe arrival, Temple and wall restoration), the people celebrated. Gradually, it dawned on them that God was keeping His Word! Ezra, the priest, publicly read the Word of God to them daily. You know that hearing the Word convicts all of us at one point or another. It makes us want to do better. So convicted, the Jews were compelled to confess their national sins (past and present). Confession does several things: first, blame is acknowledged; one remains humble; the challenge to improve is in the forefront.
It took 52 days for the repairs to be completed on the wall (primarily at the gates). With little or no natural defenses, the wall was important because attackers could be spotted by the guards and a defense mounted. Slowly, God was “making a way out of no way” for the Jews to become a nation again. Nehemiah left Babylon to repair the wall, but for a while, he was the political leader also. With the restoration of the Temple and the wall along with their national confession and their pledge to change their behavior (9:38-10:39) and repopulate Jerusalem (chapter 11), the people were ready to celebrate God’s faithfulness.
Lesson: Their hearts are full of gratitude for all that God has done for them. They see His restoration power. To prepare for this celebration, everything has to be perfect and in order. The priests, Levites, the choirs and musicians, their instruments and the wall must be purified (made ceremonially holy for a Holy God). Their efforts indicate their appreciation and obedience to God. This isn’t mere ritual for them; it’s true worship! Nehemiah has everyone participating, from the political and religious leaders down to the women and children. The leaders, priests and Levites take their places on the platform around the top of the wall. They are followed by the choirs and musicians. “Excavations reveal that the platform was between six to nine feet in width” (The New Interpreter’s Bible). The sacred songs, music and the joyful cries could be heard far and near. When you are blessed by God, do you care who hears you?
Application: There are times in all our lives that we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us! What was your celebration like? Did you give your best? Was every detail studied closely? Worship should be approached with that same commitment. Aren’t we praising God for His gracious acts? Don’t we confess in our hearts and lift our voices, hands, feet and instruments in praise to Him who is? Each time we worship, individually and/or corporately, we become renewed and recommitted to His service. Amen, Amen!