Sermons

Summary: Nehemiah's ultimate concern is the remnant of God. He works to rebuild the community of God in Jerusalem. We see the faithfulness of God in keeping a faithful remnant and restoring His people.

Jerusalem was to be the city of God, where the Name of the Lord dwells.

• It wasn’t the physical infrastructure that God was concerned about but the community of His people living in worship of Him and being a witness to the nations.

• So the brick and mortar of the city of Jerusalem wasn’t an end in itself. It was to be a means to an end.

Nehemiah’s ultimate concern wasn’t the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.

• When he first posed the question to his brother Hahani in Susa (Neh 1), he “questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.” (1:2)

• And his subsequently prayer in chapter 1 showed his concern for the spiritual state of his people.

• Now that the wall has been rebuilt, God laid upon his heart the burden to repopulate the city and build up the community, because 7:4 “the city was large and spacious but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt.”

Restoring this community of faith would mean that Nehemiah would have to identify the Jewish remnant and encourage them to move into Jerusalem.

• That’s just the first step. Subsequently in the next few chapters, we see the people of God returning to the Word of God and the worship of God.

• This defines the people of God – their faith in God, their worship of God, and their witness before the nations.

• That’s us today, the people of God. The church is not a building, but a community of God’s people obeying and worshipping God, and living as a witness for God.

So Nehemiah started to identify the remnant through registration by families.

• He searched the archives and found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return, during Zerubbabel’s time.

• Which explains why this list was similar to the list in Ezra 2, the record of the first returnees. You can flip between Neh 7 and Ezra 2 and compare the lists.

• They are similar but not entirely the same. We have the same groupings according to their ancestral lineage, hometowns and occupations (priests, Levites, singers, temple servants and descendants of Solomon’ servants).

BUT some names were written differently, let me highlight some.

• Among the leaders (Neh 7:7 vs Ezra 2:2): Azariah was Seraiah (in Ezra), Raamiah was Reelaiah (E), Mispereth was Mispar (E), Nehum was Rehum (E).

• Nehemiah’s list has a new name Nahamani, not in Ezra’s list.

• Of the family names, Binnui (7:15) was Bani (E), Hariph (7:24)-Jorah and Gibeon (7:25)-Gibbar.

• Among the towns, Nehemiah’s list omitted Magbish (after Nebo, Ezra 2:30).

• The numbers too we see some differences, in 19 of them.

The first list in Ezra 2 was drafted when the first batch of returnees came back, which was nearly a century ago.

• The current record would have been copied and recopied, and likely updated with the right spellings, late arrivals, demises or other corrections.

• We can expect such variations in ancient documents.

• If Ezra, being the author/compiler of this one scroll Ezra-Nehemiah, has left it as that, then it is good enough for us. If he wanted to ensure they were exactly the same, he could have duplicated it.

The main objective was to identify the remnant that God has led home from exile.

• It’s not about counting people, but making sure these people counted. Are the Jews? Do they belong to the community of faith?

• Their return testified to the fulfilment of God’s promise.

• The remnant, now back in Jerusalem, is now the living link that connects the historical past of Israel with the prophetic future of Israel.

• God will keep a remnant and re-establish this nation because Jesus Christ, His son, will ultimately come through this place, in God’s plan of salvation for the world.

Such genealogical records are important because it is God’s way of testifying to His faithfulness and His promise to Abraham.

• Abraham’s descendants will become a blessing to the nations. God keeps His covenant and such records prove it. “These are Abraham’s descendants!”

• They were particularly careful with those who “could not show that their families were descended from Israel.” (7:61).

• More so for the priests who could not prove their ancestry (7:64-65), they were barred from ministering at the altar because only descendants of Aaron can do that.

God keeps His promise. God keeps His covenant with Abraham and his descendants.

• God keeps a remnant, despite the fall of Israel and Judah.

• God brings them back from exile and re-establish His people.

It is actually quite amazing to see Ezra and Nehemiah, and probably many others, born in exile but being fully aware of their identity, just like Daniel and Esther too.

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