Summary: A sermon on Nehemiah 12 on characteristics of a great celebration (worship service). Must have preparation and participation!

Sermon for 2/18/2007


A. Gordon Dahl said, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship.”

B. Worship really isn’t a fair word for what we do here on Sunday mornings. It is more like a celebration. Jesus Christ has risen and we celebrate this fact.

C. This is what Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem are doing in Nehemiah 12. They are celebrating the completion of building the walls of Jerusalem.

Thesis: To have an excellent celebration, we need preparation and participation.

For instances:


1. Praise Vs. 27-29

A. Those with the gifts of music need to come together and prepare.

B. Too professional we need to just come on Sunday morning and wing it. How well would that go over in the professional world?

C. Who are we doing this for? I appreciate Bud and the thoughts that he puts into this. I appreciate Twyla and the thoughts and time she puts into the worship. I appreciate all of the musicians and what they do.

D. “We are just doing this for the Lord so we can just wing it.” Oh really! (Col 3:22 NIV) Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. (Col 3:23 NIV) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, (Col 3:24 NIV) since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

E. This applies to anything that is done for the church.

2. Preaching. Vs. 36.

A. Some people think that I don’t work. I spend on average 10 to 20 hours.

B. Why? This is the time to hear a message from the Lord. Well, the Lord will just zap me with it before I get up here. Have you ever heard a sermon that someone didn’t prepare for and it was good? Maybe a few but that is rare.

C. One preacher said that on Saturday before he was to preach on Sunday he went to the hospital and ministered with those on deathbeds. Why? Because he wanted to be around the dying to help him realize the urgency of preaching the gospel.

D. Have 20 to 25 minutes to give the people what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. Must try to hold their attention in that time.

E. Meditations for communion and stewardship need to be the same way. Thought out and relevant. No wasting of words.

3. Purity. Vs. 30.

A. (1 John 3:2 NIV) Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:3 NIV) Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

B. Many people seem to be afraid of this word purity. They think it describes a goody-goody- two shoes, self-righteous kind of person. Purification in the Christian life comes from the same philosophy that motivates us when we wash dishes. We do not set our tables with dirty dishes, do we? If you do, don’t invite me to dinner! No, we wash dishes frequently because they ought to be clean. We do not want to serve our guests with dirty dishes. God does not want to do his work with dirty vessels!

C. We all need a cleansing in our hearts and lives from time to time. We all get dirty. The priests and Levites had to purify themselves because they were helping to lead the worship.

D. How can people see Jesus if those who are standing on the platform are not striving to be pure?

E. (1 John 1:9 NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

F. Not that those on the platform are perfect, we are not Jesus Christ, but we need to admit our sins and failings to God. Renounce all pride and the focus needs to be to God. We are made clean through him.

G. They purified themselves to be worship leaders. That is, they put God first. They determined that God be at the center.

H. I know of a church who hired a man to play a musical instrument that was not a Christian. How can this man help to lead us to God?


1. Presence. Vs. 43

A. (Heb 10:25 NIV) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

B. Those of you who are irregular in your attendance, let me say that you miss something every week. “I did not know that this happened? Preacher, why didn’t you tell me?” (“I did but you weren’t here”). Some of you don’t know that I gave a similar sermon like this two weeks ago from Luke 7 when Jesus visited the home of Simon the Pharisee. Some of you might be asking, why is he doing something similar? Thank you! You were present and paying attention!

C. Must have people who are present to have worship.

2. Praise. Vs. 31, 40, 42

A. Read vs. 31 and 40. This is what they did; they formed two groups and sang all the way around the wall. Half went with Ezra and half went with Nehemiah. When they had gone halfway around the two groups met and then went to the temple where they had a worship service.

B. I could just see us doing this on a Sunday morning. Some are not able and I am not talking to those individuals. Some would sit there with a frown on their face and say, “I am not doing that.” It takes too much energy, it takes too much time, and it takes too much participation.

C. Too much participation? It reminds me that we need to be standing on the promises and not just sitting on the premise.

D. We have places in this worship service that are designed for participation. Singing is one of those areas. Singing is mentioned 8 times in this chapter and musical instruments 3 times.

E. My generation is a shame. They go to concerts and can sing along with the artists. However, they come to church and refuse to sing, refuse to learn the songs, and act like they are attending a funeral. Something is wrong! It bothers me! Why, because I used to be that way?

F. Look at vs. 42. The people offered praise thankfully; joyfully; loudly; it was a time for praising the Lord enthusiastically. I am not talking to those with voice problems or those with breathing problems but let me say this: It is shocking to me to be present in places of worship where not even a tenth of the people ever sing at all, and those who do, do it so softly that one would need a hearing aid to hear them.

H. No, in congregation singing we need to keep in mind, (Psa 98:4 KJV) Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

I. I was at a good friend of mine’s funeral this last week, Louise Webb. She was like my second mom. I preached the first part of the funeral and at the end I was emotional. I sat down and they sang Louise’s favorite song before the next preacher got up. It was “When We All Get to Heaven.” I was having a hard time and I listened to the people sing. Man did they sing! It was beautiful. The volume just blew me away. Half way through I regained my composure and was able to sing with them.

3. Preaching. Vs. 36

A. A good sermon is one that transforms lives. The participants need to be ready to hear and to put into practice what is being said.

B. (Luke 11:28 NIV) He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it."

C. I used to have a good time with Louise Webb. She would tell me that was a great sermon. Then I would ask her what the sermon was about? She rarely could tell me one thing from the sermon.

D. Take notes. Remember more of what we hear and write down. Even if we don’t refer to them later.

E. This sermon doesn’t apply to me. Yes, it does. Listen for something to put into practice this upcoming week.

F. (1 Th 2:13 NIV) And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

4. Purity. Vs. 30

A. The people purified themselves. During communion is a good time for this. (1 Cor 11:28 NIV) A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.

B. Some might object here and say, “I know a person who goes to church and seems to be lost in worship to God, and I also know their life is impure outside the church walls. It sure seems they are worshipping God, but are impure.”

C. Two things wrong here. First of all, we don’t need to judge.

D. Secondly, their worship is not a worship of God in spirit and in truth that Jesus talked about. For them it might just be a feel good experience. Worship should make us change. It should make us face up to our mistakes and failings. If it doesn’t do this, then it is not worshipping by the truth.

D. Worship should be about cleansing and repentance, not doing this thing again.

5. Presents (Great sacrifices) vs. 43.

A. People who are ready to give enthusiastically. (2 Cor 9:7 NIV) Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

B. A Persian noble was lifted out of a life of poverty and given the kingship. After he became the king, he sent some servants to the old shack where he once lived, the place of his birth and rearing. The servants were instructed to gather every relic of that part of his life. They brought from his home: broken toys, an old patched shirt, an old wooden bowl from which he ate, an unstable rocking chair and many other worthless memories of his childhood. He arranged all these in a special room in his palace and each day he would go into this room and sit for an hour and offer thanks recalling the memories of his humble past. On the wall hung a prayer: “Lest I forget!”

C. Don’t forget what the Lord has done for us. How he has lead us out of a life and sin and regret and condemnation! This will help us to look forward to giving.

D. Some people in our day talk about an altar. This is an Old Testament concept. We tend to see an altar as a place to come and receive something. In the Old Testament the altar was a place to leave something behind in sacrifice.

Conclusion and invitation:

** Let’s look at the products of this kind of celebration.

A. Pleasantness. Vs. 43.

1. Rejoiced with great joy.

2. (Psa 135:3 NIV) Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant.

3. So much anxiety in our society, so much stress. We need to praise the Lord.

4. (Rom 1:21 NIV) For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

5. The opposite of this is to glorify and give thanks to God. That’s why we are here.

B. Pairing, parentage. Vs. 43

1. The women, the wives. If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

2. Children rejoice.

3. The family that prays together stays together.

C. Popularity. Vs. 43

1. So the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.

2. (Acts 2:47 NIV) praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

One time I was having too much fun and I got foolish. I took the tune of hymns and began putting silly and crazy words to them. Louise Webb came in and said, "Boy, I love having a good time like everyone else, but don’t you make fun of the hymns, songs of the church." Well, that ended my fun. However, she’s right! One of the reasons why we don’t see more people become Christians, is because we take our worship too lightly. We don’t take it serious! This is serious business! The world needs to see some of that!