Summary: The list in Nehemiah is there for a reason. It is there to honor the men and thier families for stepping up to take responsibility to change the people and the world around them.
As we turn the corner, leaving the year 2005 behind us and jump head first into 2006, we too, turn a corner in the story of Nehemiah. Over the last few months, we have watched Nehemiah go through obstacle after obstacle as he worked with the Israelites to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. First he had to get the king’s permission to leave his position of cupbearer and head off to Jerusalem; keeping in mind that this same king, years before, had put a stop to the rebuilding of the walls.
Once he was in Jerusalem and the building began, he faced ridicule from surrounding nations that wouldn’t go away. The amount of people opposing them grew and the form of opposition went from ridicule to physical threats of attack and others. Then, if that wasn’t enough, the rich Jews began to exploit their poorer neighbors and caused more problems.
But despite all of the obstacles that Nehemiah and the Israelite people had to face, they completed the task with the help of God. As we pick up the story in chapter 7, it tells us that Nehemiah had the doors and gates set up properly, he appointed guards, and assigned the people who would take care of the Temple. He also appointed a governor and a commander over the city.
After all that Nehemiah had accomplished, there would be no time like this to sit back, thank God for everything, and admire what the Israelites had accomplished. But this is not what happened. There was still more to be done. 7:4 tells us that “the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt.” So Nehemiah gathers all the people together for registration, which is what we find in verses 6-69. I challenge you guys to be patient as we read this together, as I promise there is a point to this passage, no matter how boring it may seem.
***Read Nehemiah 7:6-69***
Almost a year ago, some of you may remember when I preached on Sunday morning on a passage very similar to this from the book of Ezra. In actuality, the two lists are basically the exact same. Nehemiah actually tells us just before getting into the list that he had found these genealogical records and used them to help register the people. The lists, in these two different books of the Bible have two very different purposes though.
In Ezra, this list of names was to honor these people for an amazing act of faith. These people, even though they were slaves in Babylon, were living very comfortably, with jobs, shelter, and food. Despite that, they traveled over 800 miles, carrying everything they owned on their backs, traveling through desserts, mountains, and valleys, back to their homeland of Jerusalem, which had been completely destroyed years before by Nebuchadnezzar. (Thus, this is why the walls of the city and homes needed to be rebuilt in Nehemiah’s time there). This was an amazing display of faith and trust in God as these people let nothing get in the way of their relationship with Him. Not wealth, comfort, shelter, the guarantee of food, or anything kept these people from going back to the city of God!
In Nehemiah, this list is not a list of honor, as much as it is in the book of Ezra. Instead, this is a list of responsibility. What we will see that is different throughout the rest of the book of Nehemiah is that it shifts from being written as a first person narrative to a third person narrative. The first seven chapters of the book are all written by Nehemiah, from his point of view as he leads the people. The last six chapters of the book, are still written by Nehemiah, but it is no longer Nehemiah calling all the shots and making the decisions. It is the people as a whole of Jerusalem, the people that we just heard mentioned by family name who are now calling the shots. These people were responsible for coming together and accomplishing four more very important tasks for the city of Jerusalem.
The first responsibility the people of Jerusalem had was that of revival. The people would make a point to encourage one another in their relationships with God. They understood that even though they had taken a major leap of faith to travel to the city of God, and even though they were the chosen people of God, they still had things they needed to change in their lives. They were not living 100% for God and that was their goal. Throughout the rest of this book, and we will look at some of this in the coming weeks, they read scripture, prayed, sang to God, fasted, and a number of other spiritual disciplines in order to make God more and more a visual part of their lives.