Summary: After the remnant completed the impossible task of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, they did what most of us do when we complete a great accomplishment—they celebrated. But their celebration didn’t just end when the party was over. Today we’ll see a very
Today is October 11th. Do you know what that means? It means that there are only 74 shopping days till Christmas. Now, for me, that’s not really that big of a deal because I have been known to do my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. But for many of you, that’s a big deal. The question is, why? Have you ever noticed how we tend to associate celebrations with spending money? When we have birthday celebrations, we always spend money on presents, don’t we? When we celebrate anniversaries, we’d better spend money on something, or we’re going to be in trouble. And I think that the biggest one of all is Christmas. Sometimes we get all “religious” and rail against the commercialism of Christmas. And don’t get me wrong, it is excessive. But the reason for all the commercialism is that we like to spend money when we celebrate. And if we celebrate Christmas more than any other day, it only makes sense that we’re going to spend more money in celebrating that day. I don’t know what it is that makes us like that. But the bottom line is, it’s the way we are. Whenever we celebrate something, our tendency is to spend money in connection with that celebration. I have to tell you—over the past few weeks, as I’ve looked at this passage, I didn’t see how it fit. As a matter of fact, some of the commentaries even say that it doesn’t fit. They say that these verses were added later by a person they call “the Chronicler.” They say that person added these verses to justify the practice of getting money from the people. Well, they’re wrong. As we’ve said all along, Ezra is the one who wrote this book. He wrote Ezra and Nehemiah as two parts of the same book. And I believe that it’s in the same order and in the same words that he wrote it in. So, if that’s the case, then this passage has to be in the right place. And if it’s in the right place, then it has to fit exactly the way that the Holy Spirit intended it to when He inspired Ezra to put it there. That’s what got me to thinking about the way that we tend to celebrate big events. Remember that the remnant was in the process of celebrating some huge accomplishments. Years ago, they had rebuilt the temple. Then, under Nehemiah’s leadership, they had completed the impossible task of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. They immediately followed that up by organizing the people and coming up with a plan for how they were going to rebuild the city itself. Two huge projects down and plans in the works for how to accomplish the final project. And because of all that, the people were engaged in a huge celebration. Remember that the celebration started on top of the wall as a witness to the watching world. Then it ended up in the house of God with singing and shouting and sacrifice. But what’s amazing is what the immediate result is. And when we look closely, it’s not even really a result. Because look at the first four words of verse 44. “And at that time.” That indicates that what’s going on in our passage tonight is going on as a continuing part of the celebration that we talked about last week. The remnant was acting just like we do when we want to celebrate a big occasion. They were going to spend their money. And Nehemiah knew that they were going to spend their money. So what he did was set some parameters on how they were to spend their money. He gave them the proper avenue. He channeled their desire to spend their money by giving them the right thing to spend it on. And what was that right thing? Was it on themselves? Was it on wasteful things? Was it on personal comfort? No—the direction that they channeled their celebration spending was in the direction of supporting God’s work. They continued their celebration in the way they supported God’s work. And in this passage, specifically in the way they supported God’s workers. This passage brings out three aspects of supporting God’s workers. The first aspect is the means of supporting God’s workers. Look back at verse 44 again.
What means are used to support God’s workers? It’s understood that God’s work is to be financially supported by the tithes and offerings of God’s people. That’s a given. It’s a fact that’s assumed here in this passage. But what’s unique here is the emphasis on organizational structure. That’s a key observation we can make. There was indeed an organizational structure. The financial aspect of God’s work wasn’t done haphazardly. The way that God’s people supported God’s work and God’s workers was done in an orderly fashion. It was done with accountability. It was done with oversight. And apparently it was done with transparency. Notice that Nehemiah appointed certain people to handle the money. And notice that he wasn’t one of them. And Ezra wasn’t one of them either. The text doesn’t say who they were, but you can rest assured it wasn’t either one of them. There should always be a separation in place. God’s workers who are supported by the tithes and offerings of God’s people should always be separated from the money. The way that verse 44 is written indicates that there was a separation between those who kept track of the resources in the chambers… and those who gathered the resources from the people. There is a principle we can take from there. Those who collect the money in the church should not be the ones who administer the money. In other words, our ushers and counters shouldn’t be writing checks. And they don’t. The way that Nehemiah set up things for the remnant, the only ones who could possibly know what individuals were giving were the ones who went into the fields to collect the tithes and offerings. More than likely, those tithes and offerings were collected from central locations rather than directly from individuals. And if that was the case, then nobody knew exactly who gave what. And the ones who are charged with administering and spending the money are far removed from the ones who collect it. That’s a principle we follow in the local church. That’s why our treasurer is not a counter. That’s why any money that’s spent in the church has to go through the treasurer. And any money that’s spent in this church has to be accounted for. That’s why we have things like budgets and financial reports. That’s why we encourage everybody to use envelopes so we can track things. It’s not to see how much people are giving. It’s to hold ourselves accountable. It’s to provide oversight. It’s to be completely transparent with the money God entrusts us with. Sometimes people might think that God’s house is not the place to set up bureaucracies and organizational systems. But in reality, those are the means that God intends us to use to support His work and His workers. Just like the remnant did. This passage not only shows us the means of supporting God’s workers, it shows us the reason for supporting God’s workers. Look back again at verse 44 but this time let’s keep reading through verse 45: