Summary: Exposition of Neh 12:27-47 regarding the dedication ceremony of the walls
Text: Nehemiah 12:27-47, Title: The Mt. Everest of Nehemiah, Date/Place: NRBC, 2/10/08, PM
A. Opening illustration: talk about the Grand Finale of different fireworks shows
B. Background to passage: Recap the whole book—news about Jerusalem, brokenness and seeking the Lord, planning, securing the king’s favor and provisions, traveling to Israel, surveying the walls, rallying the people, getting to work, staying on task, defending attacks, finishing the walls, preparation spiritual foundations, having revival, confession, covenant renewal, and repopulating Jerusalem, and now it is all coming to a climax with a huge celebration that is filled with symbolism and unity and praise.
C. Main thought: in the text we will see four elements of the culminating celebration
A. Proper Anticipation (v. 27-30)
1. Nehemiah waited for this dedication celebration until the time was just right. And once the time was right there was still things to do if this corporate worship celebration was going to come off right. They had to gather up the Levites, priests, and singers, and find a director of music. They had to organize into choirs. They had to prepare these people and the rest of the people after proper purification steps were taken. This involved ceremonial washings, clean clothes, abstinence from food and sexual relations, along with spiritual preparations like repentance and prayer. They would have also had to prepare the sacrifices. The gates and the doors would have been purified with hyssop branches and blood. The point is that they put a lot of work and preparation into this service.
2. 1 Peter 3:15,
3. Illustration: some churches have note burning services, or constitution services, tell about the pre-worship rituals of the muslims or the orthodox, John R. W. Stott once admitted the truth that many of us have felt but failed to confess: "The thing I know will give me the deepest joy -- namely, to be alone and unhurried in the presence of God, aware of His presence, my heart open to worship Him -- is often the thing I least want to do."
4. For the most part we do really well on preparing specially for special services. But most of our special services are related to holidays, and not spiritual victories and completed ministry objectives. If our goals and missions are God-sized, then we would think more of having services that celebrate His provision. Think about what it might be like to have a joint worship service with our newly autonomous church plant. This also shows us the importance of holiness in worship. What if we put that same care into purifying ourselves before we enter our worship service each week? What will hinder you from worshipping a holy God, who demands holiness in his saints?
B. Corporation Participation (v. 31)
1. Take note of the different groups that were actively participating in worship. There were Levites, priests, singers, sons of the singers, sons of the priests, leaders, the people, women, children, and everyone. There was not anyone who was not participating with the worship service. Or at least in the parade around the walls of Jerusalem, ending in the temple.
2. 1 Cor 14:26,
3. Illustration: tell about the Church of Christ guy who just couldn’t make the jump, and one of his problems was with solo’s and special music, tell about Fred putting down the hymnal with notes to read off the wall, and tell of the young people who engaged their minds in hymnology, the deacons who affirmed their willingness to use music that pushed the limits if that is what it took to reach them, apply that same thought to worship,
4. The simplest application is: Do you participate in worship when you come? Well, I worship if I feel like it. I worship when I like the music. I worship if all my friends are here, or not here? Do you seek with your minds? Do you look for God to move in your midst? Do you do your part in the worship service? As a church how do we encourage more participation? We must use a variety of music, and other worship elements. Not just new, or not just old, or not stuck somewhere in between, not to go further, but not to return. And we should sing the songs that we don’t like. We should be cautious to routine and hollowness. We must strive as a church to have a worship service that leads the entire congregation to the throne of God above.
C. God-Centered Fixation (v. 40)
1. Notice the symbolism, walking around God’s city, on God’s walls, and ending up in God’s temple. The word dedicate comes from the Latin that means to give. They were giving something back to the Lord. They were offering up the walls, the city, and their lives and sacrifices to God. This was not about Nehemiah, the Jewish people, the walls, or anything but God. They appointed choirs to sing thanksgiving to God. They refused to forget from whence their blessings come. Their joy was in God, because it was not only the blessings of the walls that satisfied them, but God’s presence in their midst.