Summary: The people gathered to praise and thank God for what He has accomplished through them. God gave them great joy.
The wall is built. The gates are restored. The people returned to God’s Word and renewed their covenant with God.
• The city is now repopulated. It’s time to celebrate God’s goodness and give thanks.
• Nehemiah organises a dedication service for this purpose.
Let’s recap all that has happened up to this point, to help us appreciate this more.
1. Jerusalem was in ruins at the start of this book. Nehemiah secured King Artaxerxes’ permission to return from Susa, Persia to rebuild the walls.
• This was itself remarkable because the King had earlier decreed that the work in Jerusalem be stopped.
2. Nehemiah got him to supply what he needed and came back to Jerusalem. He inspired and encouraged the discouraged people to take up the task.
3. The workers encountered a barrage of opposition throughout their rebuilding.
• From ridicule to violent threats, from intimidation to personal defamation.
• Nehemiah faced problems from the enemies without, as well as strife among his own people within.
• Eventually they overcame all odds and completed the rebuilding in 52 days.
4. Ezra led the people to return to God’s Word. They confessed their sins and renewed their covenant with God.
5. Nehemiah organises the people to repopulate Jerusalem and re-establish the city of God. The people willingly accepted that plan and fulfilled God’s purpose.
For those of us who have been following these events from Neh 1 to Neh 12 over the past 4½ months (since Jan), we can see the hand of God in it.
• From the ruins to what we have today, we can see the providence of God.
• It’s time to celebrate God’s goodness and give thanks. Two things stand out here – SINGING and JOY. Read Neh 12:27-30.
The Levites and singers were called in from the surrounding towns to lead in the thanksgiving.
• That’s one of their major role as Levites, to lead the people in praise and worship.
• (The Levites are the descendants of Levi, the son of Jacob (later renamed Israel), one of the 12 tribes of Israel.)
• 1 Chron 23:2-5 “2[David] He also gathered together all the leaders of Israel, as well as the priests and Levites. 3The Levites thirty years old or more were counted, and the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand. 4David said, "Of these, twenty-four thousand are to supervise the work of the temple of the LORD and six thousand are to be officials and judges. 5Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the LORD with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.”
• So they were called in. We will see the important role they play further on.
The purpose of the gathering is clear – to give thanks to God.
• 12:27 - They are “to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.”
• 12:31 Nehemiah says he has “assigned two large choirs to give thanks.”
• 12:40 “The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God…” It is an acknowledgement of God in all that they’ve accomplished.
They purified themselves to prepare for this. This is likely what they did, for the Levites, according to Numbers.
• Num 8:5-7 “The LORD said to Moses: 6"Take the Levites from among the other Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes, and so purify themselves.
• Num 8:12 “After the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, use the one for a sin offering to the LORD and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites.”
David writes in Psalm 24:3-4 “3Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.”
• That’s for OT times. Today, because of the work of Christ on the cross, we prepare ourselves not by doing some ritual but in confession and repentance.
• We examine our hearts and confess our sin. We admit our wrongs and repent, honestly and without pretence.
• We come before God with clean hands and pure hearts.
Read Neh 12:31-39.
Nehemiah organises two large choirs, comprising of the Levite singers, the leaders/officials, the 7 priests with their trumpets and the musicians.
• Both groups with similar formations.
• Ezra leading the first group, moving in anticlockwise direction towards the Dung gate, and Nehemiah with the second group, going in clockwise direction. [See Map]
• Imagine the two LARGE choirs moving on top of the walls, singing songs giving thanks to God as they moved, and playing musical instruments and trumpets.