Today: [Nehemiah Twelve] Making the Main Thing the Main Thing. In this chapter Nehemiah and Ezra dedicate the temple and the city after the walls are restored. Particular emphasis is paid to recounting the narrative of how God used Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah to serve each in their unique role to reconstitute the temple itself, the worship carried out there and the community that enclosed that temple as well. For us it speaks of our own personal priorities regarding who we are in Christ, what we do in Christ and our necessary connection to the community of the redeemed.
[Neh 12:1-47 KJV] 1 Now these [are] the priests and the Levites that went up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shechaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnetho, Abijah, 5 Miamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah, and Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These [were] the chief of the priests and of their brethren in the days of Jeshua. 8 Moreover the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, [and] Mattaniah, [which was] over the thanksgiving, he and his brethren. 9 Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brethren, [were] over against them in the watches. 10 And Jeshua begat Joiakim, Joiakim also begat Eliashib, and Eliashib begat Joiada, 11 And Joiada begat Jonathan, and Jonathan begat Jaddua. 12 And in the days of Joiakim were priests, the chief of the fathers: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13 Of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14 Of Melicu, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15 Of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16 Of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17 Of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18 Of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19 And of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20 Of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21 Of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethaneel. 22 The Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, and Johanan, and Jaddua, [were] recorded chief of the fathers: also the priests, to the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 The sons of Levi, the chief of the fathers, [were] written in the book of the chronicles, even until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. 24 And the chief of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brethren over against them, to praise [and] to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, ward over against ward. 25 Mattaniah, and Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, Akkub, [were] porters keeping the ward at the thresholds of the gates. 26 These [were] in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor, and of Ezra the priest, the scribe.
In this chapter at the beginning we see three groups of Levites and priests that are referenced. 1.) The priests and Levites in the first group of returnees who came with Zerubabbel whose name means a “seed sown in Babylon”. 2.) The priests and Levites in the second group of returnees who came with Ezra whose name means “assistance, support and aid”. 3.) The Levites in the time of Nehemiah under the reign of Darius king of Persia. Nehemiah’s name means “Jehovah comforts”.
Now the point of this litany of priestly and Levitical names is seen the meaning of the names of their leaders and in the work that was done in Jerusalem. First the temple was restored. Then the walls were rebuilt. You are the temple in your person and in your inner man. The temple was restored first which was interesting for Zerubabbel to do this because Jerusalem was a wall-less ghost town. You would think for protection the walls would have been built first and then the temple. What do the walls speak to us of? The community of God. Jerusalem is the church. How many times do we hear leaders imply that the church – Christian community COMES FIRST as our priority in life? If we want to be faithful to God we must (we are so taught) to put the CHURCH (Jerusalem) FIRST and think of ourselves LAST?
What is the point of this observation. The health of your church or your group is only as viable as the strength, and spiritual maturity of the individuals who make up that church or group. If we put church priorities ahead of personal spiritual priorities then we create a condition where religious externals become the metric by which we gauge Christian culture and not actual spiritual growth.
It is also important to note the different roles that Zerubabbel, Ezra and Nehemiah served in the return of the people to Judea and the reconstitution of the temple and the walls of the city.
1. Zerubabbel focused on the physical repair of the temple itself (what the temple WAS in it’s actual existence as a building.
2. Ezra focused on the order of the activity that took place in the restored temple (assuring that all was done appropriately by the appropriate people according to ceremonially acceptable protocol according to the law of Moses).
3. Nehemiah’s focus was not the temple but the walls of the city that surrounded the temple – which speaks to us in metaphor of the church, the corporate body of Christ, the community of the redeemed as taught in the book of Hebrews (Heb. 12:22).
What can we deduce from this?
1.) That God’s priority is not first community but individual salvation. This reflects on who you are in the economy of God as a born again person. 1 Cor. 3:16 says you are the temple of God because you are redeemed and have accepted Christ as your savior. If you haven’t done this then what you do in religious terms or the church or group your are a part of is completely in vain. Thus Zerubabbel repaired the temple first just as Jesus redeems who you are first before addressing what you do or your connection to the community of the redeemed.
2.) Having been born again you are not left in a static state but called into a lifestyle reflecting kingdom values. If after being born again there is not a radical shift in your actions and values then you have made ship wreck of your faith. In James 1:22 we read “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
3.) Then after WHO YOU ARE is transformed by the work of the cross and WHAT YOU DO is dynamically influenced by the claims of Christ you are now FIT to be a part of the community of the redeemed.
This entire process is reflected in the divine narrative plainly indicated in the unfolding of events in Ezra and Nehemiah.
27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, [with] cymbals, psalteries, and with harps. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi; 29 Also from the house of Gilgal, and out of the fields of Geba and Azmaveth: for the singers had builded them villages round about Jerusalem. 30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall. 31 Then I brought up the princes of Judah upon the wall, and appointed two great [companies of them that gave] thanks, [whereof one] went on the right hand upon the wall toward the dung gate: 32 And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah, 33 And Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam, 34 Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35 And [certain] of the priests’ sons with trumpets; [namely], Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Michaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph: 36 And his brethren, Shemaiah, and Azarael, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethaneel, and Judah, Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God, and Ezra the scribe before them.
After the history and narrative of the restoration was expressed and established then the worshippers are acknowledged. Jesus said in the gospel of John:
John 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
The truths of Ezra and Nehemiah add new light to Jesus’ probable thinking in this regard. We must worship in spirit (addressing who we are) and in truth (expressing a kingdom lifestyle) – in order that our worship might be fully acceptable in the sight of our heavenly Father. Worship is SO MUCH MORE than simple musical arrangements or cathartic spiritual experiences induced by a high tech audio and visual experience. True worship encompasses WHO WE ARE and WHAT WE DO and the community WE ARE CONNECTED WITH. If one of these aspects is out of balance our worship is not of the highest character of a sweet smelling savor before God. In fact whereas God INHABITS the PRAISES of His people – only worship constituted in the full character expressed in the truth found in Ezra and Nehemiah gives God His place of habitation in our midst.
37 And at the fountain gate, which was over against them, they went up by the stairs of the city of David, at the going up of the wall, above the house of David, even unto the water gate eastward. 38 And the other [company of them that gave] thanks went over against [them], and I after them, and the half of the people upon the wall, from beyond the tower of the furnaces even unto the broad wall; 39 And from above the gate of Ephraim, and above the old gate, and above the fish gate, and the tower of Hananeel, and the tower of Meah, even unto the sheep gate: and they stood still in the prison gate. 40 So stood the two [companies of them that gave] thanks in the house of God, and I, and the half of the rulers with me: 41 And the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, [and] Hananiah, with trumpets; 42 And Maaseiah, and Shemaiah, and Eleazar, and Uzzi, and Jehohanan, and Malchijah, and Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang loud, with Jezrahiah [their] overseer. 43 Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced: for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off. 44 And at that time were some appointed over the chambers for the treasures, for the offerings, for the firstfruits, and for the tithes, to gather into them out of the fields of the cities the portions of the law for the priests and Levites: for Judah rejoiced for the priests and for the Levites that waited. 45 And both the singers and the porters kept the ward of their God, and the ward of the purification, according to the commandment of David, [and] of Solomon his son. 46 For in the days of David and Asaph of old [there were] chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God. 47 And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel, and in the days of Nehemiah, gave the portions of the singers and the porters, every day his portion: and they sanctified [holy things] unto the Levites; and the Levites sanctified [them] unto the children of Aaron.
What Ezra and Nehemiah are attempted to do in this chapter is to utilize the Levites and the priests to dedicate the temple. After establishing the narrative of the reconstitution of the temple itself, and the order and activity that went on there and the raising up again of the protective walls representing who we are in Christ, what we do in Christ and our connection in community to one another we then consummate our dedication as the temple of God individually and the city of God corporately as the FOUNTAIN GATE where the rivers of living water Jesus promised can truly be experienced.
So in conclusion community in Christ is important but no substitute for your personal relationship with Jesus. Your personal relationship with Jesus is paramount but no exemption from living a life of righteous acts and kingdom lifestyle. Being born again and living a righteous life is needful but no substitute for being connected in living and loving relationship to the corporate body of Christ. All of this and so much more are reflected in metaphor, type and shadow in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and summed up beautifully for us in this current chapter of our study.
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