Nehemiah 12, The Happiest Kingdom of Earth

December 5, 2016

 

Disneyland is not the happiest Kingdom, God’s Kingdom is!

The book of Nehemiah demonstrates for us God’s Leadership in an ungodly world. Nehemiah’s life experience touches all of us, particularly as we face the more difficult challenges of life. The story would have been different had the same circumstance fallen on the shoulders of a lesser man.

Nehemiah had come from the Palace at Shushan, where he served as royal cup-bearer to the Babylonian Emperor, King Artaxerxes with a single-minded objective, to rebuild the massive, ruined wall of Jerusalem.

First, he had to gain permission from the king, who had to reverse an earlier decree against this rebuilding. Once in Jerusalem, he had to devise a plan, and motivate a totally discouraged people to tackle an almost insurmountable task. Monolithic stones weighing as much as 500 tons had to be moved, while holding weapons to fend off their attackers

Then, when the work got started, he was opposed by the governors of the surrounding provinces, and by injustices even among his own people. His enemies tried to halt the work through ridicule, threat of violence, harmful rumors and intimidation. But he pressed on. The job was so huge, and the opposition so fierce, that we can hardly miss the thrill of the announcement in Nehemiah 6:15, “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days.” Incredible! Do you believe God was in this project? “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God” (Mark 10:27 NLT).

Now as we come to Nehemiah 12, I remind you again what they had gone through. There were treats of violence, to the point where they had to carry a weapon in one hand while working with the other hand. There was opposition from every conceivable source, certainly nothing for which to be happy! But in spite of all their hardship, God expected them to be happy! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).  “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Now we come to chapter 12.

The first 26 verses are an extension of chapter 11. It lists the leaders among the priests and Levites in the time of the first return under Zerubbabel and the high priest Jeshua and in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah.

The Happiest Kingdom, 12:27-47

 

Verses 27-30, The ceremonial purifying of the people and the wall: Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres.  So the sons of the singers were assembled from the district around Jerusalem, and from the villages of the Netophathites,  from Beth-gilgal and from their fields in Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built themselves villages around Jerusalem. The priests and the Levites purified themselves; they also purified the people, the gates and the wall.”

Verses 31-43, The wall walk: “Then I had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall, and I appointed two great choirs, the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall toward the Refuse Gate. Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah followed them, with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah,  and some of the sons of the priests with trumpets; and Zechariah the son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zaccur, the son of Asaph, and his [c]kinsmen, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them.  At the Fountain Gate they went directly up the steps of the city of David by the stairway of the wall above the house of David to the Water Gate on the east. 

The second choir proceeded to the left, while I followed them with half of the people on the wall, above the Tower of Furnaces, to the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, by the Old Gate, by the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate; and they stopped at the Gate of the Guard. Then the two choirs took their stand in the house of God. So did I and half of the officials with me;  and the priests, Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah, with the trumpets; and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam and Ezer. And the singers sang, with Jezrahiah their leader, and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.”

The Parade: Chuck Swindoll describes this parade: ”You’ll never convince me that all those women and kids stood at ramrod straight attention and walked in step like pallbearers, tight-lipped and straight-laced. It was sort of a Jewish Disneyland parade, if I read this correctly. From a distance I’d guess they resembled  a charismatic drum and bugle corps led by some guys that looked like the Three Stooges in Salvation Army uniforms.”

What did they sing? It may have been Psalm 48:12-14: “Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this is God, our God forever and ever; He will be our guide even to death.”

 

And they were loud: Verse 42, 43 (MSG), “The singers, directed by Jezrahiah, made the rafters ring. That day they offered great sacrifices, an exuberant celebration because God had filled them with great joy. The women and children raised their happy voices with all the rest. Jerusalem’s jubilation was heard far and wide.”

As a pastor, I’ve had people say, “We like a nice quiet service.” Is that what God wants? Old-time Evangelist, Dr. B.R. Lakin used to say, “If you want a nice quiet service try the funeral home!”

Psalm 98:4-6 (MSG), “Shout your praises to God,  everybody! Let loose and sing! Strike up the band! Round up an orchestra to play for God, add on a hundred-voice choir. Feature trumpets and big trombones, fill the air with praises to King God.”  Shout joyfully before the Lord, the King.”

Psalm 95:1,2, “Come, let’s Shout praises to God, raise the roof for the Rock who saved us! Let’s march into his presence singing praises, lifting the rafters with our hymns!”

Psalm 33:3 KJV, “Sing unto him a new song; play skillfully with a loud noise!”

Psalm 100:1, “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.”

God’s people have always expressed their joy through singing!

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation” (Psalm 98:1,2).

“Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).

“And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; it shall rejoice in His salvation” (Psalm 35:9).

“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! (Habakkuk 3:17,18).

The song of Moses:  “Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord: ‘I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously…” (Exodus 15:1-18).

The first recorded duet in history: “Then Deborah and Barak…sang on that day…” (Judges 5:1 NLT).

The first women’s choir, a refrain of Moses song: “Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine, and all the women followed her with tambourines, dancing. Miriam led them in singing…” (Exodus 15:20,21 MSG).

The first male choir: “After that you will come to Gibeath-Elohim, also known as “God’s Hill,” where the garrison of the Philistines is. As you arrive there you will meet a band of prophets coming down the hill playing a psaltery, a timbrel, a flute, and a harp, and prophesying as they come” (1 Samuel 10:5 NLT).

Congregational singing: “David and all Israel were celebrating before God with all their might, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, cymbals, and trumpets” (1 Chronicles 13:9).

David’s choir: “On that day David gave to Asaph and his fellow Levites this song of thanksgiving to the Lord: ‘Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done.’” (1 Chronicles 16:7,8 NLT).

Solomon’s Temple music: Of the 38,000 Levites appointed for Temple ministry, 4000 were selected for music.

In 1 Chronicles 25, 288 prophets were trained in music.

             

When Zerubbabel led a small group of Jews back to the Holy City after the captivity, “They had two hundred men and women singers” (Ezra 2:65).

Our Lord Jesus sang in the upper room:  When it was evening, Jesus sat down at the table with the Twelve…And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives” Matthew 26:20,30).

Paul and Silas sang in a dungeon at midnight: “But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed” (Acts 16:25,26). 

144,000 voice choir: “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne…” (Revelation 14:1-3).

Two times in God’s Word angels are said to sing: Job 38:7, Before the fall: “When the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” After the redemption from the fall:  Revelation 5:11,  Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Why are angels not singing today? They cannot understand the song of salvation. 1 Peter 1:12, “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.”

Spirit-filled people sing! “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord…” (Ephesians 5:18,19).

The longest, most beloved, and possibly the most read and quoted book of the Bible, the Psalms, is a book of music!

God loves music that reflects our joy in His salvation. Jesus has chosen us, His church, as channels through which we can sing praises to the Father.

Psalm 16:11, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Psalm 33:1, “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! For praise from the upright is beautiful.”

Psalm 66:1 “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth!”

Psalm 71:23, ‘My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You, and my soul, which You have redeemed.”

Psalm 81:1, “Sing aloud to God our strength; make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.”

Psalm 89:15,16, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!

They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted.”

Psalm 95:1, “Oh come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.”

Psalm 97:12, “Rejoice in the Lord, you righteous, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.”

Psalm 118:24, ‘This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.’

Psalm 149:5,6, “Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,  And a two-edged sword in their hand.”

The book of Psalms concludes with this paeon of praise.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary; Praise him in his mighty heaven!

Praise him for his mighty works; Praise his unequaled greatness!

Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; Praise him with the lyre and harp!

Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;

Praise him with strings and flutes! Praise him with a clash of cymbals;

Praise him with loud clanging cymbals.

Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

(Psalm 150 NLT)

And here in Nehemiah 12, Verse 27,  Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres.” Verse 31, “I appointed two great choirs…” Verse 43, “God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar…” Verse 46, “There were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God.”

We rejoice in the Lord! Why? “Because your names are written in  heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Philippians 4:4-6 NLT, Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”

Conclusion: Nehemiah 12:43-47:

“And at the same time some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the first fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions specified by the Law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered. Both the singers and the gatekeepers kept the charge of their God and the charge of the purification, according to the command of David and Solomon his son. For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chiefs of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. In the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah all Israel gave the portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, a portion for each day. They also consecrated holy things for the Levites, and the Levites consecrated them for the children of Aaron.”

Lest you think that all believers have to do is gather together on Sunday and sing praises, please note, they were rejoicing on the wall, but there was still a lot of work to do, so the remainder of chapter 12 says, they went Back to work; Verses 44-47:

 

First, they appointed men to be charge of the storerooms, which stored the grain and other types of offerings for provisions for the temple.

Second, they continued the purification  of the Temple: 1 Chronicles 23:28-30, “Their duty was to help the sons of Aaron in the service of the house of the Lord, in the courts and in the chambers, in the purifying of all holy things and the work of the service of the house of God, both with the showbread and the fine flour for the grain offering, with the unleavened cakes and what is baked in the pan, with what is mixed and with all kinds of measures and sizes; to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord, and likewise at evening.”

No one can be happy if they are idle. There is such satisfaction in working that we human beings are not happy if we are not working.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12,13).

“I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

The people of Jerusalem, laughed, sang, rejoiced so that their joyful singing flooded the hillsides and valleys, so all could hear of the glory and goodness of God. These times of rejoicing are important, but they are not an end in themselves, there is a job to do apart from our public worship…We are saved to serve!

The story of Nehemiah involves caring for the entire family of God. We, Christ’s church have a right to be concerned when other churches are in trouble, we are part of the same family, the family of God. If one church is in trouble we are all in trouble! We are a family! We do not criticize, we pray for them.

The story Nehemiah involves prayer! We pray for the whole family of God. I know we have some theological differences with some of our family, but we love them and pray for them because they are children of God. But, we condemn along with the Word of God all who would preach another Gospel… “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8,9).

The story of Nehemiah involves determination! Nehemiah 1:3-6, “The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire. So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said: ‘I pray, Lord God of heaven, O great and awesome God, You who keep Your covenant and mercy with those who love You and observe Your commandments,  please let Your ear be attentive and Your eyes open, that You may hear the prayer of Your servant which I pray before You now, day and night…”

Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem: Luke 19:41, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it…” If there was ever a time to weep over the condition of God’s people and God’s church it is now!

Leonard Ravenhill wrote: "Preacher brethren, it's time to blush that we have no shame. This is the time to weep for our lack of tears. This is the time to bend low that we have lost the humble touch of servants. The time to groan that we have no burden. The time to be angry with ourselves that we have no anger over the devil's monopoly in this end-time hour. The time to chastise ourselves that the world can so easily get along with us and not attempt to chastise us."

Roger Miller wrote and recorded a song many years ago titled, “You can’t roller skate in buffalo herd.”

“You can’t roller skate in buffalo herd,

but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.

You can’t go swimmin’ in a baseball pool,

but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to.”

Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be."

Happiness is a lifestyle, a state of being. It cannot be purchased or earned, and it's not a place to which you can travel. It's a perspective; we choose whether to be happy or sad in every aspect of life.

“Happiness is not determined by what’s happening around you, but rather what’s happening inside of you. Most people depend on others to gain happiness, but the truth is, it always comes from within.” (Anonymous)

What does the Bible say about being happy? The Hebrew word is for happy is “esher.” The Greek word is “makarios.” Both words are also translated “blessed.” The person who feels blessed is happy.

“Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!” (Psalm 144:15).

“Happy are you, O Israel, and blessing is yours!” (Deuteronomy 33:29).

“Happy are your men and happy are these your servants, who stand continually before you and hear your wisdom!”  (1 Kings 10:8).

“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (Job 5:17).

“When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you” (Psalm 128:2).

“Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).

“He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he” (Proverbs 16:20).

“Blessed (Happy) is the man who listens to me” (Proverbs 8:34).

       “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures                   forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).

Happiness comes from loving God, from obedience to His word, from trusting Him completely. Never forget, God loves you so much you can trust Him with your life, that’s the key to true happiness! Trying to find happiness anywhere else is an exercise in futility.

 

Praise the Lord, O my soul! While I live I will praise the Lord; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; in that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:1-5).    

It’s a happy day, and I thank God for the weather!

It’s a happy day, and I’m livin’ it for my LORD!

It’s a happy day and things are gonna get better!

Livin’ each day by the power of God’s Word!

Or is this your testimony:

It’s a crummy day, and things ain’t gonna get better!

It’s a crummy day, and I’m livin’ it for myself!

It’s a crummy day, and things ain’t gonna get better!

Livin’ each day with my Bible upon the shelf.

Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also the New Living Translation (NLT); The Message (MSG); The Amplified Bible (AMP); and The Living Bible (TLB).

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