#11  “Book of Nehemiah” Series




TEXT:         Nehemiah   11:1-36


INTRO:       David said it best in Psalms 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”


The human body is the most amazing machine on the planet!  It has literally multiple billions of cells ... and a large quantity of them are doing different things at different times and at the same time ... each dependant on the other, unique in function; equal in existence!  We only seem to take notice of this marvelous order of life when it goes chaotic ... such as when cancer strikes; cells that multiply out of control.  It is ironic that such a disease like cancer can kill us ... for it is our own cells doing what they are suppose to do, but not in their orderly fashion.  They just take off and grow and grow until they take over the nourishment demands of the body and crowd out or eat away other important parts – the body then itself dies AND IRONICALLY THE CANCER dies with it!  It quite literally kills itself along with all the other healthy tissue that struggles to keep order within the body!


We could not exist very well without order ... God Himself is a God of order ... we only have to examine nature and the skies at night to understand how true this is.


ILLUS:    We ask the leaf, "Are you complete in yourself?" and the leaf answers, "No, my life is in the branches."  We ask the branch, and the branch answers, "No, my life is in the trunk."  We ask the trunk, and it answers, "No, my life is in the root."  We ask the root, and it answers, "No, my life is in the trunk and the branches and the leaves.  Keep the branches stripped of leaves and I shall die."  So it is with the great tree of being.  Nothing is completely and merely individual. -- Edward Everett (1794-1865) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992).  Entry 1450


Imagine life without order!  What if the law of gravity couldn't be counted on ... ONE DAY YOUR UP ... THEN NEXT DAY YOUR DOWN - literally!


Imagine time without an order to it ... you couldn't plan out anything for even a day much less a weekly schedule ... YOU WOULDN'T KNOW WHEN CHURCH STARTED OR STOPPED!


What if there was no order in our banking institutions ... billions of dollars might disappear and cause the collapse of thousands of savings and loans institutions!


PROP. SENT:    No matter what you are talking about order is necessary for all things to exist in a healthy state, or to be useful.  This even includes the church!  God made our natural bodies to have order within them and He has also established His supernatural Body, the church to have order within it!  This extends not only to the administrative structure of the church; but also the spiritual life of the church ... worship unstructured or without order can bring chaos.  God is not against planning or structure, indeed His Word is full of instances where He blessed plans and structure as long as there was also proper room and recognition of His authority and freedom to move within that structure or order!


I.   HOLY PLACE    11:1-3


A.   Model    11:1

1.   Jerusalem was once again called the "HOLY CITY" ... it was to be a unique model of God's Kingdom alive within an entire city.

2.   This model city would be comprised of the rulers and also a tithe of the people from the nation!

a.   Lots were cast in each community of Israel and 1 out of every 10 citizen would be asked to relocate into this model city-society called Jerusalem!

b.   For those who had the lot fall to them it very literally could mean moving to a smaller home and leaving behind the wealth they were earning on a productive farm!

c.   For many of those whose lot fell on them this move proved to be a financially downward turn, nevertheless they were obedient to lose something for being a privileged citizen of the “Holy City!”

3.   Some things were considered by these people as greater than the things of this world.  Sounds like a great sermon here alone!


ILLUS:     Much of the church is caught up in the success mania of American society.  Often more concerned with budgets and building programs than with the body of Christ, the church places more emphasis on growth than on repentance.  Suffering, sacrifice, and service have been preempted by success and self-fulfillment. -- Charles Colson (1931- ) -- Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 1409


4.   Nehemiah is directing this petition for movement into the city of Jerusalem to provide this model so the world would sit up and take notice of God's City!

5.   It was a common experience of that day to do this when a nation came into being, they wanted to impress the other nations with a capital city that would reflect the nature of the whole nation ... thus other nations too had moved citizens into capitals when they came into power to create a microcosm of the entire nation in the capital.

6.   Jerusalem as a model would model not man, but their God and His Glory!  This was the point of having within the Holy City the Holy Temple!  Rather than man be at the center of this capital, God would be!

a.   One day this will again be true ... when the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, comes down from heaven and we will be her citizens, those who know Christ as Lord!

b.   The New Jerusalem will be the perfect model that it failed to be in the Old Testament!


B.   Modeling    11:2-3

1.   There were some men who didn't need a lucky chance lot to fall to them ... their hearts were so aflame with jealousy for the Lord their God that they volunteered to move and leave behind their fortunes to live within God's city!

a.   There are always some people who don't have to be drafted for ministry, they usually step forward and volunteer to meet the need!

b.   The rest of Israel's response to these eager saints was not JEALOUSY; it was rejoicing ... the rest of Israel blessed these volunteers!


ILLUS:     When the Spartans marched into battle they advanced with cheerful songs, willing to fight.  But when the Persians entered the conflict, you could hear, as the regiments came on, the crack of the whips by which the officers drove the cowards to the fray.  You need not wonder that a few Spartans were more than a match for thousands of Persians, that in fact they were like lions in the midst of sheep.  So let it be with the church.  Never should she need to be forced to reluctant action, but full of irrepressible life, she should long for conflict against everything which is contrary to God.  If we were enthusiastic soldiers of the cross we would be like lions in the midst of herds of enemies, and through God's help nothing would be able to stand against us. -- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990)


c.   They ministered to others so that it would not require as many to have to move by drawing lots to make the number goal!

d.   Some commentators believe that Nehemiah was trying to establish 1/10th of the whole population of Israel to live within Jerusalem ... to be God's tithe people, a special people to model a special holy city!

2.   Their example set the community to rejoicing and fired up the others that God was on the move within their holy community!

a.   This is still true today within God's temple (the church), you will find men and women of this caliber who inspire others to serve the Lord and excite the church.

b.   This should always be the case with the leaders!

c.   It still seems statistically true that about 10% of God's people do 90% of the work ... but beyond the tithe of people we could still use more volunteers!


II.  HOLY POSITIONS    11:4-24


A.   Militia     11:4-6

1.   The first group of people recorded besides the provincial leaders and various servants of Solomon were a company called the “descendants of Perez,” they are described as “468 ABLE MEN.”  The meaning of this phrase in Hebrew is "STRONG MEN," OR ... "OUTSTANDING MEN" ... probably in the sense of military men or fighters!

a.   Why did a Holy City need warriors?  Because there will always be enemies ready to destroy God's work and His people!

b.   God give us warriors in the church today, those who will fight against the enemy that tries to destroy the church of God!

c.   "To contend for the faith" was the cry in the heart of Jude, he wrote: JUDE 3 "I ... urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints."

d.   Being a Christian citizen of the New Jerusalem includes the need for warriors of the faith ... those who contend for the faith!  God give us A GODLY MILITIA ... these are the ones gifted for vanquishing the enemy before the enemy has a chance to harm anyone within the Holy City!


ILLUS:     Maggie Kuhn, head of the Grey Panthers, tells of some interesting facts about sandhill cranes.  It seems that these large birds, who commute great distances and traverse continents, have three remarkable qualities.  First of all, they rotate leadership.  No one bird stays out in front all the time.  Second, they choose a leader that can handle turbulence.  And then, all during the time one bird is leading, the rest are honking, signaling their affirmation.  That's not a bad model for the church.  Certainly we need leaders who welcome turbulence and who are aware that leadership ought to be rotated.  But most of all, we need a church where we are all honking encouragement. -- Bruce Larson -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 124.


2.   In other places in the Bible we are called to endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:3 “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” )


B.   Ministers     11:7-14

1.   In verse 9 a man called Joel was listed as the "CHIEF OFFICER" over one area and another by the name of Judah listed as Chief Officer over the second district ... a new suburb of the Holy City.

2.   The term used here, "CHIEF OFFICER" meant in Hebrew an "OVERSEER," the role of an ELDER as it would later be called within the New Testament church.

3.   God called out some men to be Elders in the Holy Temple to supervise and oversee the spiritual concerns of the people ... citizens to soldiers!

a.   It is interesting to note that there were several of these men, the two I just mentioned above, and in verse 11 Seraiah (also: Azuria) as the chief supervisor (or overseer) of the Temple itself!  (Like the Pastor)

b.   Notice he had several associate pastors serving with him because of the size of the community!

4.   Last the area of old Jerusalem also needed an "overseer" or elder, and he is listed at the end of verse 14; "the chief officer" or overseer was Zabdiel who probably oversaw the area within the city itself as its elder.

5.   So what have we got here, at least 3 elders over various territories and a chief or senior pastor over the temple itself!  They had a board of ELDERS!

6.   The church needs godly elders, men who can lay aside their egos and ideas and find the mind of Christ ... mindful always that the church is God's Temple and they are instructed to oversee it for Him!


ILLUS:     During Vacation Bible School last week my wife had an experience with her primary class that she says she will never forget.  Her class was interrupted on Wednesday about an hour before dismissal when a new student was brought in.  The little boy had one arm missing, and since the class was almost over, she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the cause or his state of adjustment.  She was very nervous and afraid that one of the other children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him.  There was no opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible.  As the class time came to a close, she began to relax.  She asked the class to join her in their usual closing ceremony.  "Let's make our churches," she said.  "Here's the church and here's the steeple, open the doors and there's..."  The awful truth of her own actions struck her.  The very thing she had feared that the children would do, she had done.  As she stood there speechless, the little girl sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his right hand and said, "Davey, let's make the church together."  This story may be seen as a parable of our search for oneness in Christ: to put our inadequate, handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and to pray, "Let's make the church together." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 275.


7.   Nehemiah was setting the church up in a very orderly way!  This was no half baked organization thrown together.


C.   Managers     11:15-21

1.   A new group is introduced in this section; these are men who had charge of the “OUTSIDE WORK OF THE HOUSE OF GOD.”

a.   Their responsibilities were to take care to see that all the facilities were kept up and all supplies that were needed were on site.  This was a much less up front and much less glamorous job ... but critical to the worship experience for all!

b.   In fact, the idea in the Hebrew is similar to the New Testament role of DEACONS!  They were to take care of the material assistance and duties needed for the Temple of God to operate properly!

c.   It was meant to relieve the pressures from the overseers of the chief officers and ministers so they could concentrate of the demands of the people’s spiritual needs.


ILLUS:    On my first pastorate, I had requested $20 per month from the board to pay someone to mow the lawn and care for the flowers on the church's property.  "The former pastor did that himself," the oldest board member quickly pointed out.  "I know," I replied, "But he doesn't want to do it any more." -- posted on Christian Reader's humor message board. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."


2.   While not glamorous work ... done properly it caused the resulting PRAISE & THANKSGIVING mentioned in verse 17.

a.   They could not have given thanks if adequate supplies had not been present!

b.   The role of these early deacons allowed smooth function for the entire temple, with the result that focus in the temple itself could be off of things and be on God!

c.   Their function and call was critical to the needs of the Holy Temple ... and this should still be true today with DEACONS!

3.   Nehemiah was creating a model of the New Testament temple, the church; but in His own day!

a.   These "Deacons" managed the affairs of the church that were on the practical supply side, less glamorous than the role of elders publicly ... but equal in importance for the whole temple to function properly!

b.   There were some other men who served as “gatekeepers” ... possibly the gates of the temple in view, not the city gates.  These were deacons who served in roles something like our USHERS do today!

c.   They lived on the hill of Ophel near the Temple area ... their duties included guarding the treasures & sacred items within the temple, thus a function still as deacons, but much like USHERS TOO! (or Trustees)

d.   Notice there was even a Chief USHER!  (Ziha & Gishpa) HEAD USHERS!

4.   A very familiar order is developing around the Temple and the Holy City ... one that would bring ORDER to this body; it would be needed if they hoped to give evidence of being the special people of God!


D.   Musicians     11:22-23

1.   They also had an entire choir set up for which the king provided daily provisions for the members so that they might spend their entire time in the ministry of music!  (Boy, wouldn't this be nice today!)  “Uzzi a descendant of Asaph” the famous song writer of David's time became the new choir director!

2.   Why would a secular king give portions of support for a religious choir, it was common in that day for the subdued people to sing a blessing upon the king and his future children so the land would be prosperous and at peace ... so he was happy to do this and it benefited the choir as well.  The Temple of God could hear constant strands of music praising and worshiping the God of Heaven ... this enhanced the worship experience!

3.   Music is a major part of a worship experience ... it prepares our hearts and minds for the Word of God that will be spoken later!


ILLUS:    In Witnesses of a Third Way: A Fresh Look at Evangelism, Robert Neff's chapter includes this story about visiting a church service:  "It was one of those mornings when the tenor didn't get out of bed on the right side. ... As I listened to his faltering voice, I looked around.  People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist.  "By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn.  And by the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range.  And by the fourth verse, it was beautiful.  And on the fifth verse the congregation was absolutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beautiful solo of his life.  That is life in the body of Christ, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us." -- John H. Unger, Brandon, Manitoba.  Leadership, Vol. 11, no. 4.


4.   What made it nice here is that this choir could and did practice daily for the Temple worship service!  PREPARATION OF SONGS IS CRITICAL TO THE EXPERIENCE OF WORSHIP!

5.   What a plan … ELDERS, DEACONS, USHERS, SPIRITUAL WARRIORS, AND NOW MUSICIANS!  Sounds pretty modern doesn't it!?

6.   Music plays a critical role with our worship experience together ... and it should have great planning behind it, and in the case of choir or specials, practice!  There is nothing sacred about just “winging it.”


E.   Mediator    11:24

1.   One guy held a unique post, he was to be the mediator between God's people and King Artaxeres I.

2.   The idea here is obvious ... It is Jesus Christ alone who is the mediator between the King of Kings and the people ... it is He that alone mediates the church's experience and needs to our Heavenly King!


ILLUS:     Once Arturo Toscanini was rehearsing the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in playing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.  They played through the entire work without interruption.  After the finale there was a long silence.  Everyone was moved by the music. Then Toscanini spoke.  "Who am I? Who is Toscanini?  I am nobody.  It is Beethoven.  He is everything."  In the church, Christ is everything.  He is "all in all." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).


3.   His role is most vital to the New Jerusalem and its citizens!

4.   In those days conquering Kings always rebuilt the Temples of their subjected peoples in the hopes that the gods of the subjected people would bless him ... our conquering King Jesus has provided everything we need for His Holy Temple, the church, and He is still our mediator between God and man!


III.  HOLY PEOPLE      11:25-36


A.   Movement!     11:25-30

1.   This list describes the fact that the rest of God's people scattered abroad in the land, not living in the New Jerusalem full time!

a.   What was the purpose in this?  To eventually fill the land with their numbers so without war they might reclaim the land that once belonged to them!

b.   They spread out and even went beyond the old borders with settlements into enemy territory!

c.   They were not afraid to settle down within the borders of their enemies around them; they knew that one day their brethren would come to their cause when and if it became necessary to fight again to keep their land!


ILLUS:    The article "What Good Is a Tree?" in Reader's Digest explained that when the roots of trees touch, there is a substance present that reduces competition.  In fact, this unknown fungus helps link roots of different trees -- even of dissimilar species.  A whole forest may be linked together.  If one tree has access to water, another to nutrients, and a third to sunlight, the trees have the means to share with one another.  Like trees in a forest, Christians in the church need and support one another. -- Blair F. Rorabaugh, Uniontown, Ohio.  Leadership, Vol. 12, no. 2.


d.   They once again believed God's promises for this property to be theirs!

2.   Ironically, this is still much the policy of Israel even today, to build settlements within occupied territory, even though the enemy complains, by the time anything is done legally they hope to have a majority of their people living there and so claim possession by outnumbering their enemy and without having to go to war over the territory!


4.   We are to be salt penetrating society to bring healing to it ... salt also prevents the rotting of food; our presence should have a healthy constraint on the ex­pression of evil as more and more saints live within a community!

5.   This is much like Jesus' call for us to spread the gospel to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world!”

6.   SPREAD OUT saints and attack the area you live in, or settle in and win so many that an attack will be unnecessary; the saints will just take over by sheer numbers!

7.   We cannot be content to live in the Holy Temple the church, we must be the church in the world ... they need to see the people of God and what we are ... how we are different!


B.   Melting Pot!    11:31-36

1.   This final list names some who were from one tribe living in the territories of other tribes ... there were some who were mixed up; Israel was becoming more of a melting pot, people with unique identities living around those who were different from them, even though some of these were their own brethren!

2.   Let's face it, the Holy Temple the church today has the same thing ... we are all God's people, some of us come from the city, some have lived in one spot all their lives, some are highly educated, others not as much, some from the south, some are outright Yankees ... but no matter, WE ARE THE CHURCH!

3.   It should be a blessing to exist within this melting pot ... we can all benefit from each other ... we don't all have the same backgrounds!

a.   Some may be from rich and well established homes.

b.   Some may be from poorer or broken homes.

c.   Even so we belong to each other like it or NOT!

4.   A healthy church is not one without conflicts ... it is one however that where conflicts exist they are healed by loving, committed saints who are trying to melt together into one Body of Christ!

5.   Nehemiah's leaders weren't flawless ... neither were the people ... but God was creating out of them a unique group of people, a people called by HIS NAME;




6.   All this order was to help smooth the process for God's Spirit to work within a body that was coordinated and functioning in harmony!

7.   This is the point for the church, we are His body ... and if healthy, the Head will be able to use us to bring honor and glory to His name ... even though we serve in different places, being connected to the body and not fighting the other parts will allow a healthy body to function under the impulses of the Head.


ILLUS:     Herman Ostry's barn floor was under 29 inches of water because of a rising creek.  The Bruno, Nebraska, farmer invited a few friends to a barn raising.  He needed to move his entire 17,000 - pound barn to a new foundation more than 143 feet away.  His son Mike devised a lattice work of steel tubing, and nailed, bolted, and welded it on the inside and the outside of the barn.  Hundreds of handles were attached.  After one practice lift, 344 volunteers slowly walked the barn up a slight incline, each supporting less than fifty pounds.  In just three minutes, the barn was on its new foundation.  The body of Christ can accomplish great things when we work together. -- Joseph F. Mlaker in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.


8.   All this requires a great deal of planning and practicing, HEALTHY LIFE DOESN'T JUST GROW IN ERRATIC WAYS, IT GROWS IN AN ORDERLY FASHION!

9.   Order doesn't destroy the work of the Spirit in a worship service, it enhances the Spirit's ability to speak in an orderly way for the best results ... God is a God of order, not chaos!


CONCLUSION:   All healthy living organisms have order in them – cancer is the result of healthy cells becoming disorderly and growing chaotically, thus producing disease, and if unchecked – death!  A healthy church (called by the New Testament a living body) is only healthy when it is operating in an orderly fashion.  Worship too should be carefully planned and thought out!  This actually enhances our worship experience; it does not inhibit or restrict it!  Without a well structured body the head cannot issue useful signals that demonstrate healthy life or movement.  The point of structure is to give coordinated movement toward the head's goals!  A God of ORDER finds it difficult to work through a CHAOTIC unstructured body!