#12 “Book of Nehemiah” Series
TEXT: Nehemiah 12:27-47
INTRO: Perhaps the most powerful and most undervalued attitude of the human heart is thankfulness!
A man by the name of Eddie Rickenbacker and several companions were lost at sea in life rafts for 21 days ... when finally found he was asked, “What was the biggest lesson you learned from that experience.” He answered, “If you have all the fresh water you want to drink and all the food you want to eat, you ought never to complain about anything!”
The irony about having so much is that those with so much often are thankless so much!
The virtue of thankfulness influences all other virtues and attitudes of life ... thus it is the most powerful virtue of all!
ILLUS: Mother Theresa told this story in an address to the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994: One evening we went out, and we picked up four people from the street. And one of them was in a most terrible condition. I told the sisters, "You take care of the other three; I will take care of the one who looks worst."
So I did for her all that my love could do. I put her in bed, and there was such a beautiful smile on her face. She took hold of my hand as she said two words only: "Thank you." Then she died. I could not help but examine my conscience before her. And I asked: What would I say if I were in her place? And my answer was very simple. I would have tried to draw a little attention to myself. I would have said, "I am hungry, I am dying, I am in pain," or something. But she gave me much more; she gave me her grateful love. And she died with a smile on her face. Gratitude brings a smile and becomes a gift. -- Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2.
Thus Psalm 92:1 simply states: “It is good to praise the Lord, and make music to your name...” and in Psalm 100:4 “Enter His gates with Thanksgiving, and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name!” Eph. 5:20, “Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything...” Col. 2:7 “… and overflowing with thankfulness!” 1 Thess. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” Heb. 13:15: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise ... the fruit of lips that confess His name.”
PROP. SENT: One of the most powerful influences in a Christian's life is THANKFULNESS, without it life is filled with all kinds of bitterness and nothing satisfies the heart ... with it, a believer only gets better ... and feels satisfied and contented in whatever circumstances. It is one virtue that deeply affects all other Christian virtues! THANKLESSNESS DESTROYS THE SOUL ... THANKFULNESS DELIVERS THE SOUL!
I. SACREDNESS OF THANKSGIVING 12:27-30
A. Power of Music! 12:27-29
1. From the beginning of man's experience of worship music has always led the way!
a. Only a fool doesn't believe music influences our moods or behavior!
b. Why do lovers play soft music when they are together?
c. Why do soldiers march to musical anthems!?
d. Why do you sing or whistle when you're in a good mood, or scared?
e. Why do teenagers go crazy when at a concert of hard driving music which is blasting at 110 decibels?
f. Why do grocery stores play music all day for your shopping pleasure?
g. Why do businesses now play music on their phones when they put you on hold?
h. Why do children respond so profoundly to momma's singing them to sleep?
i. Why do stores and elevators have music playing? Need I go on?
2. Music is one of the most potent forms of communication and one of the most powerful influences on the human soul and mind ... it can quite literally shape and alter our moods and emotions, and affect our will and behavior!
a. Only a fool would miss the fact that Satan is using music also to influence the lives and minds of people today!
b. It is not a particular style of music, but the style combined with a message that can be uplifting or damning!
Whitefield (1714-1770) receives little notice in history books for his hymns,
there being much more to say about his incredible preaching career. According to
one source, Whitefield began his "career of revival song" in 1738, the year of
his first preaching journey to
Urgently concerned about the lower classes, Whitefield created hymns based on music they knew. Writes Stuart C. Henry: "Thinking it wrong for the 'devil's house to have all the good tunes,' [Whitefield] had appropriated some popular airs from favorite stage operas of the day and set sacred words to them."
[T]he strains of such music-hall
ballads as "Love in a Village," or "Maid of the Mill" floated from the
Moorfields Tabernacle. "What kind of religion sings this kind of song?' asked
Whitefield's Collection of Hymns,
for "social worship," was designed to be used by his congregation in
3. There is no such thing as unemotional music!
4. Here in Nehemiah's day the singers were living right around the city, a city therefore literally surrounded by sound! The singers had built their houses and villages around Jerusalem (12:29 “…for the singers had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem.”)
a. Can you imagine this scene! The
b. Imagine waking up in the
5. It was David's playing his harp under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that was the only thing that could calm an evil King Saul.
6. It was the sound of the trumpets and music that David danced to with all his might in the victory of bringing back the ark of God!
7. It was the singers who were usually first in line on the battle field!!! They often led Israel into battle! (Unless music had power this was a stupid military tactic ... it sure must have limited the desire for being in the choir!)
B. Preparation of Ministry 12:30
1. Notice that along with the music there was a preparing process ... to make everything clean and pure!
2. Why can't we get into worship during a song service sometimes? HAVE WE PREPARED our hearts to do so before arriving ... by being clean and purified from anger, malice, hatred, bitterness, etc.!?
ILLUS: A godly farmer was asked to dine with a well-known gentleman. While there, he asked a blessing at the table as he was accustomed to do at home. His host said jeeringly, "That is old fashioned; it is not customary nowadays for well-educated people to pray before they eat." The farmer answered that with him it was customary, but that some of those on his farm never prayed over their food. "Ah, then," said the gentleman, "they are sensible and enlightened. Who are they?" "My pigs," the farmer answered. – Source Unknown
3. It would have been a waste of time to have sacred music without making sure that everything was first sacred!
4. You will often get out of a worship experience exactly what you put into it ... or how you come prepared!
a. Fight on the way to church in the car and see how well you think the service goes, or who well the preacher preached!
b. Be angry with someone and let unforgiveness rule in your heart and try to experience the joy of worship!!
c. Much of the atmosphere of a worship experience happens before we arrive ... and how we arrive!
5. Preparation of the heart is a whole lot more important than the suit and tie you put on -- or the preparations of make-up that took an hour before getting there ... BETTER TO MAKE-UP with God and be tied to your brethren first, then your suited well for worship!
II. SCOPE OF THANKSGIVING 12:31-39
A. Parameters of Memory 12:31-39
1. What was so fascinating about the choir breaking into 2 groups and going in opposite directions on the walls until they met ... all the while singing? They would each be singing when they came to the section they had themselves worked on!
2. The joy would whelm up in their hearts as they walked over the very spot they had worked on ... their music would soar as each covered that very spot!
3. Their music was based on thankfulness for what God had done in the past, especially the recent past!
ILLUS: A young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring and old-fashioned, with tiresome words that meant little to his generation. His father challenged him with these words: "If you think you can write better hymns, why don't you?"
The boy accepted the challenge, went to his room, and wrote his first hymn. The year was 1690, and the young man was Isaac Watts. Among his 350 hymns are "Joy to the World," "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," "I Sing the Almighty Power of God," and many other classics. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 154.
4. If we fail to remember the good things of God when we are experiencing tough times we will fail to be thankful!
5. Memory must be stirred to revive thanks during trials, a bigger picture is needed when we are locked into a small tunnel at the moment and suffering!
B. Participants Mentioned! 12:31-39
1. The individuals are mentioned who helped plan this time of THANKFULNESS!
2. There was both the corporate dynamic and the individual dynamic in the experience!
3. One must participate in being thankful to experience any joy in worship!
4. You can't ride on other people's thankfulness or joy ... you need to join in with them!
5. While the traveling over the walls singing with THANKSGIVING was itself a wonderful experience, the destination point was the HOUSE OF GOD where they met and joined their THANKSGIVING TOGETHER!
ILLUS: In the
fifth and sixth centuries there was an order of monks in
6. Thanksgiving must be pressed INTO OUR MEMORIES ... AND FROM OUR PARTICIPATION IN EXPRESSING THANKSGIVING IN THE HOUSE OF GOD!
III. SACRIFICES OF THANKSGIVING 12:40-43
A. Places of Ministry 12:40-42
1. Each took their place of ministry as per their calling when they joined together at the destination point ... the HOUSE OF GOD!
2. The trip on the wall was wonderful … and the antiphonal choir music uplifting and moving ... but the goal was ministry!
3. Those that are most thankful tend to be most involved in ministry!
a. This is primarily true because thankful people do not find sacrificing a difficult thing to do ... they are grateful to be used by God!
b. Unthankful hearts tend to think of their own needs first and so find little that they can sacrifice!
ILLUS: When we come to the end of life, the question will be, "How much have you given?" not "How much have you gotten?" -- George Sweeting, former president, Moody Bible Institute. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.
4. Each within God's Temple took their particular position of ministry!
a. This blessed the whole group ... everyone was filled with joy and thanksgiving!
b. The individual also was blessed knowing that their contribution and participation was important and significant to both God and others!
5. Because the whole group had already joined in being THANKFUL they had a powerful worship experience ... WORSHIP THAT DEMONSTRATED ITS JOY IN GIVING ... the very expression of thanks is that of joyful giving!
B. Passing Mediocrity! 12:43
1. They weren't going to be satisfied with just the middle of the road type of giving ... they went beyond the average!
2. They had already done this in their thanksgiving ... they had walked the walls. (sounds like old time Pentecostals!)
3. Why spoil the buildup all the way to the worship service by suddenly entering in by a mediocre attitude toward giving!
ILLUS: The most
conservative of Jewish sects is the Hasidic. Found principally in
4. GREAT SACRIFICES COME FROM GREAT JOY!
a. This is the point of the passage "God loves a cheerful giver."
b. It doesn't mean DON'T GIVE if you not cheerful ... IT MEANS WORK ON THE ATTITUDE OF BEING CHEERFUL SO YOU CAN ENJOY GIVING!
c. It is wrong to focus on the giving part only and neglect the attitude part!
5. No ordinary expression would do under such extraordinary thanksgiving!
6. Mediocrity is the poison of the western world ... we are often willing to only get by instead of excelling.
a. It has killed our industrial output.
b. It has killed the quality of our merchandise.
c. It is killing our educational institutions.
d. It is destroying our homes and marriages.
e. It has destroyed the kind of faith and love the church is supposed to have when it comes together!
f. It settles for less ... thus there is less to be thankful for!
7. THANKFULNESS DOESN'T COME FROM WHAT YOU HAVE ... BUT WHAT YOU ARE GRATEFUL TO GOD TO BE ABLE TO GIVE AND USE!
8. IT IS THE ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE!
IV. SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING -47
A. Pleasing Ministry 12:44-46
1. The people were pleased with the ministry of their priests and Levites!
a. In other words they got something out of the priests’ ministry.
b. And the choir of the Levites blessed their souls!
2. There will be a complete reversal of this attitude in the next chapter ... which has Nehemiah back at the king's palace and gone for several years, over this course of time the people lost their thankfulness ... and they lost their appreciation of each other's ministries!
a. Nehemiah had to return and get the ministers to return to ministry.
b. They had quit trying after the people became unthankful ... even they succumbed!
3. Meanwhile ... back in chapter 12 though, they are joyful over each other's ministry!
a. The attitude of thankfulness can have more to do with how much ministry you receive than on how well the preacher preached!
b. I have preached what I considered not so good a sermon and had people say they were really ministered to!
c. It was a surprise to me only because I wasn't thankful for the job I did, but they were grateful to hear God's Word.
4. You can almost feel the excitement in the city of God ... great celebration, great thankfulness ... great joy in ministry.
a. It was a joy to minister to one another because each was appreciated!
b. Sometimes a word of appreciation can bring more healing and create more commitment toward ministry than all the teaching seminars in the world!
c. Unappreciated ministry is hard to keep going ... both sides hurt, those ministering ... and those ministered to!
5. We need to appreciate all those who minister within the congregation ... from smelly diaper changers to faithful janitors ... to board members who serve and do what's best for the church of God instead of their own concerns – and yes, the Pastors too!
6. This is why it can be hard to have people want to minister ... if we complain about our ministry and make it joyless no one will be anxious to serve!
7. Where ministry is appreciated there is greater interest in service!
ILLUS: The most important thing my dad ever taught me is that there are more important things than me. -- John Ashcroft, former Attorney General of the Unites States. Men of Integrity, Vol. 1, no. 2.
8. The giving of the people didn't have to be pumped up ... thankfulness had created the atmosphere of great giving and the Levites were kept busy properly taking care of and storing the sacrifices of the people of God in God's house!
B. Practical Ministry 12:47
1. The expression of thanksgiving took on very practical ways!
a. Each one did their part and each one was taken care of!
b. There would be supply for the priests, the Levites and the other appointed places of ministry.
c. And the people would have what was necessary to continue in ministry also!
2. The expressions were very down to earth!
a. The House of God would have what was needed to stay in shape.
b. The servants of full time ministry would be properly taken care of.
c. When the need arose for those
d. The cares of the world would not take up the major time and concerns of ministry ... there would be no lack ... therefore all the time and efforts could be placed on ministry, not money!
3. The idea in this final verse is that THANKFULNESS had practical expression to it!
a. Why not write a note of thanksgiving to someone whom you appreciate but maybe just have not thought of saying it to them before!
b. Find some way to tell someone you are thankful for them ... it doesn't mean you think they are perfect ... quite the opposite … you are thanking them because you know they aren't perfect but appreciate them anyways!
ILLUS: A doctor wrote a letter of thanks to a schoolteacher for having given him so much encouragement when he had been in her class 30 years before. He later received this reply: "I want you to know what your note meant to me. I am an old lady in my eighties, living alone in a small room, cooking my own meals, lonely, and seeming like the last leaf on the tree. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years, and yours is the first letter of appreciation I have ever received. It came on a cold, blue morning and cheered my lonely old heart as nothing has cheered me in many years." – Source Unknown
4. FINAL POINT: NOTHING CREATES MORE THANKSGIVING THAN THANKSGIVING! People who are thankful tend to be appreciated more than those who are never or rarely thankful! THANKFULNESS BREEDS THANKFULNESS!
CONCLUSION: Thankfulness is at the heart of dynamic worship. The more thankful the heart, the more refreshed the soul. It is also the inspiration of ministry! As thankfulness inspires ministry it also directs ministry in very practical ways! ARE YOU A THANK-FULL or THANK-EMPTY PERSON?