#7 “Book of Nehemiah” Series
“ORDER IN THE COURT! – GOD'S COURT THAT IS!”
TEXT: Nehemiah 7:1-73
INTRO: A great deal of effort had gone into building the city of God, the temple first and then the massive walls around the city. The people had really put their shoulders to the task for both jobs and now a firm city was established ... but one important thing was yet missing!
While they had built the city of God they hadn't reflected on the need to build the citizenship of the city of God! While they could rightly rejoice over the city being ready ... they needed to reflect on the citizenship being ready to begin again as the people of God, a special calling and unique lifestyle. They needed to find each other and become one again with joy before God.
ILLUS: It was early January and in the doctor's waiting room every seat was occupied. There was the usual atmosphere of tension, each person concerned with his own problems. We looked down at our feet, flipped through old magazines, gazed at the pictures on the walls. Suddenly a woman sitting across the room from me spoke up. "Why don't we sing? Are you tired of Christmas carols?"
Every head turned in her direction. Startled at such an idea, we couldn't help returning the smile on her happy face. Without waiting for an answer, her strong soprano voice began, "O Come, All Ye Faithful." My husband, always ready to sing, joined in with his tenor. A bit more timidly, I added an alto and soon others joined in. We sang one carol after another, filling the room with joyous music. -- Florence E. Parkes, Laurel, MD. Christian Reader, "Lite Fare."
And so, as the people prepare to rejoice over the finished product of the city, Nehemiah takes the initiative to reestablish the proper order of the people themselves and their unique calling as the people of God! ... THEN REJOICING WOULD BE FULL!
PROP.SENT: All healthy life forms have a correct order to their existence in order for that life form to express fully its purpose and impact within this world order. Using Biblical illustrations; the church is the body of Christ, Jesus Himself the head ... and the Holy Spirit the energizing agent; but the body is to have a healthy amount of structure and order for it to be fully coordinated and united in function. God has ordained order for the health of the church ... and to ensure the greatest expression of rejoicing!
I. PROPER CONCERNS 7:1-3
A. People! 7:1-2
1. Change was in the air, the project of the city completed it was time to turn to the needed concerns of the worshipping community!
a. The first thing Nehemiah takes care to appoint are interesting!
b. These included:
(1. Gatekeepers - these were for the city gates, not the temple gates.
(2. Singers - at the entrances to the city!
ILLUS: Interestingly, of all the songs in the Book of Revelation, not one is a solo. The twenty-four elders sing and cast their crowns before His feet, the united voices of countless angels resound, every living creature in heaven and earth and under the earth and all that is in them are joined in one song. Those who are victorious over the beast are given harps and a song to sing. In every case multitudes of people or angels unite in the same song with absolute unity. -- Graham Kendrick. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 2.
(3. Levites - also near the gate entrances!
c. What was the purpose in putting Levites and singers near the soldiers?
2. The Priests and Levites comprised a huge segment of the population of Jerusalem indicated by the census taken; it only seemed good to use these men at the gates of the city ... since they were accustomed to being gatekeepers at the house of God!
a. In fact this would add uniqueness to the city not experienced before!
b. With the regular guards posted at the gates there would now also be the spiritual guards ... and since the "RAISON D' ETRE" of Jerusalem was WORSHIP it would be quite fitting!
3. Think of entering this city of God ... as you approach the gates you might hear songs of praise coming from the singers and Levites stationed at the gates ... you were literally greeted to town by songs of Praise! ... Think how this would affect your entire mindset as you entered town!
a. You would become aware of the fact that you have entered "HOLY GROUND."
b. You were joining in with the “people of God” in the “city of God!”
4. THESE GATEKEEPERS were to watch over the coming and going of the people, ensuring a proper entrance to God's special people, in this sense they acted like PASTORS!
5. It was their duty to be sure no thieves entered to rob the people.
6. They were to keep the enemy from escape should he sneak in, they made sure the sheep gate was open and closed properly to allow for the sheep to enter and leave at appropriate times ... under guard!
7. The gates were likely opened each day with songs of praise ... and shut each day with songs of praise ... what a great way to start and stop the day!
a. Just think how secure the inhabitants of the city felt each morning and evening as they could hear the songs of praise from every direction outside the walls as the gates opened and closed ... all was well, the gatekeepers had done their job!
b. The coming and going of the people were looked after by these PASTORS!
c. The songs of praise and prayer reassured everyone.
8. Nehemiah also appointed 2 special men to work together in overseeing the congregation of God.
a. His brother Hanani was put in charge of Jerusalem itself ... it is interesting to note that this was how Nehemiah first learned of Jerusalem's fate and need (see 1:2-4) ... thus he knew who had the greatest burden for the people of the city!
b. Nehemiah knew that leadership involves a heavy burden ... not just the prestige of being in control at the top! His brother had a great burden for the people and had proved to be a great servant, even to the point of submitting to his brother's leadership when Nehemiah came and took over the project, he who could serve well in second place would do well serving at the top!
9. Nehemiah made one other appointment, this one for the army of God's people.
a. Hananiah was appointed commander of the citadel ... the great fortress that was next to the temple to protect the city and temple from the north.
b. This man was chosen FIRST because of his integrity and respect for God, second for his military prowess ... his reputation was so clear ... he loved and respected God more than most other men! An obvious devotion to God that outshone the rest!
c. He would be someone who would lay down his life for the sheep if necessary! This is the call of the Pastor!
(1. You don't pastor because you're the best orator, or administrator, or good at counseling people ... but because you love God and His people more than your own life!
(2. God can enable the weaknesses ... but the heart matter is up to us!
d. With the senior Pastor Hanani ... whose burden for God's people was great and the associate Pastor Hananiah ... who would lay his life down for the protection of the city and the temple of God ... this place was ready for revival!
B. Precautions! 7:3
1. Some important precautions were taken to account for the way the enemy worked to insure the greatest safety of God's people!
a. The gates were only to be open in the light of day!
b. The enemy likes to sneak in, during darkness ... but there would be no way in since entrance was ONLY IN THE LIGHT!
c. This is still the only way into the kingdom of God, Jesus is the light of the world, and you can't sneak into the Kingdom of God without approaching through this LIGHT!
d. Membership required salvation ... being part of the people of God!
2. An enemy trying to get in during daylight while guys were sitting at each gate singing the praises of God would really be intimidated!
3. The people could go about their daily tasks rejoicing in the peace of Jerusalem which came by Godly men looking out for them and the city. IT COULD REALLY LIVE UP TO ITS NAME ... THE CITY OF PEACE! The world would not understand this, but they never have.
ILLUS: The Roman general Pompey noticed how the Jews fought to defend their temple. He was anxious to see what was in their most sacred room, the Holy of Holies. He was surprised to see that it was empty. He wondered why they fought so hard to defend an empty room! He didn't understand their concept of a God "eternal, immortal, invisible." -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
4. These extra precautions afforded protection that not just anybody could creep into the body of Christ and upset the fellowship and unity provided by the measures put into place.
5. These measures helped prevent the disunity that might come from those whose hearts were not really with the people of God!
6. In light of their earlier circumstances it was necessary to have these extra precautions in order to insure pollution from outside sources!
7. It didn't mean a closed society ... the gates were open, but coming in meant being bombarded by singers and light at the entrance and holiness and godly living within, the whole community was in unity in the name of God! The only way to be comfortable in a place like this was to become a worshipper! Those who only pretended were miserable!
II. PROPER CITIZENSHIP 7:4-65
A. Places 7:4
1. The city was huge and mostly empty, few people were enjoying all this tranquility and joy and unity!
a. The people had made priority their relationship to God and rebuilding the city of God; they had not yet rebuilt their own homes ... now they could work on their homes!
b. Yet there were many empty homes as well, still many of their people were in exile and captivity.
c. The only solution ... FILL THE TOWN WITH NEW PEOPLE AS WELL AS getting back those who rightly belonged there!
2. Nehemiah says God put it in his heart to search for the ones who belonged in the city ... those who were truly the people of God!
ILLUS: Talk about what you believe and you have disunity. Talk about Who you believe in and you have unity. -- E. Stanly Jones, Leadership, Vol. 8, no. 3.
3. They were going to go on an evangelistic tour, by checking first the good standing of those within the city, checking to make sure they are really the people of the covenant of promise made to Abraham!
4. Others would be welcomed too but they would have to wait until there would again be a priest with the URIM AND THUMMIN, devices that would tell God's mind when the records were lost!
5. The point here: THERE WERE PLENTY OF PLACES FOR MORE PEOPLE!
a. THIS CAN ALWAYS BE SAID ABOUT THE CHURCH ... WE WANT YOU ... MORE CAN COME ... WE’LL FIND PLACES FOR YOU; THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NOT CROWDED BY ANY MEANS! Come into the light, the true gate Jesus, and join the people of God as we live and celebrate our life in Christ together!
b. Enjoy the peace and security of knowing others of like faith are looking out for you ... as you join in praises to our King of Kings! IT IS A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE OUT YOUR LIFE ... NOT JUST A GREAT PLACE TO VISIT!
(1. Too many visitors in church!
(2. God is looking for more citizens!
(3. There is always more room ... it is a spacious place!
B. PURITY 7:5-65
1. Nehemiah calls up the membership list to check on the present inhabitants and their really being part of the body of saints in the holy city!
2. At that time only those who records could be traced to Abraham could be declared "PURE" or as available to serve within the body of believers ... this was part of the covenant of Promise with Abraham.
3. Yet others had joined and gotten in, Gentiles like Ruth, Rahab, and a scattered group of other Gentiles had been allowed in WHEN THEY EMBRACED THE GOD OF ABRAHAM AND IDENTIFIED WILLINGLY THEIR LIVES WITH GOD'S PEOPLE, thus rejecting their old ties to the world and false idol worship.
4. Once these Gentiles came in the proper way they too were included in the records of God's people!
5. As Nehemiah went down the roll call most went well except a small group of people who had no records connecting them to God's family ... even some priests were missing their records tying them to God's family, so sadly for the moment they were not allowed to serve in positions of authority until the matter could be worked out ... but this was not as hard sounding as it appears!
6. They were not being rejected completely, only until God could rule on them by a High Priest who would be able to consult God by using the URIM and THUMMIM, the vehicle God used in that day to declare His will when all else was unclear!
7. For these it meant waiting ... but hope was still existing ... God would not reject those who heart yearned for Him and whose faith was established in Him!
8. The point of all of this was to make sure the people were pure ... that these really were the declared people of God ... and that the leadership was intact from the rolls of those who were sons of Abraham ... according to the law of Moses!
ILLUS: We cannot expect the world to believe that the Father sent the Son, that Jesus' claims are true, and that Christianity is true, unless the world sees some reality of oneness of true Christians. Now that is frightening. Should we not feel some emotion at this point? -- Francis Schaeffer in The Church Before the Watching World. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 1.
9. Today, we need to be sons of the living God ... Sons and Daughters of God Himself through Jesus Christ according to the law of Christ who gave Himself up for all those who believe in Him! God wants a holy people and pure people who will be able to do great things for Him as they are united in spirit and in purpose!
a. Proper citizenship was a crucial issue to the health and stability of Israel's life and call as God's people ... it still is in the church today!
b. Sloppy citizenship would not establish the holy city of God, nor will it a church body today.
III. PROPER CELEBRATION 7:66-73
A. Provisions 7:66-72
1. Notice what breaks out once the roll call is established to be proper and the leadership base is established by Godly means!
a. Generosity breaks out ... by the leaders first and then by the people!
b. Where there is joy ... there is liberality!
(1. In material provisions.
(2. In time or availability for service.
(3. There is no coercion for giving in this text, generosity just happens!
2. When God's people are united ... and peace is the rule in the church there is a kind of celebration of Christ's life that seeks to reach out and give to others!
ILLUS: Anthony Campolo, sociology professor at Eastern Baptist College and popular speaker, told of his experience one year at a Women's Conference where he was making a major address. At the point in the program when the women were being challenged with a several thousand dollar goal for their mission projects, the chairperson for the day turned to Dr. Campolo and asked him if he would pray for God's blessing upon the women as they considered what they might do to achieve the goal. To her utter surprise, Dr. Campolo came to the podium and graciously declined her invitation. "You already have the resources necessary to complete this mission project right here within this room," he continued. "It would be inappropriate to ask for God's blessing, when God has already blessed you with abundance and the means to achieve this goal. The necessary gifts are in your hands. As soon as we take the offering and underwrite this mission project, we will thank God for freeing us to be the generous, responsible and accountable stewards that we are called to be as Christian disciples." When the offering was taken, the mission challenge was oversubscribed, and Dr. Campolo led a joyous prayer of thanksgiving for God's abundant blessings and for the faithful stewardship of God's people. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 239.
3. Show me a joyful saint and I will show you a generous saint – or, show me a generous saint and I will show you a joyful one!
a. Joyful saints like to give out from themselves in service and in other ways!
b. Rarely do you have to motivate a happy saint ... steering them is more the issue!
c. It is kind of interesting that here and in other places in the Bible record we have the actual giving records of the people ... God does take notice of the many ways we give, and the amounts!
4. This abundant joy would supply abundant necessities and above ... the result would be the temple of God and the needs of the people would be well taken care of ... they would ALL enjoy the fruits of holiness and unity!
B. Partnership 7:73
1. Now they could all go to their respected homes, not to separate, but because they were all linked together as partners, they would share their goods, they would even share their townspeople. Many towns sent about 1/10 of their citizens to go live in Jerusalem to help populate the city ... the city would thus become the common link for all the cities in Israel ... they would be linked together BY THE HOLY FELLOWSHIP OF GOD'S PEOPLE SERVING IN THE HOLY CITY IN GOD'S PRESENCE!
2. So although many returned to their own individual towns, because of the ones sent from each town to live in Jerusalem kept them all linked by the SAME FELLOWSHIP of the one people of God!
3. Finally they could SETTLE down … harmony and peace, security and praise were the norm again ... those who had been scattered because of their previous sins were now being brought together to live in the land in peace again!
4. The enemy had a new respect and fear of God's people ... the city of Jerusalem's rebuilding and the unity the Jews had worked to create had shown the power of God and the strength of God's people who refused to compromise or quit!
ILLUS: Back at the turn of the century, there was a plague of locusts in the Plains of the United States. In a matter of a few days that swarm of locusts swept over the states of Nebraska, Iowa, and Kansas. In less than a week, they did over five hundred million dollars' worth of damage (in the currency of that time).
Locusts don't have a king to get them organized. They don't have a draft board to call them into ranks. By instinct the locust knows it has to be in community with other locusts. When that occurs, they are able to topple kingdoms. The wisdom of the locust is the wisdom that tells us we must have community. -- Haddon Robinson, "The Wisdom of Small Creatures," Preaching Today, Tape No. 93.
5. God would make them as an example again of what the community of God's people could be like ... PEACE, SECURITY, JOYFUL CELEBRATION, FELLOWSHIP, CONTENTMENT, PRAISE ... all this became the natural byproducts of a well ordered fellowship with clear godly leadership and clear directions for joining.
6. The next encounter we will have with JERUSALEM from here will be a great revival ... they were ripe for one now that they were established properly!
CONCLUSION: Through unity and doing things God’s way the people of God achieved incredible purpose, and with this, incredible power. God establishes His people when they purpose to follow His ways and His plans together.