Bible Survey on Nehemiah – Lesson 11
As I said in the beginning when we started to look at the book of Nehemiah that the book is not about a building project. Yes they build a wall but that building project is not what the book is about.
It is about God keeping His promises that He made in Jeremiah 33 and other places. Promises about prospering and blessing the people who return to Jerusalem after the captivity. It is about God working in the circumstances of life and Him working in the hearts of men. It is about faith, and trust, and prayer.
It is about God using His work and His power to bring about revival in the hearts of the people.
Many churches will hold what they call a revival meeting every year. They will bring in a high price preacher, and have extra singing. And if a few people go up to pray at the end, then they think it is a revival. But biblically speaking that is not revival.
Revival is when a group of people want to know what God said and not for knowledge’s sake, but so they can change their thinking and their actions to conform to what God wants as revealed in His Word.
Revival is when they want to grow closer to God, and they want to please God with their lives.
And as we saw last time a part of that is confessing your sins to God and accepting His forgiveness.
Now as they were read the word of God and given the sense of it, they learned all the many things that were to be done at the temple. Things are different now. Jesus taught this with the woman at the well.
Joh 4:20 Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Joh 4:21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
Joh 4:22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
Joh 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.
Joh 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Jesus taught that the time had come when the place of worship no longer matters. But in Nehemiah’s day it did matter. All of the sacrifices and feasts and rituals that in one way or another all pointed to the coming Savior, all of that was to be done only at the temple. First at the tabernacle in Joshua’s day but later at the temple.
Thru Ezra reading the word and the Levites teaching they learned all that was to be done there. And it was a lot.
It would take provision, and they already promised to give that, but it takes something else.
It takes people. A lot of people. But there is a problem, there is not enough people living at Jerusalem. The place is still a mess. The economy is a shambles. And if you get enough people to do the work at the temple, you are still short because you have to have enough people there to support those people.
So what do these people who have a heart of revival do? Quit? Say we can’t see how this will work. No! The asked some to sacrifice and move to Jerusalem.
Neh 11:1 And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities.
Neh 11:2 And the people blessed all the men, that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.
The people blessed all those that willingly offered themselves to move to Jerusalem.
A revived heart wants to see God’s work done and is willing to make sacrifices to see that happen. And so a great many offered themselves to move.
Neh 11:12 And their brethren that did the work of the house were eight hundred twenty and two:
There were 822 people that did the work of the Temple. Can you say big operation? This was no small thing.
Neh 11:16 And Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chief of the Levites, had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.
For all that work to be done at the temple a lot of other things, support type of things, had to happen outside. Water and wood had to be first acquired and then transported. And that would have to be scheduled. You can’t have none one day and then more show up the next day than you can deal with.
There is also other types of outward business. People have to be communicated with and told what is going on. Stuff has to be done and someone has to take the responsibility for it. So Shabbethai and Jozabad took that responsibity.
Our main work here is to get the gospel out, but for that to happen envelopes have to be ordered at the proper time and paper and ink and tracts that we don’t print. In the work there is always some outward business.
In verse 17 they put men in charge of beginning the thanksgiving in prayer.
Neh 11:17 And Mattaniah the son of Micha, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, was the principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer:
A people that has a heart for God and are spiritually awakened will always be a thankful people. They wanted God to be thanked. And thanked all the time. They cared so much about thanking God that they put men in charge of that.
Another thing we see with these revived hearts is that they wanted praises sung unto God.
Neh 11:22 The overseer also of the Levites at Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micha. Of the sons of Asaph, the singers were over the business of the house of God.
Neh 11:23 For it was the king’s commandment concerning them, that a certain portion should be for the singers, due for every day.
These singers would sing many of the Psalms to God. They were to be dedicated to it. It would be a lot of work. A lot of memorizing and learning the harmonies and the singing parts. And it would mean practice and more practice and then hours and hours and hours spent singing praises to God at the temple.
This was in no way similar to what choirs in churches do today. For them this was a full time job. A lot of work went into it. To do what they did, there was no time for them to also work a regular job or time to work a piece of land.
And the Levites were doing what they should have always been doing and that is working with the people not just at the temple but all over the land. In villages and towns and farms.
Neh 11:36 And of the Levites were divisions in Judah, and in Benjamin.
In verse 17 of chapter 11 we had men put over the thanksgiving in prayer. In verse 8 in chapter 12 men are put over the thanksgiving.
And in verse 24 more men are involved in giving thanks.
Neh 12:24 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.
Ward over against ward. That would be you put one group over on this side and another group on the other side and they take turns praising God and Giving Him thanks.
Hopefully you are seeing a pattern here. They were extremely thankful, and did not want to keep silent about it. Anyone who says their heart is aflame for God and is not thankful. They are either lying or really confused about things.
A revived heart will always be thankful to God and they will want to express that to Him.
In verse 25 is mentioned some of those that were porters of the gates. A necessary job. Everything that needed done was getting done. There was no shortage of workers. No shortage of people sacrificing to get the job done.
And I think even more importantly not out of dry duty. They wanted to. It was being done with joy.
It is now time for them to have a dedication of the wall.
This was a huge service full of thanksgivings and gladness and singing.
Neh 12:27 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.
Neh 12:28 And the sons of the singers gathered themselves together, both out of the plain country round about Jerusalem, and from the villages of Netophathi;
Neh 12:29 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.
People came from all over.
Neh 12:30 And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall.
Neh 12:31 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:
Neh 12:32 And after them went Hoshaiah, and half of the princes of Judah,
Neh 12:33 And Azariah, Ezra, and Meshullam,
Neh 12:34 Judah, and Benjamin, and Shemaiah, and Jeremiah,
Neh 12:35 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:
Neh 12:36 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.
Neh 12:37 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.
Neh 12:38 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;
Neh 12:39 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.
Neh 12:40 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:
Neh 12:41 And the priests; Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Michaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets;
Neh 12:42 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.
Neh 12:43 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.
Service at the Temple
Neh 12:44 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.
Neh 12:45 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.
Neh 12:46 For in the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers, and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God.
Neh 12:47 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.
This section of scripture should make you smile. You should see the joy and gladness and thankfulness of these people and how they wanted to thank God and then thank Him some more and sing praises to Him, and give to Him, and serve Him by doing what He wanted done. And again not forced into it. This all came from the heart.
It’s beautiful. I mean it really is. One of the greatest revivals of all time.
So once a group is revived and on fire for God and for doing His work, what else remains?
One major thing. And that is maintenance. You got revived and today you had a great day. So what happens tomorrow? You need to get up and do it again. You have to maintain keeping your sins confessed. You have to maintain your attitude of being thankful.
You have to want to do tomorrow what you did today. You were obedient to God today and it was great, but that does not guarantee tomorrow. You will still have a free will tomorrow and must still chose to walk with God. And then the day after and the day after.
In chapter 13 there is a problem.
They were told in God’s Word that the Ammonite and the Moabite should not come into the congregation of God. The solution was simple they could quit being a Moabite and they would be welcome.
But if they rejected the true God and still served the horrible false gods of the Moabites then no. In verse 1 thru 3 this is talked about.
The priest goes against this in a big way.
Neh 13:4 And before this, Eliashib the priest, having the oversight of the chamber of the house of our God, was allied unto Tobiah:
The priest allied himself to the enemy.
Neh 13:5 And he had prepared for him a great chamber, where aforetime they laid the meat offerings, the frankincense, and the vessels, and the tithes of the corn, the new wine, and the oil, which was commanded to be given to the Levites, and the singers, and the porters; and the offerings of the priests.
And the money and food that the people gave that was to go to the Levites so they could teach and minister to people full time went to the enemy. And the same thing with the singers and the porters.
The money was taken for the work of God but it went to pad the pockets of the enemy. This is wicked on a huge level. It is deceitful. Saying you are taking it for one reason and then not using it for that. That is lying and stealing.
You might be thinking but where is Nehemiah. He is gone. Remember he asked for a certain amount of time from the king of the empire. Nehemiah had to go back.
Neh 13:6 But in all this time was not I at Jerusalem: for in the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon came I unto the king, and after certain days obtained I leave of the king:
After Nehemiah was there for a while he once again got permission to go back.
Neh 13:7 And I came to Jerusalem, and understood of the evil that Eliashib did for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God.
Neh 13:8 And it grieved me sore: therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber.
It grieved Nehemiah sore. He left when revival was going strong. And now he comes back to this sin going on. Well Nehemiah cleaned that up. Thru Tobiah out of the house of God.
And he had to throw out all of Tobiah’s stuff.
Neh 13:9 Then I commanded, and they cleansed the chambers: and thither brought I again the vessels of the house of God, with the meat offering and the frankincense.
Tobiah was a slob I guess. The chambers had to be cleaned and then the vessels of the house of God had to be brought back in. That means that because of Tobiah the vessels of the house of God had been taken out.
Without the vessels much of the Work they were to be doing could not be done.
The revival had ended. What stopped it? This is important. Sin stopped it.
This is the same thing that will stop any revival during any period of time. It will stop any large revival like in Nehemiah and it will stop the revival of one person. Sin.
Neh 13:10 And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.
The rival was dead. Sin killed it. The singers all went back to farming so they could eat. And the same thing for the Levites.
The teaching of the people. Stopped because the revival in the heart stopped, and why. Sin. Joy, gladness, purpose in life, praises and singing all traded for what. Sin.
Mark it down. Anytime. Anytime you trade God working in your life for sin. You lose. Sin never brings anything good. It never builds anything worth wile.
A broken hearted Nehemiah then goes talks to the leaders.
Neh 13:11 Then contended I with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken? And I gathered them together, and set them in their place.
And to their credit when confronted they do what is right.
Neh 13:12 Then brought all Judah the tithe of the corn and the new wine and the oil unto the treasuries.
Neh 13:13 And I made treasurers over the treasuries, Shelemiah the priest, and Zadok the scribe, and of the Levites, Pedaiah: and next to them was Hanan the son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah: for they were counted faithful, and their office was to distribute unto their brethren.
Neh 13:14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for the offices thereof.
The leaders repented but all of the people did not. In fact the people ended up breaking many of the promises they made to God.
Neh 13:15 In those days saw I in Judah some treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and lading asses; as also wine, grapes, and figs, and all manner of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day: and I testified against them in the day wherein they sold victuals.
Neh 13:16 There dwelt men of Tyre also therein, which brought fish, and all manner of ware, and sold on the sabbath unto the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem.
Neh 13:17 Then I contended with the nobles of Judah, and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath day?
Neh 13:18 Did not your fathers thus, and did not our God bring all this evil upon us, and upon this city? yet ye bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.
Neh 13:19 And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath: and some of my servants set I at the gates, that there should no burden be brought in on the sabbath day.
Neh 13:20 So the merchants and sellers of all kind of ware lodged without Jerusalem once or twice.
Neh 13:21 Then I testified against them, and said unto them, Why lodge ye about the wall? if ye do so again, I will lay hands on you. From that time forth came they no more on the sabbath.
Neh 13:22 And I commanded the Levites that they should cleanse themselves, and that they should come and keep the gates, to sanctify the sabbath day. Remember me, O my God, concerning this also, and spare me according to the greatness of thy mercy.
Neh 13:23 In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab:
Neh 13:24 And their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews’ language, but according to the language of each people.
Neh 13:25 And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.
Neh 13:26 Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.
Neh 13:27 Shall we then hearken unto you to do all this great evil, to transgress against our God in marrying strange wives?
Neh 13:28 And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite: therefore I chased him from me.
Neh 13:29 Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, and the covenant of the priesthood, and of the Levites.
Neh 13:30 Thus cleansed I them from all strangers, and appointed the wards of the priests and the Levites, every one in his business;
Neh 13:31 And for the wood offering, at times appointed, and for the firstfruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.
Nehemiah tries to get the people going again and doing right and walking with God again but you can tell it is a losing battle. That one sin of letting Tobiah in was a big one, and sin spreads, and it wrecks things and spreads some more and hurt and destroys.
Give your heart to God, He gives what is good. Joy, gladness, purpose, a thankful and praising heart, and then work to keep it there. Maintain that which is good.
Rival was not killed from outside attacks. It was killed from the inside. What Tobiah could not do from the outside he did from the inside.
Tobiah could not stop the work of God with hate, threats, and schemes from the outside. But get on the inside with a deal with the priest and he stopped the work of God.
The main spiritual leader ruined it all. He would have been the equivalent in our day to one of the head pastors. And his evil and betrayal and the misuse of money and misuse of God’s house, hurt many believers.
The head leader helped the enemy stop the revival.
I have personally seen this. The bad decisions and misuse of money by a Pastor does great harm to the flock. I have seen people hurt so bad that they lose the heart of revival and grow cold. Never to try to please God the same way again.
We see this in the ending of Nehemiah. Before Tobiah got on the inside the people would be told something from God’s Word and they quickly and with heart did it.
After Tobiah gets on the inside Nehemiah tells them some of the same things and it is like pulling teeth to get them to do it.
They do start doing it again, but is not from the heart. They do not get that same beautiful heart of revival again. Their children do not get it and their grandchildren do not and on it goes.
Revival is a beautiful and very special thing. And if you have it on a group level or even just an individual level you need to work to protect it.