The Praise Fest on the Wall
The Scripture Reading today is Nehemiah 12:27-42.
This is the last day of Veterans Day Weekend. Usually we only celebrate one day, but this year we got a Friday parade and a Saturday series of events, and now it is Veterans Day Sunday. I also appreciate all of you coming out this morning to Chapel and not staying home to view the Colts playing in Germany.
On Memorial Day we “celebrate” the lives lost in all our Nation’s wars. On Veterans Day we also remember the sacrifices of those who fought in those wars, living or dead. I hope America never forgets that it was God’s Providence which gave us our victories and the freedoms we enjoy. It was a “divine cooperative” between the watchful eye of God and the willingness of men and women to risk their lives for the cause.
The passage we are looking at today is very much like Veterans Day. The “Returned Exiles” celebrate the completion of the “Return to Judah” project. Believe it or not, it was almost two years ago we started our series on Ezra-Nehemiah. In the Hebrew Bible they are one single book. It begins with a call to all the Jews who wished to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple to do so. We followed these “returned exiles” from arriving in Judah, and clearing the Temple site to the point that they are now ready to dedicate the city wall, a time period of just over 100 yrs.
I see in this story an important lesson for our times. The Jews were a small people with a glorious past, and not much of a present, either in status or material gain. Yet they had the picture of an even more glorious future. The Messiah was coming, and would restore the old glories and expand them to a new worldwide peace. Their role was to wait and work. They did do the rebuilding of this small and insignificant city, realizing it would some day be the center of the world. We live in a time when it seems more people are abandoning the idea of a “God,” much less one who is loving and kind. Yet we trumpet the message of “God loves all of you, Jew, Gentile; Male, Female; Black, Brown or White; and even Palestinian.” He has provided salvation to them through His Son, Jesus Christ, born of the offspring of David through Zerubbabel, first governor of the “returned exiles.”
The celebration here in Ch 12, was to praise God for what He had done, through the weak and feeble efforts of those who put their trust in Him. Note their cooperation. If God had not acted in the heart of Cyrus the Persian Emperor, the decree allowing the return and temple reestablishment would not have happened. But it took people of faith to assemble with Zerubbabel, and move 1500 or more miles back to the “rubble” of Jerusalem in order to rebuild.
Later, when the people were busy in their own lives, Haggai and Zachariah preached a sermon calling on the people to rebuild the Temple. It was the Lord who moved in the hearts of the people to do the work of rebuilding the Temple (Haggai 1:12).
It was Ezra who came back to the city as a “scribe” or teacher of the Law. He taught the teachers how to teach the law and the people listened and obeyed.
Finally, Nehemiah arrived to rebuild the wall around the city to make it a city of status and trade. The people cooperated with him, as he followed God’s leadership to complete the task, even against outward and sometimes inward opposition.
Now was the time of celebration. Nehemiah organized a great parade made up of two choirs of the leaders and the people (men, women, & children). He lead half the people in “choir one” up the stairs of the “Dung Gate” and turned and marched around the city wall. Ezra led “choir two” beginning at the Water Gate and marched the opposite way around the wall. Both choirs sang as they marched. Their march culminated in the wall around the Temple itself. There the choirs became one giant choir, and the sound was heard for miles away from the city itself.
The “little and insignificant city” of Jerusalem was “heard” a long ways away. Prefiguring what would someday be the glorious city of God. We, too, live in a world which does not seem to give much glory to God. When they do, we often wonder “which god” the “worshiper” is referring to. In this dark era, we still, like the “returned exiles” of old, must wait to see what God is going to do next. Meanwhile, we know that someday the glories prophesied years ago will indeed come to fruition. Meanwhile we wait and work.
God Bless you,
CH Jim Odell