663.) Nehemiah 13

November 16, 2011

He forgives and forgets our sins — but he remembers us!

Nehemiah 13   (NRSV)

Foreigners Separated from Israel

On that day they read from the book of Moses in the hearing of the people; and in it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2because they did not meet the Israelites with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3When the people heard the law, they separated from Israel all those of foreign descent.

But we remember that Ruth, King David’s great-grandmother, was a Moabite.  God turned her, you could say, into a blessing!

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The Reforms of Nehemiah

4Now before this, the priest Eliashib, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to Tobiah, 5prepared for Tobiah a large room where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, which were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6While this was taking place I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon I went to the king. After some time I asked leave of the king 7and returned to Jerusalem. I then discovered the wrong that Eliashib had done on behalf of Tobiah, preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. 8And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the room. 9Then I gave orders and they cleansed the chambers, and I brought back the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.

10I also found out that the portions of the Levites had not been given to them; so that the Levites and the singers, who had conducted the service, had gone back to their fields. 11So I remonstrated with the officials and said, “Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. 12Then all Judah brought the tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses. 13And I appointed as treasurers over the storehouses the priest Shelemiah, the scribe Zadok, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan son of Zaccur son of Mattaniah, for they were considered faithful; and their duty was to distribute to their associates. 14Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.

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Music:

“Jesus, Remember Me” is such a simple, profound song.

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Sabbath Reforms Begun

15In those days I saw in Judah people treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys; and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the sabbath day; and I warned them at that time against selling food. 16Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of merchandise and sold them on the sabbath to the people of Judah, and in Jerusalem. 17Then I remonstrated with the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the sabbath day? 18Did not your ancestors act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster on us and on this city? Yet you bring more wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath.”

19When it began to be dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I set some of my servants over the gates, to prevent any burden from being brought in on the sabbath day. 20Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21But I warned them and said to them, “Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. 22And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.

An interview with Chick-fil-A president Dan T. Cathy and the Baltimore Sun:

Q: Chick-fil-A restaurants are closed on Sundays. Have you felt pressure to reconsider that policy?

A: There have been times that we have reaffirmed that decision. We don’t operate outside the U.S. In the ’90s, we thought there might be some markets internationally we might not go into because of our policy of being closed on Sunday. In the U.S., we’re located in some theme parks, but we’re not in all theme parks and a lot of stadiums because we would be required to open on Sundays.

We’ve forfeited a lot of business opportunities because of that policy. But I like to tell people that our food tastes better on Monday because we’re closed on Sunday.

What really drives us to do this? It’s a very simple statement: To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.

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Mixed Marriages Condemned

23In those days also I saw Jews who had married women of Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab; 24and half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but spoke the language of various peoples. 25And I contended with them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair; and I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26Did not King Solomon of Israel sin on account of such women? Among the many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and act treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”

28And one of the sons of Jehoiada, son of the high priest Eliashib, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; I chased him away from me. 29Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, the covenant of the priests and the Levites.

30Thus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31and I provided for the wood offering, at appointed times, and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.

At the end of it all, Nehemiah knew he did his best to make the people of God strong, safe, and secure. Beyond that, he also led them to be pure, worshipful, and obedient.

Yet, Nehemiah certainly carried a sense of failure. In Nehemiah 10 the people made a solemn covenant to God that they would do three things: not have ungodly romantic relationships (10:30), not buy and sell on the Sabbath (10:31), and support the work of God with money as He commanded (10:32-39).

Nevertheless, in Nehemiah 13, some 10 to 12 years later, Israel was steeped in the exact sins they vowed to stop. Nehemiah had to address the problems of ungodly romantic relationships (13:23-31), buying and selling on the Sabbath (13:15-22), and failing to support the work of God as He commanded (13:10-14).

In Nehemiah 10:39 the people promised: we will not neglect the house of our God. But later in Nehemiah 13:11, Nehemiah had to ask: Why is the house of God forsaken? It was forsaken because Israel did not keep its promises before God.

This makes a point vividly clear: the law – that is, rules, vows, promises, covenants, and the such, are all ultimately powerless to stop sin. Only the grace of God, alive and flowing in our lives, can give us the power to truly overcome sin.

Paul expresses this in Romans 8:3, among other places: For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. Too many Christians look for victory in the making of rules, of vows, of promises – and fail to find it, because all those things tend to make us look to ourselves, instead of looking to Jesus.

The Old Testament history of Israel, from beginning to end, illustrates this. When the nation was first born at the Exodus, despite the most spectacular miracles, displays of God’s glory, and revelation of the law, the people sinned, by crediting a gold calf with their deliverance from Egypt! And now here, at the end of the Old Testament history of God’s people in the promised land, Nehemiah is pulling hair out – his own and those of sinners – because they couldn’t keep their promises to God.

If we could be saved by our own promises, by our own commitment to Jesus, then His death would have been noble, but unnecessary. We aren’t saved by some vow we make, or some leaf we turn over, but by trusting in who Jesus is, and what He has done to save us.

— David Guzik

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The End of the book of Nehemiah.

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The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Jesus, remember me.   http://www.4catholiceducators.com/graphics/new_luke_23-42.jpg
Ruth, with Boaz, Naomi, and baby Obed.   http://s3.hubimg.com/u/4443586_f260.jpg
Remember the Sabbath day.   http://www.gbcstockport.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/sabbathjpg.jpg
Chick-fil-A Sunday.   http://www.getreligion.org/wp-content/photos/2010/07/ChickSunday.jpg
Looking unto Jesus . . .     http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-0nzs_wLybhI/TePo8KWg_II/AAAAAAAAAEI/1sv25X62Fc8/s1600/looking-unto-jesus2.jpg
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662.) Nehemiah 12

November 15, 2011

When I think, in my own life, of celebrating a wall, what comes to mind is not construction, but destruction. In 1989 we rejoiced to watch the Berlin Wall come down!

Nehemiah 12   (NRSV)

A List of Priests and Levites

These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the leaders of the priests and of their associates in the days of Jeshua.

8And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his associates was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. 9And Bakbukiah and Unno their associates stood opposite them in the service. 10Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.

12In the days of Joiakim the priests, heads of ancestral houses, were: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; 13of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; 14of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; 15of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; 16of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; 17of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; 18of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; 19of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; 20of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; 21of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.

22As for the Levites, in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, there were recorded the heads of ancestral houses; also the priests until the reign of Darius the Persian. 23The Levites, heads of ancestral houses, were recorded in the Book of the Annals until the days of Johanan son of Eliashib. 24And the leaders of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua son of Kadmiel, with their associates over against them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, section opposite to section. 25Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. 26These were in the days of Joiakim son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of the governor Nehemiah and of the priest Ezra, the scribe.

Dedication of the City Wall

How the Israelites celebrated their completed wall:

27Now at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought out the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with rejoicing, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.

1.  Singing! 

(I can fill my ears with “songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” from the radio / IPod / computer / memory, and praise God!  God will be pleased to hear me “bless the Lord.”)

28The companies of the singers gathered together from the circuit around Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; 29also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth; for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. 30And the priests and the Levites purified themselves; and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.

2.  Purifying! 

(I can confess my sins to the Lord.  As I read Scripture I can measure myself against the Lord’s ways.  I can open myself to letting go of sin and embracing change that the Spirit brings.  God will forgive me and transform me into the image of Jesus.)

31Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall, and appointed two great companies that gave thanks and went in procession. One went to the right on the wall to the Dung Gate; 32and after them went Hoshaiah and half the officials of Judah, 33and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35and some of the young priests with trumpets: Zechariah son of Jonathan son of Shemaiah son of Mattaniah son of Micaiah son of Zaccur son of Asaph; 36and his kindred, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God; and the scribe Ezra went in front of them. 37At the Fountain Gate, in front of them, they went straight up by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.

3.  Thanking! 

(I can thank God for who he is and for what he has done.  I can thank him for all his kindness to the human family and to me.  He will help me see more and more of his goodness:  “Morning by morning new mercies I see.”)

38The other company of those who gave thanks went to the left, and I followed them with half of the people on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, 39and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Old Gate, and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. 40So both companies of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; 41and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; 42and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. 43They offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. The joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.

Temple Responsibilities

44On that day men were appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the law for the priests and for the Levites from the fields belonging to the towns; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.

4.  Giving! 

(I can refuse to go to church empty-handed.  I can give of my money, my time, my talents, my prayers — to my church, to my neighbors, to the world.  He will multiply my gifts for the sake of the kingdom, just as he multiplied the little boy’s lunch by feeding several thousand people.)

45They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. 46For in the days of David and Asaph long ago there was a leader of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47In the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah all Israel gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers. They set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the descendants of Aaron.

5.  Consecrating! 

(I can offer myself to God each day.  I can say with Mary, “Be it unto me according to thy word.”  God will “work all things together for good” as he works out the details of my life “according to his purposes.”)

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Music:

A wonderful hymn for a wonderful day!   “O Day Full of Grace” was written by Nicholai F. S. Grundvig as “Den Signede Dag” in 1826.  Here it is, arranged by F. Melius Christiansen and sung by the Luther College Nordic Choir.

O day full of grace, which we behold,
to us from the sea ascending;
you over the earth your reign unfold,
good cheer to all mortals lending,
that children of light in every clime may prove
that the night is ending!

How blest was that gracious midnight hour,
when Christ in the flesh was given;
then flushed from the east the dawn with pow’r,
that spread o’er the darkened heaven;
then rose o’er the world that sun divine
which gloom from our hearts has driven.

Were all of the trees endowed with speech,
were all of the leaflets singing,
they never with praise His worth could reach,
though earth with their praise were ringing.
Who fully could praise the Light of Life,
who light to our souls is bringing?

As birds in the morning sing God’s praise,
His fatherly love we cherish,
for giving to us this day of grace,
for life that shall never perish.
His Church He has kept these thousand years,
and hungering souls did nourish.

With joy we approach our Father’s land,
where day is forever dwelling,
where ready for us His mansions stand,
where heaven with praise is swelling;
and there we shall walk in endless light,
with blest ones His praise forth telling.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Berlin Wall falling.   http://media.thestar.topscms.com/images/a4/72/3303afc449dd8c0c6a7c15ce5040.jpeg
Jerusalem wall.   http://0.tqn.com/d/atheism/1/0/C/H/JerusalemWall-l.jpg
singing.  http://www.arthursclipart.org/birds/birds/singing.gif
purifying.   http://www.soapandspaessentials.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Purifying-Detox-Bath-Salt.jpg
merci beaucoup.  http://blog.wantist.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/MerciBeaucoup.jpg
giving.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_nEF1yPpDY10/SoQp0FUoFiI/AAAAAAAAA28/pCJ7uAAvsjY/s400/gift-guide-marie-claire-300.jpg
consecrating.     http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_1WWfNVKWCEw/TKneAmuL7zI/AAAAAAAAAds/h448Nnib17g/s1600/Consecrated+Stewards+Logo.jpg

661.) Nehemiah 11

November 14, 2011

A panoramic view of the new city (as opposed to the Old City) of Jerusalem. The city's population now is around 800,000.

Nehemiah 11   (NRSV)

Population of the City Increased

Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem; and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in the holy city Jerusalem, while nine-tenths remained in the other towns. 2And the people blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.

The exiles who returned were few in numbers compared to Jerusalem’s population in the days of the kings.  And because the walls had been rebuilt on their original foundations, the city seemed sparsely populated.  Nehemiah asked one-tenth of the people from the outlying areas to move inside the city walls to keep large areas of the city from being vacant.  Apparently these people did not want to move into the city.  Only a few people volunteered, and Nehemiah cast lots to determine who among the remaining people would have to move.

Many of them may not have wanted to live in the city because (1) non-Jews attached a stigma to Jerusalem residents, often excluding them from trade because of their religious beliefs; (2) moving into the city meant rebuilding their homes and reestablishing their businesses, a major investment of time and money; (3) living in Jerusalem required a stricter obedience to God’s word because of greater social pressure and proximity to the temple.

–footnotes from the Life Application Bible

3These are the leaders of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah all lived on their property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. 4And in Jerusalem lived some of the Judahites and of the Benjaminites.

Of the Judahites: Athaiah son of Uzziah son of Zechariah son of Amariah son of Shephatiah son of Mahalalel, of the descendants of Perez; 5and Maaseiah son of Baruch son of Col-hozeh son of Hazaiah son of Adaiah son of Joiarib son of Zechariah son of the Shilonite. 6All the descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were four hundred sixty-eight valiant warriors.

David Guzik suggests another reason they may have been unwilling to move to Jerusalem:

“To live in Jerusalem, you had to live knowing you were a target for the enemy. There were strong walls to protect you, but since Jerusalem was now a notable city with rebuilt walls, the fear was more from whole armies than bands of robbers. The old village was nice, but not in much danger from great armies.”

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7And these are the Benjaminites: Sallu son of Meshullam son of Joed son of Pedaiah son of Kolaiah son of Maaseiah son of Ithiel son of Jeshaiah. 8And his brothers Gabbai, Sallai: nine hundred twenty-eight. 9Joel son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah son of Hassenuah was second in charge of the city.

10Of the priests: Jedaiah son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11Seraiah son of Hilkiah son of Meshullam son of Zadok son of Meraioth son of Ahitub, officer of the house of God, 12and their associates who did the work of the house, eight hundred twenty-two; and Adaiah son of Jeroham son of Pelaliah son of Amzi son of Zechariah son of Pashhur son of Malchijah, 13and his associates, heads of ancestral houses, two hundred forty-two; and Amashsai son of Azarel son of Ahzai son of Meshillemoth son of Immer, 14and their associates, valiant warriors, one hundred twenty-eight; their overseer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.

15And of the Levites: Shemaiah son of Hasshub son of Azrikam son of Hashabiah son of Bunni; 16and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the leaders of the Levites, who were over the outside work of the house of God; 17and Mattaniah son of Mica son of Zabdi son of Asaph, who was the leader to begin the thanksgiving in prayer, and Bakbukiah, the second among his associates; and Abda son of Shammua son of Galal son of Jeduthun. 18All the Levites in the holy city were two hundred eighty-four.

During these times of rebuilding the city, the prophet Zechariah spoke a question from God to the people:  For who has despised the day of small things?  (Zechariah 4:10).  Of course, many of us have!  But can we, like these Israelites, take a small thing and work cheerfully and diligently, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to build it for the kingdom of God?

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19The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their associates, who kept watch at the gates, were one hundred seventy-two.

20And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, all of them in their inheritance.

21But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants.

22The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani son of Hashabiah son of Mattaniah son of Mica, of the descendants of Asaph, the singers, in charge of the work of the house of God. 23For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a settled provision for the singers, as was required every day.

Psalm 95:1-7 (English Standard Version)

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD;
   let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
   let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
   and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
   the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
   and his hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;

   let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.

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24And Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, of the descendants of Zerah son of Judah, was at the king’s hand in all matters concerning the people.

25And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27in Hazar-shual, in Beer-sheba and its villages, 28in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they camped from Beer-sheba to the valley of Hinnom.

31The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35Lod, and Ono, the valley of artisans. 36And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were joined to Benjamin.

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Music:

Sing to the Lord!  Scripture says it often, and we should make our joyful noises all day long!

From October, 2010, a performance of the University of Nebraska—Lincoln’s University Singers, Dr. Peter Eklund, conductor, and “Exultate Deo”  by Scarlatti.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Jerusalem.  http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3263/2598661967_eb3fac4023.jpg
road sign pointing towards Jerusalem.  http://wwwdelivery.superstock.com/WI/223/1840/PreviewComp/SuperStock_1840-10193.jpg
target.  http://www.dolbeare.co.uk/images/stories/Target.jpg
Zech. 4:10.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_doy4w-COXFo/SAS3JAfo3PI/AAAAAAAAA-g/-SslEVEZecY/s320/zech+verse+full.jpg
cross with musical staff.  http://www.flourtownpres.org/images/music_3516c.jpg

660.) Nehemiah 10

November 11, 2011

A signature on the right document -- and the world changes! John Hancock signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Nehemiah 10   (NRSV)

Those Who Signed the Covenant

Because of all this we make a firm agreement in writing, and on that sealed document are inscribed the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests.  Upon the sealed document are the names of Nehemiah the governor, son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah; 2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah; these are the priests. 9And the Levites: Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10and their associates, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13Hodiah, Bani, Beninu.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

14The leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.

Golda Meir signed the Declaration of Independence for Israel in 1948. This is her signature in Hebrew.

Summary of the Covenant

The binding agreement between the people and God had the following six provisions:

28The rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to adhere to the law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters, all who have knowledge and understanding, 29join with their kin, their nobles, and enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord and his ordinances and his statutes.

30We will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons;

They will not marry non-Jewish neighbors, for this has generally led to idolatry.

31and if the peoples of the land bring in merchandise or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy it from them on the sabbath or on a holy day;

They will observe the Sabbath; six days is enough for work, and one day is set aside to refresh themselves in the Lord.

and we will forego the crops of the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

They will observe every seventh year as a sabbath year, and all the land will lie fallow and all debts be forgiven.

32We also lay on ourselves the obligation to charge ourselves yearly one-third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God: 33for the rows of bread, the regular grain offering, the regular burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moons, the appointed festivals, the sacred donations, and the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God.

They will pay a temple tax; thanks to Ezra, their new temple had been rebuilt about 70 years earlier.

34We have also cast lots among the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood offering, to bring it into the house of our God, by ancestral houses, at appointed times, year by year, to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the law.

They will supply wood for the burnt offerings in the temple.

35We obligate ourselves to bring the first fruits of our soil and the first fruits of all fruit of every tree, year by year, to the house of the Lord; 36also to bring to the house of our God, to the priests who minister in the house of our God, the firstborn of our sons and of our livestock, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks; 37and to bring the first of our dough, and our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the wine and the oil, to the priests, to the chambers of the house of our God; and to bring to the Levites the tithes from our soil, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all our rural towns.

They will give dues and tithes to God in the temple, both to express their gratitude and to care for the priests.

38And the priest, the descendant of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive the tithes; and the Levites shall bring up a tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the storerooms where the vessels of the sanctuary are, and where the priests that minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers are.

We will not neglect the house of our God.

After too many years of disobedience and exile, the people finally step up to their responsibility to obey God and keep the Law.

_________________________

Music:

“Give Me Faith”  by Elevation Worship.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
John Hancock.  http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2552/4144493659_2682e2dd4d.jpg
Abraham Lincoln.   http://www.cslib.org/WmWebb/images/PortrayPage3/AbeLincolnSig.jpg
Golda Meir.   http://www.havelshouseofhistory.com/Meir,%20Golda%20signature.jpg

659.) Nehemiah 9

November 10, 2011

We repent . . . we confess . . . we are sorry . . .

Nehemiah 9   (NRSV)

National Confession

Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the people of Israel were assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads.

After the wall was completed, after the wall was working, after the people had heard and obeyed God’s Word, after the Holy Spirit was doing a significant work in the lives of people — now there is a scene of dramatic, humble repentance.

Fasting showed their lowly, humble state. They considered themselves so poor before God that they had no food. They also wanted to say, “we are so troubled by our sin, food seems unimportant.”

Sackcloth indicated they wearing rough fabric, like a burlap bag. Again, this was to show their complete poverty of spirit before God. They also wanted to say, “we are so troubled by our sin, the normal comforts of life are unimportant.”

Putting earth on their heads meant they took little handfuls of dirt and cast them on their heads. This was also to show their lowly state before God, and to say “we are so troubled by our sin, the normal comforts of life are unimportant.”

All of this reflects a humble attitude of heart — humble not only towards God, but also humble towards man. They did this publicly, and others would see them in this public state.

–David Guzik

2Then those of Israelite descent separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their ancestors. 3They stood up in their place and read from the book of the law of the Lord their God for a fourth part of the day, and for another fourth they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God.

4Then Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani stood on the stairs of the Levites and cried out with a loud voice to the Lord their God. 5Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.”

6And Ezra said: “You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them.

To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you. 7You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham; 8and you found his heart faithful before you, and made with him a covenant to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite; and you have fulfilled your promise, for you are righteous.

9“And you saw the distress of our ancestors in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10You performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh and all his servants and all the people of his land, for you knew that they acted insolently against our ancestors. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11And you divided the sea before them, so that they passed through the sea on dry land, but you threw their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters.

12Moreover, you led them by day with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the way in which they should go. 13You came down also upon Mount Sinai, and spoke with them from heaven, and gave them right ordinances and true laws, good statutes and commandments, 14and you made known your holy sabbath to them and gave them commandments and statutes and a law through your servant Moses. 15For their hunger you gave them bread from heaven, and for their thirst you brought water for them out of the rock, and you told them to go in to possess the land that you swore to give them.

16“But they and our ancestors acted presumptuously and stiffened their necks and did not obey your commandments; 17they refused to obey, and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them; but they stiffened their necks and determined to return to their slavery in Egypt. But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them. 18Even when they had cast an image of a calf for themselves and said, ‘This is your God who brought you up out of Egypt,’ and had committed great blasphemies,

19you in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness; the pillar of cloud that led them in the way did not leave them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night that gave them light on the way by which they should go. 20You gave your good spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and gave them water for their thirst. 21Forty years you sustained them in the wilderness so that they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.

22“And you gave them kingdoms and peoples, and allotted to them every corner, so they took possession of the land of King Sihon of Heshbon and the land of King Og of Bashan. 23You multiplied their descendants like the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land that you had told their ancestors to enter and possess. 24So the descendants went in and possessed the land, and you subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the peoples of the land, to do with them as they pleased. 25And they captured fortress cities and a rich land, and took possession of houses filled with all sorts of goods, hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive orchards, and fruit trees in abundance; so they ate, and were filled and became fat, and delighted themselves in your great goodness.

My mother used to play a game with my two sisters and me called “Count Your Blessings.”  As we were working in the kitchen, or the garden, or driving along, we would mention gifts from the Lord and “name them one by one.”  She encouraged us to think of things that usually we take for granted.  So I remember praising God that he made us so we could see color, not just black and white — and that we could read — and that all those musicians had practiced their instruments when they were children, and all those adults had learned how to make recordings and send them out over the sound waves, so that we could listen to music on the radio  in the car! 

Only recently I learned that this is an old Jewish custom — to praise the Lord for specific things all through the day.  “Blessed is He who is good, and gives us good gifts!”  Perhaps, had the families in Israel been keeping this habit, they would have been more thankful — and more faithful.

_________________________

26“Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their backs and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27Therefore you gave them into the hands of their enemies, who made them suffer. Then in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hands of their enemies.

“Repentance grows as faith grows. Do not make any mistake about it; repentance is not a thing of days and weeks, a temporary penance to be got over as fast as possible! No, it is the grace of a lifetime, like faith itself. Repentance is the inseparable companion of faith.”

— Charles Haddon Spurgeon

_________________________

28“But after they had rest, they again did evil before you, and you abandoned them to the hands of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them; yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you rescued them according to your mercies.

29“And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your ordinances, by the observance of which a person shall live. They turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey. 30Many years you were patient with them, and warned them by your spirit through your prophets; yet they would not listen. Therefore you handed them over to the peoples of the lands. 31Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

32“Now therefore, our God—the great and mighty and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love—do not treat lightly all the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings, our officials, our priests, our prophets, our ancestors, and all your people, since the time of the kings of Assyria until today. 33You have been just in all that has come upon us,

Genesis 18:25 (New International Version)

Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly; 34our kings, our officials, our priests, and our ancestors have not kept your law or heeded the commandments and the warnings that you gave them. 35Even in their own kingdom, and in the great goodness you bestowed on them, and in the large and rich land that you set before them, they did not serve you and did not turn from their wicked works. 36Here we are, slaves to this day—slaves in the land that you gave to our ancestors to enjoy its fruit and its good gifts. 37Its rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins; they have power also over our bodies and over our livestock at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.”

_________________________

Music:

“Agnus Dei” from Mozart’s Coronation Mass in C Major.   Herbert von Karajan conducts The Vienna Philarmonic and The Vienna Singverein, with Kathleen Battle.

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,

miserere nobis.

have mercy on us.

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi,

Lamb of God, who take away sins of world,

dona nobis pacem.

grant us peace.

_________________________

Those Who Signed the Covenant

38Because of all this we make a firm agreement in writing, and on that sealed document are inscribed the names of our officials, our Levites, and our priests.

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
We repent . . .   http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_UP4FOqtrmWY/TTCusefA2pI/AAAAAAAAACs/3OLGvpJvo48/s1600/sackclth.jpg
Nehemiah 9:6   http://www.heartlight.org/graphics/gallery/nehemiah9_6.jpg
parting the Red Sea.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_xs9T-jlzwhA/TJnuBmuf1gI/AAAAAAAAnIU/09YYeHqGh5Q/s1600/moses_parting_the_red_sea1.jpg
worshipping the golden calf.  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2f/Worshiping_the_golden_calf.jpg
Count.   http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-TbZaGgp03Mo/TZK02dgxC7I/AAAAAAAAAT4/a6VEhdepw04/s1600/numbers.jpg
repent.   http://node1.bbcimg.co.uk/iplayer/images/episode/p003s77x_640_360.jpg

658.) Nehemiah 8

November 9, 2011

Nehemiah 8   (NRSV)

Ezra Summons the People to Obey the Law

When the seventh month came—the people of Israel being settled in their towns—

all the people gathered together into the square before the Water Gate. They told the scribe Ezra to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had given to Israel.

Ezra, a scribe who copied God’s law and a priest who devoted himself to God, was the man responsible for having the temple rebuilt, and for returning God’s people to worship. Nehemiah, in all his work of rebuilding the walls, just carried on the work Ezra had begun.

2Accordingly, the priest Ezra brought the law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could hear with understanding. This was on the first day of the seventh month. 3He read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the book of the law.

For some six hours they listened to the Word of God.

4The scribe Ezra stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the purpose;

They had taken the time to build a wooden platform so the Word of God could be heard. They did practical things so God’s Word would have the greatest effect.

 There are practical things we can do also to help God’s Word have the greatest effect; when a room is comfortable, low in distractions, and the preacher is clearly heard, it helps God’s Word have the greatest effect.

 But by far, the greatest preparation must happen in the heart. We must come, willing to forget about ourselves and our own agenda, and submit ourselves to God’s Word – not the preacher’s word, but God’s Word.

–David Guzik

_________________________

and beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hash-baddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand.

5And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. Then they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

This work of the Word of God and the Spirit of God had three immediate results.

  • The people thanked God (by saying Amen when Ezra blessed the Lord)
  • They prayed (by lifting up their hands)
  • They worshipped (by bowing down before Him)

 Thanksgiving, prayer, and praise are all good measures of how the Spirit of God and Word of God are working in us.

7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the law, while the people remained in their places. 8So they read from the book, from the law of God, with interpretation. They gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

Oh, that we might have such teachers of God’s Word! 

Oh, that we might  be such willing students of God’s Word!

_________________________

9And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.

10Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions of them to those for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”

12And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.

The Festival of Booths Celebrated

13On the second day the heads of ancestral houses of all the people, with the priests and the Levites, came together to the scribe Ezra in order to study the words of the law. 14And they found it written in the law, which the Lord had commanded by Moses, that the people of Israel should live in booths during the festival of the seventh month, 15and that they should publish and proclaim in all their towns and in Jerusalem as follows, “Go out to the hills and bring branches of olive, wild olive, myrtle, palm, and other leafy trees to make booths, as it is written.”

16So the people went out and brought them, and made booths for themselves, each on the roofs of their houses, and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God, and in the square at the Water Gate and in the square at the Gate of Ephraim. 17And all the assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and lived in them; for from the days of Jeshua son of Nun to that day the people of Israel had not done so. And there was very great rejoicing.

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

After Nehemiah said The joy of the Lord is your strength, the people suddenly remembered Leviticus 23:39-43:  Ye shall take . . . the boughs of goodly trees . . . and ye shall rejoice before the Lord.  That was the commandment, such a happy one.  So they gathered branches, and made booths on their roofs (what fun for the children), and they sat in these green booths and rejoiced before the Lord for seven happy days.  And there was very great gladness.

Our God will do glorious things if only we let Him have His way in us.  He is a God of Joy, and He loves us to be happy.

Perhaps one of the secrets of happiness is found in the very next verse, Nehemiah 8:18:  Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, he read in the book of the law of God.  Can we say with Jeremiah (15:6), Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for truly I am called by Thy Name, O Lord God of Hosts!

_________________________

18And day by day, from the first day to the last day, he read from the book of the law of God. They kept the festival seven days; and on the eighth day there was a solemn assembly, according to the ordinance.

_________________________

Music:

“The joy of the Lord”  by Twila Paris.  Even today, we are “surrounded by mercy and grace”!


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
The joy of the Lord is your strength.   http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ylqZ2KvJn5U/TVqVS7avjZI/AAAAAAAAAFo/3TcQCsoGahA/s1600/joy%2Bof%2Bthe%2BLord.jpg
Ezra reads the law.  http://globalrecordings.net/images/avs/lll5-22.jpg
open Bible.  http://bwrfm.org/assets/images/OpenBible_1_02.jpg
Nehemiah 8:10.   http://internetcafedevotions.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/The-Joy-of-the-Lord-1024×633.jpg
making booths.  http://eborg3.com/Graphics/Bible/16-Nehemiah/01/800-Nehemiah%2013%20Making%20Booths.jpg

657.) Nehemiah 7

November 8, 2011

Today many young people and young families are “making aliyah” — moving to Israel, like the newcomers pictured above.  The Israeli government helps them with cash payments and various kinds of assistance.

Nehemiah 7   (NRSV)

Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed,

Psalm 68:24-26 (English Standard Version)

Your procession is seen, O God,
   the procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary—
the singers in front, the musicians last,
   between them virgins playing tambourines:
“Bless God in the great congregation,
   the LORD, O you who are of Israel’s fountain!”

2I gave my brother Hanani charge over Jerusalem, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel—for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many.

Nehemiah’s brother was the one who first told him about the sad state of affairs in Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:2). His initiative and concern made him well qualified to govern.

3And I said to them, “The gates of Jerusalem are not to be opened until the sun is hot; while the gatekeepers are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their watch posts, and others before their own houses.” 4The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few and no houses had been built.

Security had to be high since the people were few, so the gates of the city were opened late and closed early.

Lists of the Returned Exiles

5Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who were the first to come back, and I found the following written in it:

This genealogical record is nearly identical to the list found in Ezra 2.  Perhaps Nehemiah found Ezra’s list?  Anyway, unless you are looking for an unusual name for a child or a pet, you can read the next verses quickly!

6These are the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried into exile; they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. 7They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.

The number of the Israelite people: 8the descendants of Parosh, two thousand one hundred seventy-two. 9Of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy-two. 10Of Arah, six hundred fifty-two. 11Of Pahath-moab, namely the descendants of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand eight hundred eighteen. 12Of Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty-four. 13Of Zattu, eight hundred forty-five. 14Of Zaccai, seven hundred sixty. 15Of Binnui, six hundred forty-eight. 16Of Bebai, six hundred twenty-eight. 17Of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty-two. 18Of Adonikam, six hundred sixty-seven. 19Of Bigvai, two thousand sixty-seven. 20Of Adin, six hundred fifty-five. 21Of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, ninety-eight. 22Of Hashum, three hundred twenty-eight. 23Of Bezai, three hundred twenty-four. 24Of Hariph, one hundred twelve. 25Of Gibeon, ninety-five. 26The people of Bethlehem and Netophah, one hundred eighty-eight. 27Of Anathoth, one hundred twenty-eight. 28Of Beth-azmaveth, forty-two. 29Of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty-three. 30Of Ramah and Geba, six hundred twenty-one. 31Of Michmas, one hundred twenty-two. 32Of Bethel and Ai, one hundred twenty-three. 33Of the other Nebo, fifty-two. 34The descendants of the other Elam, one thousand two hundred fifty-four. 35Of Harim, three hundred twenty. 36Of Jericho, three hundred forty-five. 37Of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty-one. 38Of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred thirty.

39The priests: the descendants of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy-three. 40Of Immer, one thousand fifty-two. 41Of Pashhur, one thousand two hundred forty-seven. 42Of Harim, one thousand seventeen.

43The Levites: the descendants of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the descendants of Hodevah, seventy-four.

44The singers: the descendants of Asaph, one hundred forty-eight.

45The gatekeepers: the descendants of Shallum, of Ater, of Talmon, of Akkub, of Hatita, of Shobai, one hundred thirty-eight.

46The temple servants: the descendants of Ziha, of Hasupha, of Tabbaoth, 47of Keros, of Sia, of Padon, 48of Lebana, of Hagaba, of Shalmai, 49of Hanan, of Giddel, of Gahar, 50of Reaiah, of Rezin, of Nekoda, 51of Gazzam, of Uzza, of Paseah, 52of Besai, of Meunim, of Nephushesim, 53of Bakbuk, of Hakupha, of Harhur, 54of Bazlith, of Mehida, of Harsha, 55of Barkos, of Sisera, of Temah, 56of Neziah, of Hatipha.

57The descendants of Solomon’s servants: of Sotai, of Sophereth, of Perida, 58of Jaala, of Darkon, of Giddel, 59of Shephatiah, of Hattil, of Pochereth-hazzebaim, of Amon.

60All the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants were three hundred ninety-two.

61The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their ancestral houses or their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: 62the descendants of Delaiah, of Tobiah, of Nekoda, six hundred forty-two. 63Also, of the priests: the descendants of Hobaiah, of Hakkoz, of Barzillai (who had married one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). 64These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean; 65the governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food, until a priest with Urim and Thummim should come.

Only through genealogies could a person prove he was a descendant of Abraham and thus a true Jew, or a descendant of Aaron and thus able to be a priest.  In cases where there were questions, a priest could use the Urim and Thummim (a means of learning God’s will) and determine the answer.

_________________________

66The whole assembly together was forty-two thousand three hundred sixty (42,360), 67besides their male and female slaves, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty-seven; and they had two hundred forty-five singers, male and female. 68They had seven hundred thirty-six horses, two hundred forty-five mules, 69four hundred thirty-five camels, and six thousand seven hundred twenty donkeys.

70Now some of the heads of ancestral houses contributed to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand darics of gold, fifty basins, and five hundred thirty priestly robes. 71And some of the heads of ancestral houses gave into the building fund twenty thousand darics of gold and two thousand two hundred minas of silver. 72And what the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand darics of gold, two thousand minas of silver, and sixty-seven priestly robes.

73So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel settled in their towns.

This list was important because each of these people were important to God, in that they did what so few of their fellow Jews did –- they took the trouble to return back to the promised land after they had already set down roots for seventy years in the Babylonian empire.

 These are people who had a pioneer spirit; they were willing to endure hardship and discomfort, because they had a call from God that was more important than their own comfort. Life was easier in Babylon, but it was better in Jerusalem!

In this list several things were important.

  • Who the people were was important (specific names were mentioned).
  • What families they came from was important (many family heads are named).
  • Their gifts to support the work were important (they are specifically listed towards the end of the chapter).

This list flows beautifully after the completion of the work, because it reminds us that the work was really all about these people.

–David Guzik

_________________________

Jerusalem, My Happy Home

Hallelujah, we are on our way
Hallelujah, we are on our way to God

From Egypt lately come
Where death and darkness reign
To seek our new our better home
Where we our rest shall gain

There sin and sorrow cease
And every conflict’s o’er
There we shall dwell in endless peace
And never hunger more

We soon shall join the throng
Their pleasures we shall share
And sing the everlasting song
With all the ransomed there

There in celestial strains
Enraptured myriads sing
There love in every bosom reigns
For God Himself is King

Jerusalem, our happy home
Would God I were in Thee
Would God my woes were at an end
Thy joy that I might see

_________________________

Music:

A music video about making aliyah.  “It’s a beautiful life.”  Looking a the pictures, I wondered what would the returnees have thought if they could see Israel as it is today?!

_________________________

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
making aliyah.   http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/nefesh-arrival.jpg
from Babylon to Jerusalem.    http://oneyearbibleimages.com/scenes20from20the20return20from20exile.jpg
family tree.   http://newcosoheritagesocietyinc.org/images/genealogy_tree.jpg
He cares for you.  http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_3mz9OZ8RZ_g/StUiOIro_nI/AAAAAAAAAHE/zGv4OgssuP0/s400/God+cares+for+you.jpg