The wall is completed and Nehemiah calls all of Judah and Jerusalem to celebrate and dedicate God's mercy and blessing and the walls and gates. The Levites are consecrated to lead the worship. Two great choirs are assembled to sing praises to Jehovah. Ezra is there to lead the procession. The musical instrumentation includes lyre, tambourine, flute, trumpets, horns, bells and cymbals. It must have been an awesome sight to see and a glorious time of worship. Joyful praise filled the air. The book of law was read again to the assembled masses and all were reminded of the history of Israel and of the significance of this moment as God blesses them and calls them again to obedient service.
Priests and Levites are dedicated to their particular service in the temple, the city and at the new gates to the city. The people are reminded of the need for their obedience to the law of God that they had sworn to and reminded again that they are a people called out of the world and are to keep themselves holy. Nehemiah returns to Artaxerxes as he had promised. Some time later, he returns to Jerusalem and is overwhelmed by what he see.
People are buying and selling on the Sabbath. Men are working their winepresses on the Sabbath. Men of Judah are again marrying foreign wives. The Levites have returned to the country villages and farms to earn a living because the offerings have not been given and distributed to those who were dedicated to service. Tobiah, the same one who sought to keep the gates and walls from being built, has used his influence to obtain his own personal room in the temple. This even though he is a foreigner and forbidden by God to enter the temple.
Nehemiah again cleanses the temple and sets things right as the law of God called him too. He berates the sinful deeds of the people and again reminds them of how Israel and Jerusalem had come to ruin. He again calls them to repentance and revival. Nehemiah pleads with God to remember his constant effort to turn his city and his people from the evil that was in their heart.
The Nehemiah story is a great tale of accomplishing a seemingly impossible task. It is a story about leadership and bravery and cooperation. It is a story about revival and renewal. It is a story that reveals that the human heart is a very difficult thing to change. Ever since the days of Adam and Eve, humanity has demonstrated its willingness to defy God. We do not keep the Sabbath, we do not honor our parents, we do not refrain from idol worship, we lie and steal and cheat and kill. The law cannot save us because we cannot keep the law. Israel's disgrace is our own disgrace. We need a savior, one who can save us from the wages of sin. Only grace can cure the disease of our broken hearts. God did hear the prayer of Nehemiah. He did not forget Nehemiah's great work and even more he sent one to love us back into a place in God's heart.
Tomorrow we begin the wonderful story of Esther. I hope you will read it with me and see again how God can use the most unlikely of people to do a mighty work. It is miracle stuff.....just like you.