October 31st is a very popular day. Many people immediately recognize it as Halloween, but there is a much more significant aspect to this day. 505 years ago a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg church in Germany and from there launched the Protestant Reformation. Luther knew the Church needed reformation (i.e., making significant changes that bring improvement). Thankfully, the Church of Jesus Christ recovered the key biblical doctrine of justification by faith and rejected false teachings as purgatory, indulgences, and papal authority. Just as Martin Luther called for reformation among the Church in 1517, approximately 2,000 years earlier Nehemiah called for reformation among the Jewish people. In 2022, we need reformation.
The Repopulation of Jerusalem (11:1-12:26)
In Nehemiah 11, we learn that “the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths remained in the other cities” (11:1). We see that some people volunteered to live in Jerusalem (11:2) while others were selected. We learn that some of the sons of Judah and Benjamin went (4) to live in Jerusalem. There were some from the priests (10), the Levites (15), some temple servants (12), and singers (22) who went to praise the Lord and give thanks (12:24).
God’s works are powerful and He accomplishes all His good work. It is remarkable that God chooses to work powerfully through His people. As we learned in chapter 7, God not only wants Jerusalem’s walls to be rebuilt, but he wants Jerusalem to be filled with His people. The repopulation of Jerusalem was a means of reformation. God called the people to repopulate Jerusalem so that it would be filled with men, women, and children. God desired that Jerusalem would be full of activity. Above all, God desired that Jerusalem be filled with men, women, and children who praise His holy name. Warren Wiersbe said, “Never underestimate the importance of simply being physically present in the place where God wants you.”
The Dedication of the Wall of Jerusalem (12:27-47)
The wall was completed. The gates are rebuilt. Jerusalem is quickly becoming repopulated. The people have celebrated the Feast of Booths and confessed their sin. What’s next? It was now time to dedicate the wall. Nehemiah said “they sought out the Levites from all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem so that they might celebrate the dedication with gladness, with hymns of thanksgiving and with songs to the accompaniment of cymbals, harps and lyres” (12:27). It was time to celebrate what the Lord had done and to praise Him. Notice how they dedicated the wall: purification, adoration, and consecration.
Nehemiah records for us: “The priests and the Levites purified themselves; they also purified the people, the gates and the wall” (12:30). According to the Law of Moses, they would bathe and wash their clothes. They would separate themselves from those who had disease and clean any areas that were defiled and/or contained mildew. They purified themselves as an act of worship. It is important to remember that we purify ourselves by submitting to God’s method of purification. In the New Covenant, we are purified by the blood of Jesus when we are born again and become a Christian.
Nehemiah then “appointed two great choirs, the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall toward the Refuse Gate (12:31)…the second choir proceeded to the left…above the Tower of Furnaces, to the Broad Wall” (12:38). These two choirs along with others “took their stand in the house of God (12:40)…and on that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar” (12:43). The people rejoiced because the Lord had heard their cries and blessed them. We should cry out in praise: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing…To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion for ever and ever” (Rev 5:12-13).
After they purified themselves and worshiped the Lord, they consecrated themselves and their possessions for the worship of the Lord. Nehemiah wrote, “On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who served” (12:44). They are gathering their contributions and “they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers” (12:45). We also read: “So all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah gave the portions due the singers and the gatekeepers as each day required, and set apart the consecrated portion for the Levites, and the Levites set apart the consecrated portion for the sons of Aaron” (12:47). The leaders and the people are giving themselves and their possessions as a sacrifice unto the Lord.
Always Needing Reformation
We are in need of improvement. We need reformation and revival. Prayerfully consider what significant changes God is showing you that need to be made in order to bring spiritual improvement. God has chosen to work through His people. God doesn’t have to do His work of redemption through us, but that is how He has chosen to do it.
Remember how you came to become a Christian. Reflect on who were the instrumental people that led you to Jesus. With our Refocus initiative, we are calling upon God to do a mighty work of renewal and reformation among us. We know that we are powerless to effect change in ourselves but we know that God can change our hearts. We know that we are ineffective to change the behavior of others, but we know that the same power at work within us to change us can also change anyone. As the old hymn goes: “O Lord, send a revival! Lord, send a revival! O Lord, send a revival, And let it begin in me!”