And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the porters, the singers, the Nethinims [servants to the Levites], and all they that had separated themselves from the people of the lands unto the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one having knowledge, and having understanding;
In the last lesson we read the first three verses of chapter nine. The rest of chapter nine is a recounting of the history of Israel and God’s blessing upon them. It concludes with verse 38 where they declare that they will make a written commitment to return to God and the greatness of His Word. The people were thoughtfully remembering the past and pouring out their souls to God. They verbally declared their dependence upon Him, and then sealed it by making a covenant, which they document in writing. They were really serious and so that all would know they meant business, they committed it to writing. This is the basis for what we did in our Declaration of Independence. Nehemiah 10:1-27 lists all the signatures, all eighty-four names. Nehemiah’s name is first. Then comes twenty-two priests (vv. 1-8); seventeen Levites (vv. 9-18); and forty-four others who were called leaders or heads of homes (vv. 10-27). Note the two things that characterized the people (v 28) whose names appeared on the document: (1) They had separated themselves from all the heathen and their lifestyle giving themselves to the Word of God. (2) They had an understanding of what they were doing.
In order to sign the document, a person had to understand that the appearance of his name meant he would be distinctively unique and unlike the pagans surrounding him. Not only would they commit themselves, but their commitment included their wives, their sons, and their daughters. They did it as families working together
Although the names of some sons and daughters appeared on the document, not all the names were listed because verse 28 begins “Now the rest of the people….” There were others besides these who were willing to say, “We’re going to be distinct individuals. We are not concerned about what anyone else does. We will not conform to those around us in matters that really pertain to life.”
Charles Swindoll in Hand Me Another Brick, had a good take on why it was important for them to do this. He said it was important because:
…they drove a “literary stake” into the ground that day. It became a rallying point; they erected a written monument that said in effect, “This is our promise to you, O God. This is our constitution, our declaration of distinction. We don’t care if anyone else in the world lives by this. We will live by it. It will be our guide. Our homes will be distinct. Our philosophy of life will not be like that of those who live outside the walls or even of some who live within the city’s walls. This is something, Lord, that we want to carry out before You.”
This vow or commitment to live for God would be evidenced in a lifestyle that would set them apart from those around them. They were being reinstructed and now were rededicating themselves to stay faithful to it.
They clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into 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 judgments and his statutes;
This built a sense of community and set standard for living together according to the truth of the Word of God. The standards of conduct that they recommitted themselves to were to marry within the tribes of Israel (10:30), to not sell goods on the Sabbath and to forgive debt in the seventh year (10:31). They committed once again to the tithe and offerings, and set the Levites and priests in their courses. Now that this was reestablished they were ready to dedicate the wall.
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.
The celebration was so intense and their thankfulness so heartfelt that it resounded throughout the land.
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.
When the people in Nehemiah first began the work on the wall in Jerusalem, they dedicated it to God. At the completion of their mission, they dedicated the finished work to God. It is important to continue the mission by making sure it’s faithful to biblical principles. However, there was still more to do.
Leadership doesn’t end with the completion of one mission. The leader must move on to new goals and continue to grow the ministry and to nurture the progress that has been made. John Maxwell says that “the idea of arriving is an illusion…. The point of the journey is not arriving. The point is what you learn and whom you become along the way.”
After the work was complete, Nehemiah returned to Babylon to his service with King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 13:6). However, he did not forget about the work in Jerusalem and obtained a leave from his duties once again to conduct a review. What he found upset him and he set out to confront the evil that had invaded. We’ll read about that in our next lesson.
By Wayne Clapp