Psalm 138

Psalm 138

Of David.

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart;
    before the “gods” I will sing your praise.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
    and will praise your name
    for your unfailing love and your faithfulness,
for you have so exalted your solemn decree
    that it surpasses your fame.
When I called, you answered me;
    you greatly emboldened me.

May all the kings of the earth praise you, Lord,
    when they hear what you have decreed.
May they sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for the glory of the Lord is great.

Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
    though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
    with your right hand you save me.
The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.
(Psalm 138 NIV)

Psalm 138 is King David taking the time to contemplate God’s goodness in the past and trust in God’s sovereignty in the future.

David begins by choosing God over all the other idols (“gods”) that are known (v. 1).  David makes this choice and gives thanks to God for God’s love and faithfulness (v. 2a).  David takes the time to thank God that His Word is true, that God keeps His promises (v. 2b).

David remembers God’s protection and empowerment when he called out to the Lord for help (v. 3).  Based on those memories of God’s hand in his life, David desires that all of his peers (other kings and rulers) will also learn about God’s Word and ways and find the same peace and joy that David has found in the Lord (vv. 4-5).

Although David praises God from his current position as king, he remembers that God also knows the obscure and unknown (likely from his days as a shepherd boy in the back country, tending sheep).  God also knows the proud and sees them coming from a long distance (probably from his days serving his predecessor, King Saul) (v. 6).

Based on God’s goodness, provision, and protection in the past, David knows that he can trust the Lord in his present difficulties, even when his enemies are pursuing him (v. 7).

Looking to the future, David is confident that God will complete what He started in David’s life.  David remembers that God created him for a purpose.  God will not abandon him, either now or in eternity – God’s love and mercy endure forever (v. 8).

As we look at this psalm, how might we live this out in our lives and in our day?

  • May we hit the “pause” button on our life, notice where we are, what’s going on in and around us at this time, in this moment.
  • May we then pay attention to what we may have missed while we were caught up in the busyness and drama of life.
  • May we then inquire about what’s going on:
    • What am I thinking and believing about my situation right now?
    • What am I thinking and believing about me right now?
    • Are these beliefs and feelings about my situation and about myself really true?
  • May we then choose to let go of any false beliefs and feelings that don’t line up with God’s Word and character.  May we learn to lean on what God says about us and about our situation, seeing ourselves from God’s viewpoint and envisioning Him standing with us in our situation.

When we step into David’s practice of contemplation and apply it to our life as above, how does that change our perspective?

As you practice this new way of living, may you experience God’s grace and His smile upon you today.

Blessings,
~kevin

Psalm 62

Psalm 62

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

How long will you assault me?
    Would all of you throw me down—
    this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
    from my lofty place;
    they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
    but in their hearts they curse.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
    my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
    he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
    pour out your hearts to him,
    for God is our refuge.

Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
    the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
    together they are only a breath.
10 Do not trust in extortion
    or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
    do not set your heart on them.

11 One thing God has spoken,
    two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
12     and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
    according to what they have done.”
(Psalm 62, NIV)

Let’s take some time to listen as King David pours out his heart to the Lord:

  • Quiet confidence – in Him
  • Rest (v. 1) – in Him
  • Protection (fortress, v. 2, 6) – in Him
  • Hope (v. 5) – in Him
  • Trust (v. 8) – in Him
  • Our confidante, our “listening ear” (we can pour out our hearts, v. 8) – in HIm
  • Power to set things right (v. 11) – in Him
  • Love (v. 12) – in HIm
  • Blessing (reward, v. 12) – in Him

David wrote about a God he knew but had never seen.

We see all of David’s references to God fulfilled in God made flesh among us – Jesus Christ.

Take some time to re-read this psalm, seeing all references to God in Jesus, and making this your own prayer.

May verse 8 be your watchword, your “carry-with-you” verse for the day:

I trust in Jesus at all times;
    I pour out my heart to Jesus,
    for Jesus is my refuge.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 13:23-31

23 Moreover, in those days I saw men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod or the language of one of the other peoples, and did not know how to speak the language of Judah. 25 I rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. I made them take an oath in God’s name and said: “You are not to give your daughters in marriage to their sons, nor are you to take their daughters in marriage for your sons or for yourselves. 26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women. 27 Must we hear now that you too are doing all this terrible wickedness and are being unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women?”

28 One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest was son-in-law to Sanballat the Horonite. And I drove him away from me.

29 Remember them, my God, because they defiled the priestly office and the covenant of the priesthood and of the Levites.

30 So I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. 31 I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the firstfruits.

Remember me with favor, my God.
(Nehemiah 13:23-31 NIV)

In previous passages, Nehemiah had departed Jerusalem, traveled back to Babylon to resume his duties with the king, then returned again to Jerusalem.  Upon his return, Nehemiah found three major issues, all related to assimilating into the culture of the surrounding non-Jewish people:

  • Use and operation of the Temple was not according to God’s Word
  • Not keeping the Sabbath as God’s Word commanded
  • Intermarrying with non-Jewish people, again in direct violation of God’s Word

As we discovered last time, Nehemiah dealt with the use and operation of the Temple first, then with the keeping of the Sabbath.  In today’s passage, Nehemiah confronts the issue of intermarriage with non-Jewish people.

When Nehemiah realizes that Jewish men were marrying non-Jewish women (v. 23), he sees the implications first-hand in the children of these illegal unions.  While the kids could speak the language of their mothers, none had learned the language of their fathers (v. 24).  How could these kids be expected to learn God’s ways if they could neither speak nor read Hebrew, the language of Judah?  This was not the children’s problem – this fell squarely on the shoulders of the fathers.

Nehemiah knew that this generation would be lost if they did not stop this sin immediately.   Remember the national day of repentance, fasting, Scripture reading, and prayer in chapters 9 – 10?  One of the outcomes of that day was a written document outlining how the people would obey God’s commands, signed by over 80 Jewish leaders, and agreed to by everyone in Israel.

In that document, the people took an oath to obey God and called down a curse upon themselves if they did not obey (10:29).  The first item on that list was the promise to not intermarry with non-Jewish people (10:30).  The other two issues (use and operation of the Temple, and keeping the Sabbath) were also in that document.

Ezra had dealt with this same issue (Ezra 9 – 10) and required the men to end those illegal marriages and send the women back to their homelands.  Nehemiah, as governor, took a different approach and called down the self-imposed curse in 10:29 on them.  There also appeared to be a physical altercation, and Nehemiah physically punished those who knew better but disobeyed God’s commands anyway (v. 25).

Nehemiah reminded these men about Solomon, the wisest king of all Israel, whose downfall came through disobedience to God’s command to not marry foreign (non-Jewish) women (v. 26).  If life ended badly for Solomon because of this sin, how did these men think life would end any better for them?

One of the men who intermarried was the grandson of Eliashib the high priest.  Not only had he set a bad example for the rest of Israel and Jerusalem, but he had done so with a vengeance.  This man had married a daughter of Sanballat, one of the chief antagonists and conspirators against God and His people (v. 28).  Nehemiah ran this man and his family off, expelling them from the city and from Jewish community altogether.  Nehemiah also prayed that the Lord would deal with this man and his family for being such a bad example of living in open defiance of God’s Word (v. 29).

Like his other prayers after dealing with the previous two issues, Nehemiah ended by praying that the Lord would remember the good he (Nehemiah) had done despite the sins of the people.

May we realize that the Lord has our best in mind when He gives certain commands to live by.  He is not a cosmic killjoy, but rather a loving Father that knows some things will end badly for us if we choose that thought or course of action.

May we also remember that God is sovereign, and despite our best efforts, things don’t always turn out as we had hoped.  While Nehemiah’s book ends on a certain note of sadness, it also points us forward to Christ, the great Redeemer and King.  God used Nehemiah in a mighty way, despite the choices of the Jewish people.

May we be faithful to our calling, and to His Word.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 13:15-22

15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath and bringing in grain and loading it on donkeys, together with wine, grapes, figs and all other kinds of loads. And they were bringing all this into Jerusalem on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them against selling food on that day. 16 People from Tyre who lived in Jerusalem were bringing in fish and all kinds of merchandise and selling them in Jerusalem on the Sabbath to the people of Judah. 17 I rebuked the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this wicked thing you are doing—desecrating the Sabbath day? 18 Didn’t your ancestors do the same things, so that our God brought all this calamity on us and on this city? Now you are stirring up more wrath against Israel by desecrating the Sabbath.”

19 When evening shadows fell on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered the doors to be shut and not opened until the Sabbath was over. I stationed some of my own men at the gates so that no load could be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Once or twice the merchants and sellers of all kinds of goods spent the night outside Jerusalem. 21 But I warned them and said, “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you do this again, I will arrest you.” From that time on they no longer came on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.

Remember me for this also, my God, and show mercy to me according to your great love.
(Nehemiah 13:15-22 NIV)

In our last passage, Nehemiah had departed Jerusalem, traveled back to Babylon to resume his duties with the king, then returned again to Jerusalem.  Upon his return, Nehemiah found three major issues, all related to assimilating into the culture of the surrounding non-Jewish people:

  • Use and operation of the Temple was in violation of God’s Word
  • Violations of keeping the Sabbath according to God’s Word
  • Intermarrying with non-Jewish people, again in direct violation of God’s Word

As we discovered last time, Nehemiah dealt with the use and operation of the Temple first.  In today’s passage, Nehemiah confronts the issue of not keeping the Sabbath.

Nehemiah recognized the importance of keeping the Sabbath – not from a legalistic “obey the rules” point of view, but from a heart and relationship perspective.  Remember that God created the Sabbath for humanity to stop their work and enjoy their relationship with Him, and He with them.  The Sabbath was also a day where people demonstrated God’s ability to provide for their needs – they could enjoy one day off without worrying that they would starve or evil would befall them if they did not work on that day.  Also, setting aside the Sabbath was a distinguishing characteristic of God’s people – something that set them apart from all the other nations and showed God’s goodness and provision.

Nehemiah addressed the agricultural producers first.  They were treading grapes to make wine, loading and transporting produce, and bringing their produce to market on the Sabbath (v. 15).  As Jewish people, they knew better but still were treating the Sabbath like any other day.

Next, Nehemiah addressed the non-Jewish foreigners who were importing and selling goods on the Sabbath (v. 16).  Nehemiah rebuked the city leaders for allowing the marketplace to be open on the Sabbath (v. 17) and reminded them that this desecrating of the Sabbath was one of the things that led to Israel’s and Jerusalem’s downfall and exile (v. 18).  Had they already forgotten God’s goodness and His discipline for abandoning their relationship with Him?

Nehemiah was not simply scolding those he addressed.  In order to reinforce his point, Nehemiah ordered the city gates to be shut throughout the Sabbath to prevent any trade or merchandise to flow in and out of the city (v. 19).  A few times the merchants tried to keep the letter of Nehemiah’s command but violate the intent by setting up shop right outside the city gates.  The merchants were hoping to entice the people of Jerusalem to come outside the city on the Sabbath, buy what they wanted, then go back in the city.  Nehemiah put a stop to that and told the merchants that if they showed up again on the Sabbath, he would arrest them (vv. 20-21).  The merchants knew that Nehemiah was not joking, and they did not show up again on the Sabbath.

Finally, Nehemiah commanded the Levites to do their job as gatekeepers of Jerusalem (v. 22a).

Once again, Nehemiah ended his notes with a prayer that the Lord would remember the good he was doing and not the disobedience of the Jewish people.

While we as followers of Jesus don’t celebrate the Sabbath per se as the Old Testament people of God did, do we take time each week to ponder and meditate on God’s goodness and faithfulness?

Do we trust that the Lord will provide if we take a day off, or are we too fearful, paranoid, and dependent on our own resources to trust the Lord for a day of rest?

Let’s balance this thought by noting that Jesus said that acts of mercy and kindness on the Sabbath were not in violation of God’s Law.  If a child or an ox falls into a well on the Sabbath, it’s fine to pull them out (Luke 14:5).  God’s mercy and grace are in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

May we find joy and refreshment each week by focusing on the Lord and spending extended time with Him and other Christ followers.

May we take the time to thank the Lord for a successful past week and trust Him for the week to come and commit ourselves, the events, and the time to come for His glory.

May we remember that our relationship with the Lord transcends our fight for survival and our daily needs.  A weekly day of rest is God’s way of reminding us of the eternal rest and time with Him that awaits us in the future.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 13:1-14

13 On that day the Book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing of the people and there it was found written that no Ammonite or Moabite should ever be admitted into the assembly of God, because they had not met the Israelites with food and water but had hired Balaam to call a curse down on them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.) When the people heard this law, they excluded from Israel all who were of foreign descent.

Before this, Eliashib the priest had been put in charge of the storerooms of the house of our God. He was closely associated with Tobiah, and he had provided him with a large room formerly used to store the grain offerings and incense and temple articles, and also the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil prescribed for the Levites, musicians and gatekeepers, as well as the contributions for the priests.

But while all this was going on, I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Some time later I asked his permission and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiaha room in the courts of the house of God. I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense.

10 I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and musicians responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. 11 So I rebuked the officials and asked them, “Why is the house of God neglected?” Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts.

12 All Judah brought the tithes of grain, new wine and olive oil into the storerooms. 13 I put Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a Levite named Pedaiah in charge of the storerooms and made Hanan son of Zakkur, the son of Mattaniah, their assistant, because they were considered trustworthy. They were made responsible for distributing the supplies to their fellow Levites.

14 Remember me for this, my God, and do not blot out what I have so faithfully done for the house of my God and its services.
(Nehemiah 13:1-14 NIV)

In our last time together, we saw Nehemiah lead the dedication of the walls and gates of Jerusalem.  While this was a solemn ceremony, the thankfulness and praise to the Lord for all He had done resulted in spontaneous worship and overwhelming joy for all!

As we begin today’s text, verses 1-3 are still part of that dedication day.  As God’s Word was read as part of the dedication ceremony, the Lord had said long ago that Moabites and Ammonites could not be part of the nation of Israel because of the evil they had intended for God’s people (Deuteronomy 23:3-5).  When God’s people heard that command, they obeyed immediately and evicted the Ammonites and Moabites that were living in Israel (vv. 1-3).

Verse 6 gives us time reference for the next set of events.  The initial timeframe when Nehemiah came to Israel was in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign.  Now it was the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes’ reign.  Scholars are divided over the implications of this date.  Did this mean that Nehemiah was in Jerusalem for 12 years straight?  Or did he leave sometime after the first year, and made check-in trips every few years?

No matter what the case, Nehemiah was back in Jerusalem to see what was going on.  Nehemiah found three issues where the people had compromised their beliefs and their practices and had made unholy alliances with their non-Jewish neighbors:

  • The use and operation of the Temple and care for the Temple staff (Levites and singers) was not according to God’s commands (vv. 4-14)
  • The Lord’s Day (the Sabbath) was not being kept according to God’s command (vv. 15-22)
  • The Jewish people had begun intermarrying with non-Jewish people again, thus violating God’s commands once more (vv. 23-31)

As we look at today’s text, we see Eliashib the priest giving Tobiah his relative a room in the Temple as an apartment.  Tobiah, not being a Jew, should never have been in the Temple to begin with – this was a violation of God’s commands. When Nehemiah discovered this issue, he immediately threw out all of Tobiah’s personal belongings, cleansed the room, and restored the room to its original purpose (vv. 4-9).

Remember also that Tobiah was one of the main critics of Nehemiah, the rebuilding of the walls and gates, and stirred up the other neighboring provinces against Israel.  For Eliashib to invite Tobiah in and give him an apartment in the Temple was unthinkable and an affront to the Jewish people and to the Lord.

Nehemiah also discovered that the Levites and singers were not being cared for according to God’s Word.  Once again the Levites and singers were overlooked and were going hungry.  In order to survive, they left their roles in the Temple and went back to subsistence farming outside the city.

Nehemiah reinstated the Levites and singers to their roles and appointed new leaders over the distribution of food and resources to the Levites and singers as God had commanded.

Nehemiah ended today’s text by asking God to remember what he (Nehemiah) had done right, not what had gone wrong.

If you have been involved in ministry, you know that things can and do go wrong.

May you, like Nehemiah,  have the strength and courage to set things right according to God’s Word.

And like Nehemiah, may you press into God’s grace and mercy for what you have done to lead well according to God’s Word and prompting, letting the choices and sins of others be on their heads, not yours.

Blessings,
~kevin

Nehemiah 12:27-47

27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall.

31 I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on top of the wall to the right, toward the Dung Gate. 32 Hoshaiah and half the leaders of Judah followed them, 33 along with Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34 Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, Jeremiah, 35 as well as some priests with trumpets,and also Zechariah son of Jonathan, the son of Shemaiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Micaiah, the son of Zakkur, the son of Asaph,36 and his associates—Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah and Hanani—with musical instruments prescribed by David the man of God. Ezra the teacher of the Law led the procession. 37 At the Fountain Gate they continued directly up the steps of the City of David on the ascent to the wall and passed above the site of David’s palace to the Water Gate on the east.

38 The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction. I followed them on top of the wall, together with half the people—past the Tower of the Ovens to the Broad Wall, 39 over the Gate of Ephraim, the Jeshanah Gate, the Fish Gate, the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Sheep Gate. At the Gate of the Guard they stopped.

40 The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials, 41 as well as the priests—Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah and Hananiah with their trumpets— 42 and also Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malkijah, Elam and Ezer. The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. 43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

44 At that time men were appointed to be in charge of the storerooms for the contributions, firstfruits and tithes. From the fields around the towns they were to bring into the storerooms the portions required by the Law for the priests and the Levites, for Judah was pleased with the ministering priests and Levites. 45 They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did also the musicians and gatekeepers, according to the commands of David and his son Solomon.46 For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.47 So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the musicians and the gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.
(Nehemiah 12:27-47 NIV)

Previously we studied the process used to repopulate the city of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah also used that occasion to take a census of the priests, Levites, and singers by tracing everyone’s family roots back to the exiles that came to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel.

So why did Nehemiah take this headcount?  This leads to our passage today – the dedication of the walls and gates of Jerusalem.  By taking the census, Nehemiah identified all the families that had been set aside by the Lord to serve Him in the days of King David.  Zerubbabel (and later Ezra) had pulled the family records and traced the history of the people to identify all who were of the lineage (family line) of the priests, Levites, and singers so they could participate in the dedication ceremony.   Nehemiah then used those more recent records to make an “all hands” call to the descendants of those the Lord had appointed so many centuries ago.

The priests, Levites, and singers came from near and far to participate in the dedication ceremony.  The leaders ceremonially purified themselves for the event, according to God’s Law (Exodus 19:10,14-15).  This ceremonial purification involved washing their clothes and themselves and abstaining from sexual intercourse.

Once all the priests, Levites, and singers were gathered near the Temple, Nehemiah split them into two groups – two mass “choirs” if you will.  One group was sent to the right of the Temple, the other to the left of the Temple.  The two groups encircled the city and stood on top of the walls.

Most of the time we think of a choir performing in the front of a church or auditorium, facing the audience.  On a few occasions, I have had the privilege of being in a worship service where the choir encircled or “ringed” the audience and sang their songs.  It was truly a “surround sound” experience.

Now imagine that “surround sound” experience at a city level, with the “choir” of priests, Levites, and singers standing on top of the city walls and the people on the ground inside the walls singing along in their praises to the Lord!  That is what happened that day.

Nehemiah noted that even though the event was a solemn dedication, there was “great joy” (v. 43), and the women and children were rejoicing and singing along with the choir!  Truly the joy of the Lord is contagious, isn’t it?  Nehemiah noted that the worship could be heard from far away.

Nehemiah also noted that there were many sacrifices offered to the Lord in the Temple, and the priests, Levites, and singers all received their allocation of food and provisions according to God’s Word.

It’s important to note that this dedication ceremony was to express their thankfulness to the Lord and show their faith in Him.  The walls and gates were important, but their hope remained in God, not in the walls and gates.

May we rejoice in what the Lord has done in our lives and give Him thanks today.

Also, take some time to use your Biblically informed imagination and put yourself back in that day and in the dedication service.  Imagine singing praises to the Lord along with the choir and the people on the ground, experiencing the joy of the Lord first-hand as an entire city worships the Lord together.

Do you have goose bumps yet?

Joyfully,
~kevin

Nehemiah 12:1-26

12 These were the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and with Joshua:

Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra,

Amariah, Malluk, Hattush,

Shekaniah, Rehum, Meremoth,

Iddo, Ginnethon, Abijah,

Mijamin, Moadiah, Bilgah,

Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah,

Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah and Jedaiah.

These were the leaders of the priests and their associates in the days of Joshua.

The Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and also Mattaniah, who, together with his associates, was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Bakbukiah and Unni, their associates, stood opposite them in the services.

10 Joshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, 11 Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.

12 In the days of Joiakim, these were the heads of the priestly families:

of Seraiah’s family, Meraiah;

of Jeremiah’s, Hananiah;

13 of Ezra’s, Meshullam;

of Amariah’s, Jehohanan;

14 of Malluk’s, Jonathan;

of Shekaniah’s, Joseph;

15 of Harim’s, Adna;

of Meremoth’s, Helkai;

16 of Iddo’s, Zechariah;

of Ginnethon’s, Meshullam;

17 of Abijah’s, Zikri;

of Miniamin’s and of Moadiah’s, Piltai;

18 of Bilgah’s, Shammua;

of Shemaiah’s, Jehonathan;

19 of Joiarib’s, Mattenai;

of Jedaiah’s, Uzzi;

20 of Sallu’s, Kallai;

of Amok’s, Eber;

21 of Hilkiah’s, Hashabiah;

of Jedaiah’s, Nethanel.

22 The family heads of the Levites in the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, as well as those of the priests, were recorded in the reign of Darius the Persian. 23 The family heads among the descendants of Levi up to the time of Johanan son of Eliashib were recorded in the book of the annals. 24 And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God.

25 Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. 26 They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law.
(Nehemiah 12:1-26 NIV)

In our last passage, we saw the repopulation of Jerusalem from the Jewish people who lived in the surrounding villages.   One of ten Jewish families living outside the city walls moved into the city.  Having people live inside the city walls was important to creating a safe and prosperous city – physically, spiritually, and socially.  Building community is more than houses – it’s the relationships that make a city function.

Today we see the generations of priests and Levites since the exiles returned with Zerubbabel.  Verses 1 – 11 list the original priests and Levites that came with Zerubbabel; verses 12-26 list the subsequent generations of priests and Levites up to those in Nehemiah’s day.

So why are these records important and included in Nehemiah’s book?  The next passage (12:27 – 13:3) describe the official dedication of Jerusalem’s walls and gates, and the priests and Levites had a leading role in that celebration.  In seeking to obey the Lord, Nehemiah wanted to follow God’s ordinances laid out during the days of King David (v. 24).  Making sure that the families God ordained in David’s reign were present and leading the people was part of that obedience.

Remember that many of these Biblical ordinances that Nehemiah reinstated had been forgotten over the centuries.  It was only through the reading of God’s Word that the people were reminded of what God had established long ago for their good and His glory.

May we spend time in God’s Word to remind us of His great love for us, and his purpose and plan for our lives.

Blessings,
~kevin