Monday, 09 June 2008 10:21

A Celebration So Inspiriting, Instructive, and Important

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A special celebration who doesn't like to see and experience such in life? Our Scripture passage tells of the joyful dedication service in celebration of the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiahs time long ago. In a real sense Nehemiah 12 is like the climax of the book of Nehemiah. All that Nehemiah had come to Jerusalem for had been accomplished. The walls were rebuilt in less than two months, even against the greatest of odds! God helped them and prospered them in the work so clearly and so much. It is back in chapter 6:15 that we are told about the project being finished, but it is not till chapter 12 that you have this celebration service. Only after Nehemiah had taken care of certain reforms and when all things seemed organized for the furtherance of Gods church and kingdom, then this dedication celebration takes place. And it was a great celebration, indeed! It is striking how in chapter 12:43 you find no less than five times the word joy or rejoicing. 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.

We see it was a wonderful celebration taking place here, a celebration so inspiring, so instructive, and so important. That it was so very inspiring, I have already alluded to and just reading the text passage surely brings that out. A good question to ask ourselves, also with all our celebrations in life, is What makes for inspiring celebration really? In your celebrations can you honestly say you know and reflect something of the joyful celebration in praise to God as found in our Scripture passage? Let me in this message focus especially on the celebration of Nehemiah 12 being so instructive for us today still in different ways.

Notice, for one, that true joyful celebration worthwhile is something that God gives. We read in Nehemiah 12:43, God had made them rejoice with great joy. In the Hebrew the verb form is in the so called perfect intensive, meaning God really gladdened them with great joy, yes, through His works and ways on their behalf and His further promises to them for His own Names sake. Have you learned too that in this world of misery on account of sin, on this earth so filled with evil and unrest and confusion and trouble, the only real source of true joy and blessing is found in and with the Lord and His mercies and provisions for us? Before Nehemiah came to be an instrument in Gods hands for their good, the people were in great distress and misery. Just look again at Nehemiah 1. But God came to their rescue, as this inspired book tells us, and gave them joy. He brought them His blessing and favour and His mighty hand of deliverance and help, and gave them new life and hope for the future. And again remember the story of all that as unfolded in the book of Nehemiah as we studied it is but a dim reflection just of Gods greater and ultimate redeeming saving work through Jesus Christ the Saviour, the long promised Messiah!

How many look for joy and celebration as something to be gained from their circumstances, or from their health and their incomes, or from their friends, or from a party setting. But true celebration is something given from the Lord and found only in union and communion with Him. What is the source of your joys and your celebrations in life, dear friend? Nehemiah 12 calls out to us to let it be in and with and from God, and you will not be disappointed!

Notice another instructive point about true celebration and joy. Not only is that something given from God, but also it, in turn, is God-focused. Nehemiah 12 clearly relates this truth. Here it is so remarkable to notice that while the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem are the occasion for this time of joyful celebration yet hardly does that get the focus. Rather the focus is on God and His temple service and all that God is and promises and promotes through His Word and in His temple. Nehemiahs name is in the background and the temple of the Lord is in the foreground, the place where God reveals Himself most fully. True joy and celebration like in this chapter focuses not on the blessings of God for us, but on the God of blessings Himself. Our joys quickly diminish when our focus is transferred on the gifts given by God rather than on God the Giver Himself! Which believer has not discovered that in his or her life? We go so wrong when we dont live God-focused lives. You may think that is such a well known gospel fact, why do you have to say it even? But all of human history and the very book of Nehemiah brings out, though we may know well the call to be God-focused in all our life, also from our own experience, yet it is something we can so easily forget, time and again.

True joy and lasting godly celebration in life is something from God and something God-focused too. This Nehemiah 12 makes clear. It gives still more instructive points about true joy and celebration showing next that where you find such, there also will be a spirit of repentance and integrity before God and others. Consider how all was purified before this celebrative joyful service as mentioned in verse 30. This purification ceremony was likely with the sprinkled blood of the sacrifices offered for sin, pointing ultimately to Christs shed through Whom alone is found forgiveness and remission of all sin. If you would have a happy countenance before God and others truly, you also need then a clean heart before God and others or else your joy will be hollow. Moral carelessness and uncleanness of life takes the joy out of life. Have you found this out too in your heart and life? Sin, and indulging in it in any way, spoils so much always, if not initially yet eventually. How the people in Nehemiahs time realized God had been so undeservingly good to them in all His mercies shown to them. Should we not today say so all the more even seeing the fullness of Gods gospel promises fulfilled in the Saviours coming and His once for all sacrifice for sin on behalf of sinners?

Another ingredient of great gladness and joy in the Lord is worship and praise with others. See that with so many names of individuals given, all contributing to the people together glorying in God and rejoicing with great gladness before Him. True joy and celebration in the Lord is not something that can stay private and it is something which flourishes within the setting of congregational worship. How singing together can so be to Gods praise not only, but be so good for the soul too and reviving the heart in His ways. Here notice how the text mentions the people sang loudly, literally, they caused the singing to be heard. They raised the roof as it were with their singing Gods praises.

Most of the singing in this world today is done by entertainers who make big dollars with their songs, but otherwise people dont sing much. But Gods people are made by Him, gladly and regularly, a singing people. In hell there will be no singing ever, but only wailing and groaning and moaning unceasingly. In heaven, on the other hand, continuous praises without end will be given in all kinds of ways by all kinds of peoples in a beautiful way and harmony more wonderful and soul-stirring then we can ever imagine could be possible! When truly in the joy of the Lord and in celebration of His goodness and mercy, an evidence and fruit of that is also happy participation in worship and praise of God with others, and not to want, if at all possible, to miss those occasions that God gives us so to praise and honor Him. Is this something reflected also in your joys and celebrations in life?

One other instructive point to mention yet about true celebration and joy before God is that, in true godly celebration you become, and give, such a winsome testimony to others. The people afar off heard the joy of the people of Jerusalem, and with the heads of the home rejoicing in God and singing His praises, the wives and children joined in as well. Smiling singing saints are such a witness for the gospel in the home and in the community and our world. A joyful person is contagious and the Christian faith is such that in and through Christ we can be joyful truly and steadfastly even in the face of great trials and even in meeting with death. For in Christ Jesus we are more than conquerors in life and death, no matter what may come at us.

But admittedly this is not so easy to realize and live by, as daily we have to struggle against the flesh and this world and Satan. But the gospel tidings not only with the finished rebuilt walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiahs time but again far more with Jesus coming to this earth as Saviour proclaim the good news He came as the Emmanuel, God with us! With Him is salvation and deliverance and redemption rich and free even for as many as trust and follow Him. Let this Nehemiah celebration passage then call you to repentance and faith in the Lord and by His mercy and grace also then to live in godly joy in a contagious sort of way, beginning in your homes. Isnt this the God-given calling the Lord gives to His people, that we know and reflect the true joy and celebration in a world of so much false joy and so much empty celebration?

I need to end, but I want to speak yet about the importance of this godly joyful celebration in our lives. The celebration here in Nehemiah 12 is not only something so inspiring and so instructive, but so important. Why important? Because if you are not rejoicing in the Lord and ever celebrating His mercy and grace in your life, the very great likelihood is that you are not living rightly and even turning away from God and His ways. Even the last chapter of the book of Nehemiah, chapter 13, brings out this sad reality. If you are not rejoicing in God, you are likely departing from God. That is a fact of history. You see why it is so important then to live in hearty joyful celebration before God and in harmony with others doing the same? Another reason why this is so important is because if Gods confessing people are not rejoicing in Him, who then will give the witness to His name and praise as should be in our sinful and perishing world?

Dont let what we find in Nehemiah 12 be a testimony against us in our days, but rather pray God it may serve as a guide for us in our times, and that we live in true joyful celebration to His honor and for our good and our neighbors wellbeing too. Blessed are they who are not only hearers of the Word, but doers thereof too. Lord, make us so, and lead us onward by Your Spirit also through this word in the way of eternal praises and endless celebration in glory forevermore, yes, perfectly so one day, through Your saving, sanctifying powers for Jesus sake alone. What a prospect, also for you? Amen!

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