A Dedication To Celebrate

A Dedication To Celebrate

  • US: 40M adults (18.1%) suffer from anxiety disorder. 18M major depressive disorder. The first year of Covid increased prevalence of depression 25% worldwide.
  • Barna (2011): Almost 1/5 young adults leave church because their faith isn’t helping them cope with depression or other emotional problems.
  • If church is a refuge, it won’t ignore genuine emotional tensions or paper over them with platitudes.
  • Remember how book began? Neh. 1:1-3
  • God raised up Nehemiah, supplied resources + volunteers to rebuild the wall > Revived interest in hearing and obeying God’s Word > Commitment to give and participate.
  • Spiritual highs often followed by spiritual lows. Quick turnaround often followed by quick downfall. They needed a reformation of worship. 
  • The problem the church faces in every age is that our worship naturally becomes cold, empty, and eventually misdirected.
  • Reformation requires ongoing dependence upon God blessing our celebration of the ordinary means of grace.

Read Nehemiah 12:27-47.

I. Celebration Involves Anticipation (27-30) 

  • Gathering together to give thanks. Required packing + traveling. Musicians brought their instruments. 
  • Purifying: The priests and Levites > the people > gates and wall. Ceremonial cleansing (washing body/clothes, ritual sprinkling, sin-offering, fasting, abstinence—Exod. 19; Lev. 16; Num. 8). Set apart for sacred purpose.
  • The people experienced glad anticipation as they gathered Levites and ascended to Jerusalem. 

Social Impact of Technological Advancements

  • Technological advancements have had a tremendous social impact. Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message.” Discussed impact of shifting from oral to written culture. Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death, focused on the social impact television. Crave passive entertainment.
  • Technological advancements in travel has significant impact upon community life. Transient. Travel much further for much shorter stays. Increasingly automated (Tesla). We’re on the fast track to Wall-E (isolated in personal pods).
  • When folks went to Jerusalem they weren’t planning on turning around an hour later. They stayed awhile, wanted to. No other plans for day of dedication. Happy, thankful, anticipation of great celebration.

Anticipate An Encounter With God

  • We don’t have to join an Amish community to experience a warmer more joyful community? But we should think about how to build anticipation within ourselves and our homes for the Lord’s Day.
  • Preparing to meet with a holy God is not to be done flippantly. We must be cleansed by the blood of Christ. A solemn seriousness reflects reverent hearts. What do you anticipate when you prepare for worship? How do you build excitement in your family? Do you prepare your heart for an encounter with God?
  • Whenever God speaks to us through his word something always happens! Expect it! Prayerfully anticipate it! Without anticipation, hope wanes.
  • Heb 12:1-2. Future joy establishes present hope! The pinnacle of future joy is surrounding the throne of God among the great throng of witnesses.
  • May God enable us to experience a foretaste of that heavenly throne room this morning, and until we gather in glory.

We will only engage in proper anticipation if it is routinely satisfied in worship.

II. Celebration Involves Jubilation (31-43)

  • “Rejoice” & “Joy” have the same root in Hebrew occurring 5x in v.43.
    1. Choir #1 (31-37) traveled counter-clockwise along the southeast portion of the wall. Led by Ezra.
    2. Choir #2 (38-43) traveled clockwise along the northwest portion of the wall. Followed by Nehemiah.
  • Both choirs seem to have started at the valley gate and ended at the guard gate—nearest to the temple. Each traveled roughly 2/3 mi (30mins). Singing, playing, and celebrating until they met each other and entered into the temple (Ezra first, Nehemiah last). There they stood with the leaders and led the community.
  • Possibly sang Psalm 48 (especially vv.12-14).

Our Implicit Worship Manual

  • Frozen chosen = seriousness that overwhelmed any expression of joy. Whatever you do, don’t smile. You might get the wrong idea that you’ve been forgiven and that you have been reconciled to God who will will never leave you nor forsake you. 
  • Be sure to keep your guard up. Fill your mind with a despair and frustration for your circumstances so that you never get too hopeful for any real or lasting change. 
  • Don’t offer anything too sacrificial. Be sure to prioritize good stewardship to the point that you can’t spare much more than a little excess. Everyone wants a portion of your salary, so don’t share it with anyone your don’t absolutely have to. Generosity is not an option in this midst of so much uncertainty. 
  • We need to conserve. It’s such a lovely word isn’t it? Conserve everything: truth, money, energy, expectations. Conserve to the point of suppression. Suck all of the joy out of life and worship. 
  • It sounds absurd, but most of us live as if these were our instructions.

Worship Is Not About The Musicians

  • Musical instruments accompany congregational singing. We prefer simple, lower volume here. The main instrument = voices making a joyful noise to the Lord! 
    • RPCNA considers instruments part of ceremonial law and therefore—with the advent of Christ—unnecessary in the new covenant. Without taking their theological position, we can appreciate their emphasis upon congregational singing.
    • Friend preaching candidate sermon. After the worship service he asked the session how important it was for them to hear the congregation singing. We should hear one another (Eph. 5:19).
  • Kidner Our Lord went to Gethsemane fortified not only by prayer but by a ceremonial meal and corporate singing, matters which engage not only the spirit but the body and the senses.”
  • May God enable us to experience a foretaste of that heavenly choir whenever we gather (Rev. 19:1-8).

How do we maintain a joyful celebration?

III. Celebration Involves Organization (44-47)

  • They appointed men over the key areas that demanded oversight. They followed the instruction for the service.
  • Organization? Why do we have to kill the mood with this theme? Have you ever heard of Marie Kondo? She has literally made a fortune by teaching people how to get organized by asking one simple question: Does it spark joy?
  • Organization is not a mood killer. Quite the opposite. Organization is what preserves the mood. It maintains the focus on joyful worship. Administration was needed and the people were happy to support it (44).
  • RPW (45) Worship governed by God’s Word not the latest fad. Nehemiah 12 is not prescriptive of every element, but it certainly contains universal principles to be applied.
  • All the essential components of maintaining proper temple worship were covered. They sought to fulfill everything according to the days before exile, before the division of Israel and Judah, when there was peace and prosperity in the Promised Land. The people glorified God by ensuring that the ministry would be sustained.

Commitment to the Ordinary Means of Grace

  • How does your worship reflect this commitment?
  • Consider the elements of our worship service. Celebration, thanksgiving, dedication all themes of this passage. Apply the aspects of anticipation, jubilation, and organization to each element of worship.
  • Thanksgiving = Eucharist.
  • Let us remember and honor the rich heritage we have inherited. We will rejoice alongside saints who laid a foundation for us!