Consecrating people, places, and possessions is required if we want to celebrate God’s goodness in all seasons of life.
Nehemiah 12: These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, Shemaiah, Joiarib, Jedaiah, Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, Jedaiah. These were the chiefs of the priests and of their brothers in the days of Jeshua.
And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. And Bakbukiah and Unni and their brothers stood opposite them in the service. And Jeshua was the father of Joiakim, Joiakim the father of Eliashib, Eliashib the father of Joiada, Joiada the father of Jonathan, and Jonathan the father of Jaddua.
And in the days of Joiakim were priests, heads of fathers' houses: of Seraiah, Meraiah; of Jeremiah, Hananiah; of Ezra, Meshullam; of Amariah, Jehohanan; of Malluchi, Jonathan; of Shebaniah, Joseph; of Harim, Adna; of Meraioth, Helkai; of Iddo, Zechariah; of Ginnethon, Meshullam; of Abijah, Zichri; of Miniamin, of Moadiah, Piltai; of Bilgah, Shammua; of Shemaiah, Jehonathan; of Joiarib, Mattenai; of Jedaiah, Uzzi; of Sallai, Kallai; of Amok, Eber; of Hilkiah, Hashabiah; of Jedaiah, Nethanel.
In the days of Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan, and Jaddua, the Levites were recorded as heads of fathers' houses; so too were the priests in the reign of Darius the Persian. As for the sons of Levi, their heads of fathers' houses were written in the Book of the Chronicles until the days of Johanan the son of Eliashib. And the chiefs of the Levites: Hashabiah, Sherebiah, and Jeshua the son of Kadmiel, with their brothers who stood opposite them, to praise and to give thanks, according to the commandment of David the man of God, watch by watch. Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon, and Akkub were gatekeepers standing guard at the storehouses of the gates. These were in the days of Joiakim the son of Jeshua son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra, the priest and scribe.
And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; also from Beth-gilgal and from the region of Geba and Azmaveth, for the singers had built for themselves villages around Jerusalem. And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.
Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate. And after them went Hoshaiah and half of the leaders of Judah, and Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, and certain of the priests' sons with trumpets: Zechariah the son of Jonathan, son of Shemaiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Micaiah, son of Zaccur, son of Asaph; and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani, with the musical instruments of David the man of God. And Ezra the scribe went before them. At the Fountain Gate they went up straight before them by the stairs of the city of David, at the ascent of the wall, above the house of David, to the Water Gate on the east.
The other choir of those who gave thanks went to the north, and I followed them with half of the people, on the wall, above the Tower of the Ovens, to the Broad Wall, and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah and by the Fish Gate and the Tower of Hananel and the Tower of the Hundred, to the Sheep Gate; and they came to a halt at the Gate of the Guard. So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me; and the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, with trumpets; and Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer. And the singers sang with Jezrahiah as their leader. And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.
On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered. And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers; and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.
Has there been any time in your life when you thought that God could not be all good? Many of you knew Brother Sal. About a year ago, as he was getting ready to be with the Lord, he and I sat down to talk. Reflecting on God’s goodness he said, and I quote, “If you were to weigh things out in your life, God's blessings far, far, far outweigh the suffering that we go through, the hard times that we go through. So, instead of people focusing on the hard times … like what I'm going through, I like to look back to how I have been blessed for 77 years.” Sal celebrated God’s goodness until the end by praying, praising, and proclaiming Christ to others.
Has God been good to you? Oh, absolutely. If you think He has not, and you are still breathing you may want to reconsider your answer. The problem is, as Sal pointed out, we focus too much on our problems as we go through hard times but what we really need during hard times is to reflect on all the blessings
in our lives and celebrate God’s goodness through prayers, praising, and proclaiming Christ to others.
As we near the end of the series on Nehemiah, Israel did exactly that. In Nehemiah 12, they celebrated God’s goodness because their focus was not on their problems but on all the blessings from God— generation after generation.
If we learn to focus on all of God’s blessings in our lives, we, too, will celebrate God’s goodness through prayers, praising, and proclaiming Christ to others even during hard times because there never is a time when God is not good.
So, how do we learn to focus on all the blessings of God in our lives, so that we may celebrate God’s goodness even during hard times? Nehemiah 12 shows that we learn that by consecrating people, places, and possessions. That seems to be the requirement if we want to celebrate God’s goodness in all seasons of life.
The first requirement if we want to celebrate God’s goodness even during hard times is consecrating people.
In the ESV translation, Nehemiah 12:1 reads, “These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua:” and then it lists the names of the priests in verses 2-7, the names of the Levites in verses 8-11, and again another list of names of priests verses 12-21. Verse says, that priests in verses 1-7, were priests in the days of Jeshua. Jeshua came to Judah with Zerubbabel the descendent of David who was born in exile and led the first group at the decree of King Cyrus to rebuild the temple. The second set of priests mentioned in verses 12-21 served in the days of Joiakim. Notice that verse 10, it says, “and Jeshua was the father of Joiakim.”
So, what we have here is two generations of priests. Priest and Levites were necessary to establish God's worship in the temple in Zerubbabel's time and were necessary in Nehemiah’s time.
Why? In Exodus 28:1-3, God commanded Moses to consecrate Aaron, his older brother, and his sons to serve God as His priests. They were consecrated to act on God’s behalf and to mediate between man and God. So, to consecrate Israel to be holy, pure, and sanctified before God as God’s people to worship God, in verses 27-30, Israel sought out all the Levites. All priests were from the tribe of Levi but not all Levites were priests. Verse 27 reads, “And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.”
The Hebrew word, Chanukkah, is used twice in verse 27 and translated as “dedication.” The Jewish community celebrates Chanukkah to commemorate the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE, a similar, but much later, event than the one in Nehemiah 12.
In verses 28-29, the Levites were brought from towns and villages surrounding Jerusalem. Verse 30 says “And the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and they purified the people and the gates and the wall.” It is interesting that even though they were consecrated by God, which means set apart to serve God, they had to purify themselves every time they came before God according to God’s commands. Only then could they purify the people for worship. The word there in Hebrew for purify is taher. In the Bible, taher occurs 94 times in relation to purifying morally, mentally, and physically. Much of it was ceremonial cleansing.
In Pakistan, I grew up seeing Muslims performing vadu, ceremonial purification, five times a day for prayer. Almost in all religions, there is some form of ceremonial purification before going before God but not Christianity. You come as you are, because ceremonial purification may cleanse our apparent filth, but it doesn’t do anything for our heart and soul.
The application here is that taking showers will not remove the filth of immorality and sinfulness. Christ is not interested in our shower routine. Whether you showered this morning or not is not His concern.
This idea of taher purification if applied appropriately should purge us of our filthy, dirty, and sinful thoughts and actions to make us holy before God. For that you do not need a priest; you need Jesus. When our hearts are consecrated, we cannot focus on anything but Jesus even during hard times.
The second requirement if we want to celebrate God’s goodness even during hard times is consecrating places.
In verses 27-30, priests and Levites were sought out to consecrate not only people but verse 30 says also to purify the gates and the wall of Jerusalem.
Why? Because when places are not consecrated, that is to set apart or to dedicate unto God, they can be used for evil purposes. But consecrated places receive God's protection and blessing and declare publicly that those places belong to God and only God.
Nehemiah 12 shows a public profession that the wall, the gates, and everything within belongs to God including the people and their possessions, therefore, the celebration. Verse 31 reads, “Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks. One went to the south on the wall to the Dung Gate.”
There must have been hundreds of people in each choir and verses 32-36 lists a few names of the people in the Choir A. Verse 36 says, “And Ezra the scribe went before them” meaning he was leading it. Verse 37 describes how they march from the south of the temple counter-clockwise to the temple consecrating each gate on the way. In verses 38-43, Choir B with Nehemiah from the north of the temple did the same—marching clockwise to reach their destination— the temple. Verse 40 reads, “So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I [Nehemiah] and half of the officials with me.” Verses 41-42 lists the names of priests and the leaders with Nehemiah, and verse 43 reads, “And they offered great sacrifices that day and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and children also rejoiced. And the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.”
Here the word “joy” or “rejoice” appears five times because in the Old Testament, that was the only right response that God is Good. Being good is God’s character. The house of God was the dwelling place of God reflecting the goodness of God where God met His people.
Israel always associated God’s presence, His dwelling with places. They were rejoicing because within the protection of the city wall was the temple where God dwelled.
This past week my family had the opportunity to spend some time with a couple in our church: John and Leslie. John was showing us his house and when he was done, I prayed over his house. I asked the Lord to make their house a blessing to those who come in and go through its doors. Why? Because that house is the house of God because the people of God live in it and Jesus dwells with them.
How do we apply this consecration of places to us? Since Jesus dwells in us by bringing Jesus with us. That’s how we will consecrate neighborhoods in our cities and nation.
Do people encounter God at your home, your work, or wherever you are? Our mission statement says we make a difference by creating gospel-centered intentional spaces to worship, connect, and serve.
How are you creating such spaces at home, at work, and in your community? One of the ways you can make a difference in your community is by hosting a small group at your place or going to the one in your area.
The third requirement if we want to celebrate God’s goodness even during hard times is consecrating possessions.
Verse 44 says, “On that day men were appointed over the storerooms, the contributions, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them the portions required by the Law for the priests and for the Levites according to the fields of the towns, for Judah rejoiced over the priests and the Levites who ministered.”
They knew that by giving God a portion of their possession, the rest was consecrated. When we give to God, we do the same and Satan cannot touch what is dedicated to God.
Purification and consecration continue in verses 45-46 and the chapter ends with verse 47 which says, “And all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and in the days of Nehemiah gave the daily portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, and they set apart that which was for the Levites; and the Levites set apart that which was for the sons of Aaron.” In other words, their faithful tithing and offering helped to sustain God’s work.
My wife, Sarah, works for Chosen People Ministries. She was telling me that she received a very large check unexpectedly from an estate. She told her boss and her boss picked up the phone and told the president of Chosen People Ministries in excitement that now he could go ahead with the project that he had been prayerfully looking for money.
People who know that they belong to God, even when they go home to be with the Lord, they make sure others get to hear about God. We all know when we die, we will not take our possessions with us, not even our bodies. However, not too many of us know how to best invest it in the kingdom of God.
The application is that we should give to God financially to support His work faithfully and regularly. We do not need to wait for the day that we go home to be with the Lord to do something for God’s kingdom financially because then we would not be in need of those possessions.
I am not suggesting that you sell your possessions, or your savings and give that money to your church. I am merely encouraging you to allow the spirit to use your possessions for the expansion of God’s work until He comes. That’s how you consecrate your possessions.
Like other eastern countries in Pakistan, people see property and possessions as a sign of prosperity, which is seen as God's goodness. This cultural lens caused Israel to see God’s goodness in relation to places and possessions.
In Nehemiah 12 it seems, Israel was no longer seeing God’s goodness isolated to land and possessions but God’s faithfulness to them as God’s chosen people therefore they celebrated God’s goodness by consecrating people, places, and possessions. So, do not focus too much on your problems as you go through hard times rather during hard times reflect on all the blessings in your lives and celebrate God’s goodness through prayers, praising, and proclaiming Christ to others and consecrate yourselves, your places, and your possessions to Jesus.
Think about people, places, and possessions in your life that need consecration. There are people and places in our lives that create the temptation to sin more and live according to the flesh. For some of us, those people and places exist in our hearts and hold us captive to pride, anger, bitterness, envy, and unforgiveness. For some of us, those people and places exist in our minds and enslave us to filthy and ungodly thoughts. For some of us, those people and places are in cyberspace. Take action to consecrate those people and places for the Lord, meaning dedicate them to Jesus.
Don’t limit the idea of consecrating people, places, and possessions to what is physical, material, and tangible. Go beyond that. It applies to everything that causes temptation to sin whether social media outlets, liquor cabinets, your computers, or something else.
In all religions, people go to places to find God for possessions but in Christianity, the Bible teaches not did only God come to find us, but He consecrated us to be royal priests, a holy nation, and 1 Peter 2:9, His own possession to proclaim His excellencies. That’s for eternity. Let us celebrate God’s goodness through prayers, praising, and proclaiming Christ to others.
For the full sermon, click here.