In the book of Nehemiah, revival came to the city of Jerusalem. The city was made safe again by the rebuilding of its walls, but it was the preaching of God’s Word and the repentance of the people of God that led to the revival of Jerusalem that we see in chapters 11 and 12. In the Book of Nehemiah chapters 11 and 12, God inspired Nehemiah to lead His people to do more than just rebuild Jerusalem, but to revive the Holy City. God still calls His people to seek revival in the city in which they live.
Below is an automated transcript of this message:Thanks for listening to the podcast from Gary Combs and the preaching team at Wilson Community Church in Wilson, North Carolina. Check us out on the web at wccnc.org for more and now here’s the sermon.
Good Morning, church! We’re continuing our series through the book of Nehemiah, entitled Rise Up. We get this theme from Nehemiah, chapter two, verse eighteen, where the people responded to Nehemiah’s desire to rebuild the walls, they said, Let us rise up and build so they strengthened their hands for the good work. We titled this series, Rise Up and we challenged ourselves, as a church, to do the same, to rise up and do what God has called us to do in our church. And so it’s been a great journey. We’re in Chapter eleven and twelve today. We’re going to cover two chapters once again, and so put your seat belts on. We’re going really fast as we get through these two chapters. Some people are asking as they came in this morning, “Are we still in the book of Nehemiah?” Yes, we are. This Sunday and next Sunday, we will finish it up with chapter thirteen. But today we’re in chapter eleven and twelve.
We’re in a place where Nehemiah has fully come to the realization that rebuilding the walls was only the beginning. But it certainly wasn’t the end of what was needed to be done in order to see Jerusalem thrive again. And so the walls have been rebuilt and the gates have been rebuilt. But now he’s led his people through a season of scripture reading and a season of repentance, and he recognizes what they really need is a revival. What the people need is a revival of the city, and and so it was more than just walls and gates. The people needed to be brought back to life again in that city; in other words, they needed a revival. If you look it up in the dictionary, it has the idea of being an improvement of condition or strength of something to resuscitate something that’s lost its life that maybe formerly had life.
Somebody has a heart attack and someone gives CPR. So there’s a revival, or it’s an instance of something that has lost popularity or so forth. But yet a renewal is coming its way. Like we might say, that Wilson hopes to experience a revival of its downtown, and that’s why they’re involved in the whirligig festival and all these different things to try to get the downtown area to come back to life again. So we use the word revival in all these general ways. But as Christians, when we use it, we’re speaking primarily of renewed interest in spiritual things, a renewed awareness of the things of God, a renewal of the life of the church, or even of the city we live in because of our appeals and our prayers in our understanding of the Lord’s work in our lives.
If you study American history, you should encounter a season in the mid 1700’s that’s referred to as the Great Awakening now on modern secular histories. You won’t see much on this other than a footnote, but if you really dig in, you will find that this was a tremendous season and it really started in Britain under the preaching of men like George Whitfield. I think I have a photo here. This is George Whitfield preaching in the Colonies. The great awakening began in Britain then it came across the Atlantic Ocean; George Whitfield brought his revivals here, and no church could really contain the crowds that he was attracting. He preached in the open air.
During the same season, another preacher, an American preacher named Jonathan Edwards, was preaching and the Holy Spirit just really blessed it. There was a great shift in spiritual things in the colonies during this time. Of the thirteen colonies, some of the significant features were that church membership doubled so that that pews were filled with people. People were becoming more aware of being pure. Denominational barriers were breaking down so that people of God were less interested in division and more interested in unity. And the cause of the gospel was renewed, especially missions, so that people more and more recognized instead of killing the Indians, they should tell them the gospel. And so people started answering the call to reach the Indians with the gospel.
A greater concern for higher education blossomed. Schools like Princeton, Rutgers, Brown and Dartmouth were founded during this period of the great awakening in order to train missionaries and pastors to do the ministry. Of course, they’ve evolved somewhat from their origin but that’s how they started. Those who would take a serious interest in the great awakening of the mid 1700’s would recognize that this had everything to do with the mindset of the people during the time of the American Revolution. It seems that the people had learned so much about spiritual liberty that they saw its implications for political and national liberty. And so unity between the colonies happened, really, for the first time during that season of the Great Awakening and ultimately during the American Revolution.
Here’s a motto you won’t read in your secular history books; it is the motto of the Revolutionary War that the soldiers and that the colonists would say was “No king but King Jesus.” There was a great awakening that was really the beginning of the foundation for the American Revolution.
What would it look like for our city to experience revival? What would it look like for the city of Wilson to have a great awakening break out here? The crime rate would go down to zero. There would be no murders this year. The gang activity would cease to exist. What would it look like when police officers have to look for work to do, so they form barbershop quartets and start singing at churches? What would that look like for schools to be safe, for marriages to last and for parents and children to start getting along again? What would revival and Wilson look like? I wonder, as we look at the book of Nehemiah, chapter eleven and twelve, if the people even had any idea what was getting ready to happen in Jerusalem. Revival is about to break out in Jerusalem. The same Jerusalem, which had been shattered and its gates burned. Nobody was living there except for wild animals. The place was overgrown. It was on the wrong side of the tracks. Nobody wanted to live there but they are about to experience revival.
You have seen in the book of Nehemiah, in the previous chapters, that they’ve been reading the Bible every day. They’ve been listening to preaching. They had repented, and now they’re about to move in and a revivals about to break out in the city of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah, chapters eleven and twelve, the people get inspired. Nehemiah leads the people to do more than just rebuild the walls but to move into the city and to see a revival take place in God’s holy city.
I believe God is still calling His people to seek revival in the cities to which He’s called them; in the place that we live . As we look at the text asking this question, how can we see revival in our city? I believe the text will give us three words, three significant words, on how we can see revival in our city. So let’s dig in.
I’m going to be doing as I did last week. When we’re covering a lot of scripture, I will read some and then we will comment on it and follow that kind of rhythm. So let me read the first six verses of Chapter eleven. Then I’m going to skip around some; you will soon see why I’m doing this, not just for time’s sake, but because of there’s a lot of names again, as we’ve been discovering. So pray for me as I read and try to do my best on these pronunciations.
Chapter eleven, verse one. 1Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten[a] remained in the other towns. 2 And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.3 These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon’s servants. 4 And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5 and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. 6 All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.
That’s only the beginning of the names I’m going to skip around now and just use the categories of the names that follow . These are the categories of the people who moved into Jerusalem . In verse seven, these are the sons of Benjamin and it names them. Verse ten and of the priests and it names them. Verse fifteen and of the Levites and it names them. I know you all want to me to read all these names because it would entertain you for me to do that. Verse nineteen, the gatekeepers and their names. And then I will read a couple of verses here because they have some interesting information. In verse twenty two, The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. This is proving their lineage to Asaph and that’s significant. It’s important for the singers to say we’re the children of that famous songwriter over the work of the house of God. Verse twenty three, For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required.
In verse 24, And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king’s side[a] in all matters concerning the people. (Sidebar – King Artexerxes was king of Persia whenever he would conquer the land. And he would allow that land to continue to practice freedom of religion. And so he was allowing and underwriting them rebuilding the temple.) Pethahiah, who is at the king’s side, is overseeing the provisions for the singers and the temple. Why? Because he wants them to pray and sing songs. Lifting up the name of Artexerxes to their God, which is our God. And so he did this in all the significant cities.)
In verse 25, And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages. It names the people who moved into the different villages surrounding.
In Nehemiah, chapter twelve, These are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua. In chapter twelve: 12, it lists the priests who came up in the days of Joiakim; the ones who were during that time period.
Chapter 12: 26, 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 so that brings us through the first reading that I would offer and then talk about how to see a revival in our city.
Here’s the first word: Incarnation. More on that. In a minute. That’s the first word. Here’s your fill in the blank. Incarnation – We are sent. I was talking to some people after the first service; they said, ‘You’ve corrected me. I’m not going to skip these chapters anymore. I’m going to try to dig in.” There’s a lot of names so it’s tempting to flip to the next page. It’s tempting to do that, isn’t it? But if you’LL take your time and and ask yourself this question, ‘Why did God include this in his Word? What do I see here? What were the takeaways for me in taking the time to read it?’ One significant truth that we’ve reminded ourselves of week after week is that people matter to God. Their names matter; that God keeps record. He cares about them; He knows how to pronounce all these names. I’m sure I’m doing my best, but I’m sure he knows exactly how their mama said it, right? And so that’s one takeaway is that people mattered. Another takeaway is if we take the time to read, we will catch little snippets where we can apply it to our lives; principles that we can bring across the bible bridge. Not just learning what it meant then, but applying it to our lives.
We are sent; incarnation. Look at Nehemiah 11:12; notice that it keeps saying, “lived in Jerusalem;” it is repeated seven times. They lived in Jerusalem; in the holy city. What’s going on here? Nehemiah has rebuilt the walls, but that doesn’t mean that there’s people living there. It’s still a place that’s empty; it echoes with its emptiness back in Nehemiah, chapter seven. He said the city was wide and large, but the people within it were few and no houses had been rebuilt. He needs people to move into Jerusalem. It’s one thing to rebuild the walls, but no one’s living there. It’s one thing to put new sidewalks in downtown Wilson, but you need people to walk on them. It helps, but it doesn’t get it all done.
By the way, God wants it to happen. Nehemiah starts off thinking he’s a builder. Now he’s leading a revival, and he’s calling people to answer the call to live in the place that they’ve been sent. Nehemiah lived in Susa, in the citadel of Susa, with King Artexerxes. He was cupbearer to the King. He had a cushy job living in the palace. He saw cities unbelievably gorgeous and beautiful and grandiose. And then he comes to the city he had been hearing about since he was a boy and it’s a wreck. It’s little, podunk and beat up. You can’t even ride a donkey around.
So now, he’s been working and they’ve rebuilt the walls; but it still echoes with emptiness. He could have just gone back home, but he felt sent of God; Nehemiah was sent, and so were all of those other people. The first wave came, and it’s significant, because some of those names are named in Chapter twelve. They were sent with the first wave in 536BC; so around a hundred years earlier they came in the first wave. But they didn’t build up Jerusalem. They settled in all the little towns around Jerusalem. In other words, they fled to the suburbs and they lived in the suburbs because you could garden there. Your family lands there; your ancestral lands. You were safer there. Who knows about the crime rate in Jerusalem, right? And so nobody wanted to live in Jerusalem.
But Nehemiah comes and he says he feels called to live in Jerusalem; he feels God’s calling to fully live into this place, and so that’s what’s going on. It was a big ask to ask people to live in Jerusalem. Look at Nehemiah, verse one of chapter eleven. It says now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem; the leaders went first. That’s the way it should always be. Leaders go first. And then we need about ten percent of you that have moved here from exile to move into downtown Jerusalem. The best way we know to do it rather than us taking the responsibility is to count off… One, two, three, four, five…
You have to move into one of those apartments across from the Whirligig Park in that old tobacco building; they’re building apartments there. If you read about that in the paper and like every ten of you has to move in, some of you would start running for the doors, man. But these people volunteered for that. And they said, ‘Okay, we will stay here; they’re going to cast lots. We don’t have an example of what that was like. Was it carved stones with numbers on it? We’re not sure, but somehow they would use it like throwing dice. They’re trusting God to give him the answer. One out of every ten went and they went willingly.
Verse two says, And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. So they willingly went when the lots were cast. And so the people moved into Jerusalem. Now are we called the live in Jerusalem? Now I’ve been there. It’s a beautiful place, but that’s not where we’re called today. That was their call. What’s our call? Were called to live in our Jerusalem.
Remember the book of Acts that we are to be witnesses Where in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth? You start where you are. That’s the first thing to recognize is that we are to live as those who are sent. How are we to live? We are to live incarnationally.
Now I promised I would talk about that word more. It means in the Latin “in the flesh;” that’s what the word means. Incarnation: In means in and car is the shortened Latin word where we get carnivore, carnivorous, right? It mean flesh eater if the word is carnivore So in the flesh. It’s where we use theologically described what God did in the person of Jesus that he sent His own son, Who became one of us. We read in the scripture in the book of Matthew, “Behold the Virgin shall conceive and bare a son and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which means God with us.” God will be present with us.
In John, the word, which speaks of Jesus, the word became flesh and dwelt among us. He became one of us. He didn’t phone in salvation. He didn’t call it in from a distance. He became one of us. This is incarnational living. He came as one sent.
Notice that He says that we are to be like Him. In John, Chapter twenty, “… as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” I was sent to live incarnationally, to live fully present with you; now I’m sending you to do the same. So you were sent. We are sent. This is significant and were sent in the same way.
Listen to what Brad Brisco says in his book, Rethinking Mission: Incarnational Presence. He says, ““God is a missionary God who sends a missionary church. However, being sent is only part of the story. The language of “incarnational presence” represents the rooting of our lives and the gospel into the places we live. If the essence of missional living is sending, then the heart of incarnational presence is staying.”
So where ever you are, you are to be fully present in that place. Not always thinking of where else you’d rather be but to be fully present where you are now. What does this incarnational presence look like? Perhaps Philippians, chapter two is the best help for this. Philippians. Chapter two, verses 5-7 , it says, “ Have this mind among yourselves this attitude, this way of thinking, which is yours in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God, a thing to be grasped but emptied himself by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men.” So here’s Jesus; He’s the Son of God but He doesn’t grasp that he doesn’t hang on to it. Adam and Eve reached for that which did not belong to them. Jesus, who had what belonged to him, relinquished it and he removed the insignia of Majesty and he stepped down the ladder of love and he became one of us.
This is the attitude that we are sent with; it has at least three variables that I would touch on for a moment. One is to identify with the people that you’re sent to. Jesus identified with sinners. The thing about sinners is they’re hard to love, aren’t they? They’re not like you, you think? And I’m a churchgoing person. I’m a good person. I love Jesus and they don’t. But Jesus came. He said I came. The Pharisees would say, Why are you hanging out with prostitutes? And why are you hanging out with tax collectors? He tells them that I came to seek those which are lost. I came to seek those that are far from God. So he identified with them. He met with them and ate with him.
What are the implications for you? You know, we pull together on weekends like this for empowerment. But during the week we scatter for ministry. So we gather for empowerment and then during the week, we scatter for ministry. Where ever you go, you’re sent. You are sent to your school, to your workplace and to your neighborhood, right? Wherever you go. You’re sent to your family as those who are sent. You’re to identify with the people around you, not constantly putting them down, not constantly judging them and telling them what’s wrong with them. But recognizing that you’re to find some common ground with them so that the gospel story is rooted in that place. So identification is one of the three variables.
Another variable would be proximity. It’s hard to live incarnationally from a distance. You have to get close. You have to be present with people. Jesus moved in to this world and became one of us. And so if we’re living incarnationally, if we’re to live as those sent, we’ve got to stop saying bad things about the city that were called to. I’m not from here. I think you have to be born here to be from here. But I’ve been here thirty years and people, you’re not from here. We can tell by the way you talk. I’m from the hills of Bristol, Virginia/Bristol, Tennessee is where I grew up. I was living in Roanoke when my corporation transferred me here and I thought that’s how I ended up here. I thought the corporation I work for transferred me here. It wasn’t until later I found that I was sent. In fact, I’ve come to the opinion that God is sovereign over corporations. He’s sovereign over presidents and kings and nations. He sovereign over your boss. He’s sovereign over every situation. So if I’m here, I was sent here. I didn’t find that out until I tried to leave. And every time I tried to leave, he wouldn’t let me leave. And then I finally stopped trying to leave and stop comparing it to other places. As long as I’m here I will live as one sent and I’m going to stay here fully present. So proximity is important. We have to live close to the people that God’s call us to. I need to find common ground with them. Paul says, “ I’ve become all things to all men in order to reach some with the Gospel.” So to the Jew became as a Jew; to the Greek as a Greek. Do all this for the sake of the gospel.
Proximity, identification and then, thirdly, presence; to be fully present. Can you imagine? Here’s Jesus; He’s always on his way somewhere. He’s on his way to Jerusalem. He Is on His way, but there’s always somebody interrupting him. Hey, look at me. I’m blind Lord, son of David and he stops. That’s the thing you always see in these these gospel stories. And Jesus stopped and he looked at him. What do you want me to do for you? My sight, Lord, my sight and he stops and he’s fully present and he engages and he talks to people.
When I go to Wal Mart and I’m checking out, here’s what’s on my mind. ‘How can I get out of here? That line looks shorter. Wait a minute. Somebody jumped in front of me. Now there’s a shorter line. It says only ten items or less. That dude right there has a whole cart full. Why is he in this line?’ That’s how my brain works. I’m sorry. This is your pastor. Maybe you should look for another church. I don’t know. That’s how my brain works naturally. But the spirit of God within me says, put away your judgment and look at the people around you to see if there’s anyone here that I want you to talk to because you are Mine and I sent you there. God bless America, I sent you to Wal Mart today. So what about that cashier that’s not even looking at you, that’s smacking her gum and she’s moving your stuff by and you’re looking at her like, you know, she could go faster. She’s talking to the cashier behind her. Because I used to work in retail, I’m thinking, that’s not good customer service. That’s what I’m thinking. But I’m not supposed to be judgmental. I’m supposed to be incarnational. I should be thinking, when I’m thinking spiritually is, I wonder if she’s somebody’s mother, somebody’s wife, somebody’s daughter. I wonder how many hours she works. I wonder if she’s getting off soon. What should I ask her, Holy Spirit, that would turn the key to her heart so she could hear a piece of the gospel because I’ve been sent on this particular afternoon to Walmart.
You’re sent people. Live incarnationally. What would it look like for you to fully live for Jesus in the place you’ve been sent? Now let’s keep reading because we have more reading to do.
We’ve said the first word is incarnation; we are sent. Now we’re in chapter twelve, verse twenty seven. I will follow the same pattern. I’ll skip around a little bit. Verse twenty seven, “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.”
Nehemiah 12:30-31, “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.” I’ll skip down to the end of verse 36, “…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 before the House of David to the Watergate on the east .
Then in verses 38-40, “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, 39 and above the Gate of Ephraim, and by the Gate of Yeshanah,[a] 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. 40 So both choirs of those who gave thanks stood in the house of God, and I and half of the officials with me,” So they all end up at the temple.
And then in verse 43 ,”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.” Okay, we skipped a lot of the names, but we got to the facts .
Here’s the second word: Dedication- We are salt. We are salt. More on that in a minute. First of all, the word dedication, notice in verse twenty seven that there was the word dedication, dedication of the wall. It’s time to dedicate the wall. What’s the Hebrew word? You’re going to know this Hebrew word. It’s Hanukkah. The word Hanukkah means dedication. That’s what the word means. The reason that the Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah today during the month of December is because it coincides with the Christian celebration of Christmas. Hanukkah is a celebration of the rededication of the temple during the time of the Maccabeans. And so the miracle was that when they had to rededicate the temple, they did not have any holy oil to light the temple’s lanterns and lamps. And so it took them a week to make new holy oil to purify it and make it ready. And God miraculously kept the lamps burning for eight days , and so they light the Menorah to commemorate the rededication; the Hanukkah of the temple during the Maccabean period. So that’s that’s a little sidebar about what that word means.
But here it is; it’s in verse 27: Hanukkah. And so you have the Hanukkah of the wall of Jerusalem. They told all the Levites to have Hanukkah, a dedication. Now what does it mean to dedicate something to the Lord? It means you set it apart, that this place belongs to you. Now who has the power to do that? Only the children of God have the power to dedicate a place and a people to their God.
How much authority do you have to do that? Do you have to be the mayor of the city? Do you have to get permission from the mayor to dedicate Wilson to God? No, you have the authority because you are sons and daughters of God through Christ Jesus, our Lord. You can dedicate your house. You can dedicate your office. You can dedicate your school. You can dedicate your city which means to consecrate, set it apart, under God. That’s what Nehemiah is about to lead the people to do. He gets really excited about it and says, Let’s have two choirs to circle on top of the ramparts of the walls and circle around, playing their instruments, singing and worshipping. Let’s have one choir go this way and one go that way. We will start here and we will end up at the top of the temple; it will be awesome.
And so, like warriors taking a city, instead of marching around the city of Jericho to bring the walls down, they marched on top of the walls of Jerusalem to invite God to be the one who consecrates the city. And so here they are; they’re going to march on these walls now. Before they could begin, they had to recognize they needed some stuff. And so if you look at verse 27, it says they had songs of thanksgiving and cymbals, harps and lyres. If they would’ve had electricity, there would have been electric guitars because a harp is a guitar turned this way, right? There is this piece to plug in so it’s got more. And so basically these are the instruments that they were going to carry and they were going to be singing hymns. They’re going around the walls of Jerusalem.
He gets specific in verse 30. He says that the priests purified themselves and then they purified the people and they purified the gates. And so this was a ritual washing that they did. They’re saying we’re cleaning things up.
You know, when we bought this building on the wrong side of town, this old movie theater, it was covered with graffiti; there was crime behind the building. It was a place where prostitutes met with their clients behind this building. When we first bought the building, I would come over here and circle the building to pray for it, and I would run people off. And I had some police officers saying, that’s kind of risky. You shouldn’t be doing that, but I just couldn’t circle the building with that going on. So I’d go behind the building, tap on their windows and say, Get out of here. This is God’s place; you’re in the wrong place. The mayor said to us, Thank you for moving into the city, across from the hospital, and taking an old run down building. You’ve turned a place of crime into a place that God has dedicated unto Himself. And this is what God’s people do. We’re called to be the salt of our city to change the flavor of the city. It just takes a little bit of salt to make the food taste better and only takes a little bit of salt to affect the city.
Now these two great choirs, in verse 31, are getting ready to head out. One is being led by Ezra, the great preacher. Nehemiah is leading the other choir. Here is a couple of photos; I wanted to just kind of give you a sense of Jerusalem. This is Jerusalem today. That’s the Damascus Gate. So called because as you come out the gate you’re facing north towards Damascus, the city in Syria. This wall here is not the wall of Nehemiah, because the wall of Nehemiah was supersized by King Herod the Great and then demolished in seventy eighty by the Romans and then rebuilt by Suleiman the Magnificent and the Ottoman Empire in fifteen thirty five. This is Suleiman’s wall, and so it’s impressive he built it with the stones that Nehemiah would’ve worked with, on the foundations that Nehemiah would’ve worked with, not the same wall. But it’s pretty significant; it gives you a sense of what it may have looked like.
There is one problem with this picture ; there’s no way these great choirs could march on this present picture. . This is me standing. If I could stand like this, there won’t be room for a great choir. Archaeologists have unearthed sections that they believe were foundations to Nehemiah’s wall. Some suggest that the top the ramparts were from eight to sixteen feet wide, which would have been needful in order to have great choirs marching. They may have been as tall as forty feet and as wide as sixteen feet. This is the present day wall.
How did they march? We like maps, right? We love maps, and so we’ve been getting used to the salamander that Nehemiah had found in the ruins, probably from Hezekiah’s wall. Some have found that there are key archaeological ruins that go way out here; Hezekiah had built some of this. We’re not sure if Nehemiah just rebuilt this section or if he went out and did this larger section. But regardless, one or the other, archeology is a great friend of the Bible. Every time they dig something up, it always proves the Bible. So we’re still learning from archaeology. But here’s what we do know. They started down here around the Dung gate, which is the place that they carried the trash down into. Jesus refers to it in Aramaic as Gehennah which he often used this trash dump as a symbol of Gehennah.
But they start down here. One group goes this way. One group goes this way. What can we learn? A few significant things; one is they are reminding us in verse thirty six that we’re doing this, according to King David’s prescription. We’re even using the instruments that he called for; David wrote in 1 Chronicles 23:5 (ESV) “… 4,000 shall offer praises to the Lord with the instruments that I have made for praise.”. And so as we look at verse thirty six in our textbook for the other choir and those so forth, it goes on to talk about all these instruments they used with the instruments of David, the man of God, it says in verse thirty six. So we’re using the instruments that David called for. They’re getting back to first principles. That’s what a revival does. It gets back to the stuff that we forgot about. So they’re using the same instruments they’re taking care of to finish at the house of God.
The most significant part that I would say for this whole section is verse forty three. “…and the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away.” They were so present in this place; worship was so joyful and loud that it reverberated into the villages, surrounding the peoples and nations. That’s the way our worship should be, too. We are called to be salt; the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew, chapter five, Jesus said, “13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.
What Jesus emphasized here about salt is its flavor. And so just a little bit of salt changes the flavor of a dish. And you, Christian, are supposed to change the attitude in the environment and the flavor of your house, of your neighborhood, of your workplace, of your school and everywhere you go, Just a little bit of you in Jesus’ Name; it’s supposed to change the flavor, giving a flavor of joy.
Last week, a visitor to our church said, I wanted to check you out because I asked one of my co- workers goes to this church and I asked him, Why are you always so happy? You seem so happy. And he told me about his relationship with God and where he goes to church. I thought I would come check it out . This co-worker had a flavor in their workplace that was attractive to another person so that they wanted to find out how they could get that flavor too. So salt has a benefit to flavor. It also has a preservative effect. Our grandparents preserved meat with salts. Salt is a preservative. I could go on and on about salt. That’s a beautiful symbol in the Bible; it has many uses.
Let’s just touch on flavor and on preservatives. First, flavor; we are to have this flavor to see healing come to our city. Look what it says in second Chronicles, “If my people who are called by my name, willnhumble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven. I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” So, we’re to be humble and prayerful. We’re to be that kind of people, that kind of saltiness. Salt is the flavor aspect.
Second, there’s the preservative aspect. But let me just draw this one principal from the Book of Genesis, where Abraham had a visit from God, as he was about to depart from that area. It looks like something bad is going on down in Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham had a nephew named Lot and his wife and daughters lived down there. So Abraham had a concern about that city. And God said, I’m about ready to go judge that place. Abraham had the nerve to say to God, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” And then Abraham said for fifty righteous people, will you destroy it? If there are fifty righteous found? God says no, I will not, if they’re fifty righteous I won’t destroy it. And Abraham goes, What about forty? Because he’d been there and he wasn’t sure about fifty . What about forty? God said for forty I won’t destroy it. What about thirty? No, for thirty, I won’t destroy. Lord, I’m sorry, but I gotta ask, what about twenty for twenty will you destroy it? For twenty, I won’t destroy it. And Abraham goes. I’m so sorry, Lord. I gotta ask you one more. What about for ten? For ten sake? And you know the rest of the story. Read it in the book of Genesis, God couldn’t find ten righteous, but if he would have, he would not have destroyed it.
What’s that say about Wilson? What does it say about your neighborhood? What does it say about your school? We are a preservative factor. We are a flavorful factor. We are to dedicate the place. We live unto God and have the flavor and the preservative factor of salt. Are you salty in your place? Have you marched around your neighborhood yet? You need to exercise anyway. Come on. Walk around your neighborhood and pray for your neighbors.
You may say, ‘I don’t know my neighbors.’ Go back to point one. You are sent. Find out who they are and pray for them and remember. That family there has three kids. I will pray for them. And that family’s got the dog that keeps coming around and doing stuff in my front yard. And I don’t pick it up, but I will pray for him anyway, because I love Jesus. I am just going to go around. …. You just go on. Pray for people; dedicate your street, your block, do that at work, and we can march around our city. And we can do that here because we’re salt and we can make a difference. We can dedicate our city to the Lord.
Let’s keep reading. We’re sent; we are salt. We’re going to finish up chapter twelve.Verse forty four and following, 12:44 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. 45 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. 46 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. 47 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.
Here’s the third point: Ministration – We are servants. It means to do service; to do ministry. We are servants. We are not to judge our city. We are to serve our city. We are servants of God. We are ministers.
Notice in this latter part that Nehemiah has put some as administers, which means their ministers over ministers. Some are ministers and they are to do service. You will see those words in verse forty four, “they ministered.” They did service for their God. So we see in verse forty six that they did it according to the training that they had received back in the day under David and a staff first forty seven said, They set apart these people and they set apart their portions. So this this had to do with the giving of offering and tithes that had to do with their ministry.
What does this have to do with seeing revival in our city? It’s the the last part. So we are sent to live as Jesus did incarnationally in our city. So we’re to be “little Jesuses, ” with His spirit living in us in our workplace, in our neighborhoods and whereever we go. . There’s something about us that’s of Jesus, the way we love people, the way we accept them just as they are and pull them towards the gospel. We identify with their hurts and their longings. We don’t diminish or judge, but we identify with and help them so that we were sent and we are salty. In other words, we are to be joyful even on Facebook. Maybe especially on Facebook. Instead of talking about how bad life is every time you get on there. This is my place that I complain. What if you tried to be salty there?
Here’s what Jesus says to his disciples; His disciples were already arguing, especially James and John, the Sons of Thunder, which meant they had bad tempers. They’re were saying, I think I’m going to be number one in the Kingdom of God. I want this. I want to sit on the right. They even got their mom involved. She asked Jesus, ‘Could you put my boys one on the left and one on the right when you get in the Kingdom of God on the side of your throne.’ But Jesus says, you descend to greatness. Here’s what he says. Whoever would be great among you must be your servant. In Mark 10:43-45 (ESV) 43 … whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And that’s how we gain influence. It’s upside down. It’s countercultural. We serve. We take the lowly spot and let God exalt us. And we serve and we give and we are generous and we are different than the world. We are called.
The servant Jeremiah talks about when the exiles were first carried off into captivity in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. They were all crying, ‘We don’t want to live here. We want to be back in Jerusalem. Who brought us here?’ Nebuchadnezzar brought us here, Jeremiah the prophet, writes to them and says,Jeremiah 29:5-7 (ESV) 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
I don’t know where you’re from. I don’t I don’t know how you ended up here. You followed a job. You followed a family member. Somehow you ended up here. Okay, wWhat if you were sent? Consider the possibility that God is sovereign over all things and you’ve been sent. And if you’re sent here, you’re supposed to be serving . You are supposed to live fully present here. And you’re supposed to serve in the place you’ve been sent. Serve here and stop going around saying ‘I’m in exile here until I can finally get to the place I really want to live or the job I really want or the person I really want to be spending my life with.’ Stop thinking about what you don’t have; serve in the place you are. Be fully present.
You know, when we wanted to plant a new location in Rocky Mount, my son, his wife and their kids moved to Rocky Mount because you have to live in proximity to the people. And then we put the word out to the people in our congregation, and we had families like the Moore’s who moved to Rocky Mount. A single woman named Mary, who was a nurse across the street at this hospital, transferred and got another job at Nash community and moved to Rocky Mount. We had people move from here all the way to Rocky Mount in order to plant. I remember Mary saying, “If I’m willing to go to Indonesia and Guatemala for Jesus, I guess I should go to Rocky Mount.” Sometimes it means going. When you are sent, you’re called to stay fully there as salt, as servants as people sent.Mary is in Indonesia right now for a year; once you start moving for God and doing for God, it just gets easier to say yes all the time to what God’s calling you to do.
There is stuff bubbling up in our church right now. There are people that came to me and said, ‘Hey, is it okay if we make bags for homeless people and put like things in the bags that homeless people would need?’ ‘Can we , drive around and give it to homeless people?’ I see to them, ‘you don’t need my permission to do that; it sounds like your sent. Go do that.’ Can we use the church lobby? Yeah, go ahead.
Somebody else came to me a few weeks ago and told me, ‘Pastor. I know we’re a hundred percent, my family’s one hundred percent behind you on this Rise Up. We know we need to build walls in order to have a safe place for people to come. We are on board for that, but is it okay that God seems to be moving me and I’m supposed to plant a garden and feed hungry people.’ This young man came to me, with tears welling up in his eyes. I said to him that it sounds like God’s telling him he is sent. And so a guy named Hunter found a guy named Bobby and they found a tractor and they found two or three acres of land and and something is getting ready to happen where we’re supposed to feed the hungry from a garden. It did say plant gardens in the book of Jeremiah, come to think of it, build houses, live in them, plant gardens. That’s in the list.
After first service, somebody got together out in the hallway with some other people from their small group, and they were praying together. They said to me, ‘Pastor, we’re getting ready to go feed the hungry. We are cooking some hot dogs and feeding the hungry downtown. I didn’t tell them to do that; I don’t have to. They are sons and daughters of the King, right? We’re called to ministry.
Something’s going on this coming Thursday; I’m meeting for the third time with local evangelical pastors from various denominations, and we’re praying for our city. We’re praying for the Spirit of God to fall upon our city, and these guys are praying like you wouldn’t believe. There is no competition. I’ve never seen it like this and I have been here twenty seven years . I’ve never seen a city so ripe for revival. We’re already planning, put it on your calendar for May first, a citywide prayer event. We’re trying to get the mall reserved; the old mall’s parking lot. We’re getting a place that’s run down and just meet in the parking lot. More on that later.
So there are three ways that Jesus models this; Jesus was sent to live among us and to pay the price to consecrate and dedicate us unto the Father. And as a result, He sends us back to service. He was a servant. He sends us as servants. Do you know Jesus? Today we’re called to be sent, to be salt and to be servants. I said earlier, we’re not called to move to Jerusalem, but someday Jerusalem will come to us.
In the Book of Revelation, it says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first heaven. And the first earth passed away in the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying Behold the dwelling place of God is with man He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will be with him as their god And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more. Neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away The new Jerusalem, the whole holy city of God and you will be its inhabitants.” Praise the Lord Jesus Yes, Someday we will move into Jerusalem. But for now we were sent here.
When I was a boy we would sing this song and I’ll close with this and then pray. I’m bound for that city God’s holy white city I’ll never turn back to this world anymore…. Are bound for that city? Some day we all that have followed Jesus will join Him there.
Let’s pray Lord, I pray first of all for that person that came in today far from God but would not desire to leave that way. Is that you, my friend? Are you here today and you would desire to be a child of God. You can do it right now, right in your seat, by turning your life over to Jesus. You can express it by prayer. I’m going to pray a prayer right now and you could pray along with me. What matters is that it expresses your heart’s desire. Dear Lord Jesus, I’m a sinner. I’ve fallen short of Your Holiness. But I know that you sent Jesus to die on the cross. Lord Jesus, that you died for me. You died for my sins. And three days later you were resurrected. And that you live today I believe that. Come and live in my life today; make me the person you want me to be. I give my life to you. Thank you for forgiving my sins and making me a child of God. I want you to be my Lord and Savior. I turn my life over to you. If you’re praying that prayer today, that’s why Jesus came is to call you to Himself and to forgive you and save you. Others are here today and you’ve prayed that prayer believing and you’re a believer today, but the Word speaks to you today to repent in the areas that you’ve been following the world or that you’ve been following your own flesh. Perhaps you have forgotten that you were sent here and you’ve been constantly trying to live somewhere else in your mind or in your thoughts. Would you right now say, Lord, help me to recognize I’m sent to my family, I’m sent to my neighborhood, to my workplace, to my school Lord, help me to be fully present, so the gospel is rooted in me in that place. Lord, help me to be salty and full of joy so the flavor of the environment around me has changed because of your spirit in me. And Lord help me to serve others not always looking for my needs to be met but to be a servant through the power of Jesus where we live. In Christ’s name. Amen.