Encouraging worship (Neh. 7:70–73)
Citizenship and leadership together can make a state, but it takes worship to make that state into a godly nation. John Stuart Mill wrote, “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.” But the worth of the individual depends on his or her relationship to God, and this involves worship. If individual godliness declines, the morality of the nation declines.
The parallel passage is Ezra 2:68–70, which tells us that some of the Jewish leaders gave generously to the temple ministry. But Nehemiah informs us that the governor (“Tirshatha”) and some of the common people also gave offerings to the Lord. It was only right that the leaders set the example. A thousand drams (Neh. 7:70) would be 19 pounds of gold, and 20,000 drams (vv. 71–72) would be about 375 pounds. It seems obvious that some of the Jewish leaders left Babylon very wealthy men, with precious metals and servants; but within a few years, the economy failed and the nation was in the grips of a crippling depression (Hag. 1).
But all of this money would have been useless were it not for the God-appointed ministers at the temple: the priests, Levites, singers, and helpers (Neh. 7:73). Moses had assigned special towns for the priests and Levites to live in (Num. 35:1–8; Josh. 21), but later Nehemiah had to move some of them into Jerusalem (Neh. 11:1–2).
It was now the seventh month (Oct.-Nov.), when Israel was expected to celebrate the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:23–44). There could have been no better time for Nehemiah to call the people together to honor the Word of God, confess their sins, and dedicate themselves and their work to the Lord. What began with concern (Neh. 1) led to construction (chaps. 2–3) and conflict (chaps. 4–7); and now it was time for consecration (chaps. 8–12).
As we serve the Lord, we must always do our best; but without His help and blessing, even our best work will never last. “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Ps. 127:1, NKJV). Nehemiah knew that there was a desperate need for the people to come back to the Lord and turn away from their secret sins that were grieving Him. Even though Nehemiah was the official representative of a pagan king, he did everything he could to glorify the God of Israel.
One of the key lessons we can learn from this long chapter is that people are important to God. When God wanted to take the next step in His great plan of redemption, He called a group of Jews to leave the place of exile and return to their own land. He gave them encouragement from the prophets and leadership from people who feared God and wanted to honor Him. The Lord didn’t send a band of angels to do the job; He used common people who were willing to risk their futures on the promises of God.
Today, God is still calling people to leave their personal “Babylons” and follow Him by faith. The church is living in a day of reproach (Neh. 2:17), and there are “ruins” all around us that need to be rebuilt. “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” David asked (Ps. 11:3). The answer is plain: The righteous can rebuild what has been torn down and start over again! If you think that an enemy victory is final, then you have lost your faith in God’s promises. There is always a new beginning for those who are willing to pay the price.
This chapter also reminds us that God keeps accounts of His servants. He knows where we came from, what family we belong to, how much we gave, and how much we did for Him. When we stand before the Lord, we will have to give an accounting of our lives before we can receive our rewards (Rom. 14:7–12); and we want to be able to give a good account.
A third lesson we must learn is that the Lord is able to keep His work going. The first group of Jewish exiles left Babylon for Judea in 538 B.C. and, in spite of many difficulties and delays, rebuilt the temple and restored the worship. Eighty years later, Ezra and another group returned; and fourteen years after that, Nehemiah arrived and rebuilt the walls and gates. During the days of Zerubbabel, God raised up the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah to give God’s message to His people. No matter how discouraging the situation might be, God is able to accomplish His purposes if we will trust Him and do His will. John Wesley was right when he said that God buries His workers but continues His work. We must not be discouraged!
Finally, and most important, we must all be sure that we know we are in the family of God. No matter how much they argued or protested, the priests without legitimate genealogies could not enter the temple precincts and minister at the altar. God is not impressed with our first birth; what He wants is that we experience a second birth and become His children. If you are not certain of your spiritual genealogy, read John 3:1–18 and 1 John 5:9–13 and make sure that your name is written down in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Wiersbe, Warren W.: Be Determined. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1992, S. Ne 7:70
  August 2018  
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