4 lessons part 4

 

                      Nehemiah

 

                                                       Part 4

           

In this lesson I would like to take you through several tasks which under

Nehemiah’s leadership were established by the Lord. At the same time we

shall look at certain functions of strategically appointed people.

We have already seen in the earlier lessons that it is extremely important within

the fellowship of the church (or any kind of community or company) to have a

clear plan and strategy in order to be able to have a stable, powerful and growing

congregation.

Unfortunately when a church doesn’t grow the lack of growth is often covered up

with all sorts of excuses. Growth is a Biblical and therefore healthy principle.

 

TASKS (in the Book Nehemiah)

 

In Nehemiah 12:44-47 we read about men who were appointed to be in charge of

the storerooms

These storerooms were for :       the offerings

                                               the first fruits

                                               the tithes

These men are mentioned in 1 Chronicles together with the gatekeepers, the

supervisors and the treasurers.

 

The names of these tasks indicate something of what their work involved: keeping

watch, being responsible for…, experts with understanding of and care for the

finances.

 

To get a correct picture of their responsibilities, we cannot avoid examining the

contents of the storerooms.

In these rooms the offerings were kept. The institution of the offerings we can find

in the book of  Numbers 5:5-10. An offering had to do with the settling of a debt

of sin. If someone, man or woman, had committed a sin against somebody else,

that person had suffered damage. But by sinning the sinner had been unfaithful

 to the Lord. And in so doing the sinner had piled up a debt on his own head.

 

Then we read in Num 5:7 how he/she could put it all right.

A.   confess the sin

B.   make full restitution for the damage to the injured party plus one fifth of the

      value

C.   in the event that there is no relative to whom restitution can be made, this

      should be paid to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement

      with which atonement is made for him/her.

 

So we see that in the Old Testament the problem of sin is quite clearly spoken

about. But also in the New Testament we read (e.g. in 1 Jn 1:9) that whenever we

sin  we must confess that sin to God. There is here then no difference between

the Old and the New testaments.

In our affluent society we have many insurance companies through which we

can arrange compensation (restitution) and that is good.

But not all damages can be compensated for like that. Consider theft, lying,

murder, manipulation etc. Many people, organisations, companies and churches

are damaged by lies and manipulation and suffer loss.

In the case of stealing it is possible to arrange compensation.

 

The third aspect of what we see in Numbers is the payment for the priest.

 

During my evangelistic journeys in Portugal and elsewhere I have seen some

perverted instances of this practice. In the town of Fatima, for instance, idol

worship is preached, whereby people are taught to kneel before an image of

Fatima.

 

Two teachers who had made a promise to Fatima had to pay a fine to the priest

because they had not been able to keep the promise. They had actually promised

to walk 200 km’s as penance, but as a result of exhaustion and foot problems

had had to give up the walk. They confessed this to the priest in

the pilgrimage town of Fatima and he said that Fatima would be very angry now,

but if they gave him two daily wages they would be forgiven

 

 Idol worship in Fatima Port.

                                                                                                     Deceived by fals doctrin.

 

Praise God that we were there then with a team of 6 people to preach the

Biblical message of Jesus Christ. These two women were thinking over the whole

question when they met a Portuguese team member of just 15 years of age who

preached Jesus to them.

They didn’t pay the fine, but asked instead the Portuguese team for a Bible course.

 

In Fatima people are misled into parting with the little that they possess.

Tens of thousands each year are hoodwinked by this idol worship, while the Bible

tells us that there is only ONE mediator between God and Men, Jesus Christ who

has given His blood for these poor people. 1 Tim 2:5, Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 1:9

 

See Jeremiah 51:17  God’s warning about revering images.

Jer 33:3 God’s promises to those who call upon Him personally.

More: John 1:12, 1.Peter 1:18,19, John 10:9, 8:31,32, Romans 10:13, etc..

 

If a child of God wants to make up for damage done to someone and if for one

reason or another it is not possible to do that to the person him or herself or to

the congregation which has been sinned against, he or she can make a gift to

e.g. a missionary society or help organisation.

But this can only be done after confessing the sin to God and to the person(s)

affected by it.

A material gift can NEVER erase a sin or be a substitute for acknowledging and

confessing sins.

Only “acknowledging, confessing and repenting from our sins” can make effective

the cleansing from sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. See 1 John 1:6-9.

Nothing can be added to the death and resurrection of Jesus to make it more

effective.

 

The statutory contributions (in the O.T.) were for the Levites and the priests so

that they could carry out their duties and be able to live from them.

(This included the meat of the offerings.

This is quite different from what we should expect nowadays.)

They looked after the divine service and the cleansing ceremonies: Neh 12:44,45.

 

Now in the church from N.T. times we observe divine worship but do not go to great

lengths with cleansing vessels and lepers (Lev 14) etc as they had to do in O.T.

times.

 

The priests had the task to lead worship and serve in God’s house.

Consider the offering and reconciliation rituals where they clearly performed a

mediating as well as a serving role in the preparation of the offerings and treating

the lepers, for instance.

 

TREASURERS

 

Now who were the treasurers? In Nehemiah 13:13  we find, ”And I appointed as

treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe and

Pedaiah of the Levites and as their assistants Hanan the son of Zaccur, son of

Mattaniah, for they were accounted faithful; and their duty was to distribute to

their brethren.

 

Treasurers:                               A. Priests, Scribe, Levite

                                               B. Assistants for these people

 

Required characteristic:             C. Were known to be faithful

 

Task:                                       D. To distribute to the brethren

 

What was brought into the storehouses?  The tithes of corn, oil etc. In short

everything that was necessary to maintain the lives of the people who were in

service at the temple.

Now there is often a discussion about the tithe. Is it for us today in the New

Testament fellowship or was it only for the Old Testament times?

There is also often discussion about poverty in this world.

And we could ask ourselves whether these two things are connected.

I don’t want to lay the blame for the poverty on the fellowship of the church of

Jesus Christ. Unfortunately many people fall into the devil’s trap of taking the

blame on themselves for all sorts of things for which they have absolutely

nothing to do. Also not all poverty is real poverty, but the result of financial

mismanagement. In this last case there is more need of education rather than

boxes of food, which may do nothing to teach those in need.. It is easy but not

constructive. Help must therefore always be coupled with education and help

must be constructive, so that people learn to look after themselves.

 

Are there in reality needy people in the church ( as well as close by us)? These,

according to the Bible, are who the storehouses are for. In the fellowship of

Jesus Christ there should be no poverty. Sharing is characteristic of God’s

kingdom.

A storehouse should be an important part of the church.

We must always realise that its use and purpose must be in line with the Bible:

to provide for the needs of the poor in the fellowship.

In addition to this there should be a team of several faithful (trustworthy) persons

who are appointed from different sections ( so not three elders or three youth

workers, etc). Faithfulness must be characteristic of them in detail.

Deacon. In Greek the word diakonos = servant. In the New Testament the first

deacons appear in Acts 6:1-6, although the word deacon doesn’t appear in the text.

 

In this passage it is about distributing food to widows, who according to some

lacked support.

 

The apostles made it clear that this caring should not take place at the expense

of preaching and prayer, which they were continually involved in.

 

The tremendous thing that we see in this passage is that whenever the church

takes its task seriously God will (by His Holy Spirit) establish His word

even more and more and more people will join the church. See Acts 6:7

 

In Nehemiah 13:6-11 we see another financial problem.

During Nehemiah’s absence, the people had stopped paying the tithes from which

the temple workers had to live. RESULT:

the workers (Levites and singers who carry out the temple service) had been

forced to leave to work his own fields in order to provide for his livelihood.

 

In this respect I would like to mention the workers in the mission fields.

They too are fall under the responsibility of the house of God, the church members.

 

Nehemiah discussed this with the leaders (13:10) and said: “ Why is the house

of God left to provide for itself?”

 

Nehemiah goes further: I called them together again and appointed them to their

offices. And all of Judah brought the tithes of corn and oil, etc AGAIN INTO THE

STOREHOUSES.”

( Here it was not a question of money but of goods for their livelihood and the

temple worship).

 

SUPERVISORS

 

In Numbers 4:16 we see an example of the task of supervisors.

Here we see the description of the supervisory task of the priest Eleazar.

 

I would like to draw a parallel here with the priest in the New Testament in

1 Peter 2:9

 

Here in Numbers we see the task, in 1 Peter the basis for the task in the light

of the New Testament, and so for the New Testament church of Jesus Christ.

The born-again person ( being converted to and believing in God and being

baptised), the child of God, is called here to a “royal priesthood”.  Here it is no

longer a select group which is indicated, but all believers who have become

Christians through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This is the Biblical basis on which a task in the fellowship of the church of Jesus

Christ can and may be carried out. For instance the office of supervisor and

 deacon (Phil 1:1, 1 Tim 3:1-10 and compare Acts 6:1-3, 6)

 

I would also like to draw a connecting line between supervisors and gatekeepers

etc and Ephesians 4:11-16, where we read about the five-fold ministry which Paul

speaks and which has as its objective:

A.    Equipping the saints for service

B.    Building up the body of Christ, the church

C.    To bring into practice the unity of faith and full knowledge in Jesus Christ

D.    To develop the church members to maturity and the measure of fullness in Christ

E.    To train the members to speak about their faith and be stable in it

F.     By this to make them resistant to false teaching and other traps

G.    To encourage spiritual growth in the church

H.     To realise the unity of believers

I.        To motivate and stimulate every member to living, active faith

J.      To present the final aim: to build up the body of Christ in love

 

 

We also see in the book Nehemiah that every member had his/her place and task

and that it all led to achieving the ultimate objective.

A      Nehemiah was led by God’s Spirit to serve his people Neh 1&2

B      Nehemiah calls up the Jews, priests, nobles, officials and leaders to the

        rebuilding.

C      Nehemiah sanctified the rebuilt parts Neh 3:1

D      The people were taught to sanctify themselves and to praise the Lord Neh 9

E      The people were encouraged to stand fast and persevere despite

        opposition Neh 4

F      The people learnt to make choices when building relationships   Neh 13:1-3

G      After the day of sanctification and cleansing in Neh 9 they entered into a pact

         to maintain all the ordinances which the word God gives.

H      The ultimate objective to which Neh strove was a safe city for his people and

         that his people would live in complete freedom in absolute submission and

         dedication to the God of heaven.

 

GATEKEEPERS

 

In Sam 18:26 we first read about the gatekeeper.

In this verse we see that the watchman on the city wall would keep watch and

whenever anyone approached he called out and warned the gatekeeper.

 

In 1Kings 7:10,11 we see the same description of the gatekeeper and in

1 Chron. 9:17,18 we see the gatekeepers at the Levites army camps.

In verse 19 their task is described as keepers of the threshold of the tent.

These guarded the entrance to the tent of meetings. In verse 22 we see that the

two terms cover the same task, so “gatekeepers at the thresholds” are spoken of.

 

In Ezra 2:36-42, 70;7:6,7 we see in the middle of a list of those who returned from

exile the task of priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers…

 

Now in Neh 7:1,45 we see the gatekeepers restored to their position as soon as

the city wall is completed and the singers and Levites are also appointed by the

Governor Nehemiah.

 

In Neh 10:28-30 the gatekeepers are also named among those who are totally

committed and devoted to the word of God. Here too it is recorded that they must

not mix with men and women from other nations where they have other gods and

the associated customs.  They had  to give themselves completely to God who

had led them out of Egypt and other repression.  They subscribed completely to

the word of God and decided to refuse all other compromises.

 

So here we see people who were dedicated to God and who supervised the city

(church) so  that nothing could come in without it first being subjected to close

scrutiny.

 

It is therefore not surprising that we read right at the beginning in Neh 2 :10, 19

how the enemy panicked when he heard about the rebuilding.

In the same way we often see in the church how that as soon as clear aims are

set up for spiritual building-up and strengthening of the fellowship and extending

its activities, the devil very quickly and in devious and sometimes pious ways

comes into action to undermine,  confuse  and if possible to stifle the efforts to

realise the plans.

The enemy never has any trouble with a church which degenerates into a passive

tradition. As long as there is not up -building going on spiritually or in activities or

size there will be hardly any opposition.

 

Nehemiah actually calls us to a living and active faith. As a strategist he calls

us to be alert and watchful. He calls each of us to take up his/her position and

to carry out the assigned task completely. He calls us to sanctification and

dedication to the Lord the God of heaven.

 

THE SINGERS

 

The singers, as we have seen, are organised together with the gatekeepers etc in

1 Chron 25:1-8.

 

The first ones were sons of Asaph a well-known psalm writer who composed

Psalms 50 – 83.

Psalms 42 – 49 were composed by the descendents of Korach.

In 1 Chron 25:6 we read of the sons of Asaph who prophesied while playing

harps, lyres and cymbals.

Then in verses 3 to 7 we read about the sons of Jeduthun who under the direction

of their  father were prophesying, praising and glorifying the Lord while playing

the lyre. We also read of Heman and his sons who translated the words of the

Lord for the king.

And all these people took part in singing in the house of the Lord with lyres,

harps and cymbals during the worship sessions.

 

These singer-prophets were set apart for God’s service  1 Chron 25:1

 

They were appointed and set apart by King David (25:2)

 

They were under the direction of their father (Asaph, Jeduthun)

 

They prophesied while worshipping and praising the Lord (25:3)

 

We see also Heman the king’s seer (prophet-counsellor), who interpreted God’s

words to “raise the horn” (= make mighty)

(See also Luke 1:69 “…and has raised up a horn of salvation for us…” i.e.

a mighty and courageous helper, the author of salvation.

This comes from the Amplified translation).

 

Coclusion singers: Neh. Singers were originally appointed by David and Asaph

and trained (1 Chron 25:7) to serve in God’s house.

 

Task: Singing, music, prophecying, interpreting the words of God.

 

From this we see that the task of the singer-musician in God’s house is a task for

people who have a good relationship with God. They should be dedicated to God

and His Word to be able to understand and discern the voice of God and His

special messages and to pass them on to God’s people through song and

prophecy.

A prophet is God’s ambassador who speaks on His behalf and proclaims what

God has inspired him to pass on. (Jer 1:9)

 

Nehemiah calls us all to a living and active faith. As strategist he calls us

to be alert and watchful. He calls each Christian to take up his/her position

and to carry out his/her appointed task. In the New Testament we read this

 sort of exhortation to us in the letters of Paul.

Like Nehemiah Paul calls us to sanctify ourselves and to dedicate ourselves

 to the Lord the God of heaven, the God of the Bible.

 

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