From Nehemiah’s actions, we learn three principles to preserve God’s work to avoid taking it for granted in the ordinary seasons.
Nehemiah 7: “Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.” The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.
Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first, and I found written in it:
These were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried into exile. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his town. They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah.
The number of the men of the people of Israel: the sons of Parosh, 2,172. The sons of Shephatiah, 372. The sons of Arah, 652. The sons of Pahath-moab, namely the sons of Jeshua and Joab, 2,818. The sons of Elam, 1,254. The sons of Zattu, 845. The sons of Zaccai, 760. The sons of Binnui, 648. The sons of Bebai, 628. The sons of Azgad, 2,322. The sons of Adonikam, 667. The sons of Bigvai, 2,067. The sons of Adin, 655. The sons of Ater, namely of Hezekiah, 98. The sons of Hashum, 328. The sons of Bezai, 324. The sons of Hariph, 112. The sons of Gibeon, 95. The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, 188. The men of Anathoth, 128. The men of Beth-azmaveth, 42. The men of Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, 743. The men of Ramah and Geba, 621. The men of Michmas, 122. The men of Bethel and Ai, 123. The men of the other Nebo, 52. The sons of the other Elam, 1,254. The sons of Harim, 320. The sons of Jericho, 345. The sons of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, 721. The sons of Senaah, 3,930.
The priests: the sons of Jedaiah, namely the house of Jeshua, 973. The sons of Immer, 1,052. The sons of Pashhur, 1,247. The sons of Harim, 1,017.
The Levites: the sons of Jeshua, namely of Kadmiel of the sons of Hodevah, 74. The singers: the sons of Asaph, 148. The gatekeepers: the sons of Shallum, the sons of Ater, the sons of Talmon, the sons of Akkub, the sons of Hatita, the sons of Shobai, 138.
The temple servants: the sons of Ziha, the sons of Hasupha, the sons of Tabbaoth, the sons of Keros, the sons of Sia, the sons of Padon, the sons of Lebana, the sons of Hagaba, the sons of Shalmai, the sons of Hanan, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Gahar, the sons of Reaiah, the sons of Rezin, the sons of Nekoda, the sons of Gazzam, the sons of Uzza, the sons of Paseah, the sons of Besai, the sons of Meunim, the sons of Nephushesim, the sons of Bakbuk, the sons of Hakupha, the sons of Harhur, the sons of Bazlith, the sons of Mehida, the sons of Harsha, the sons of Barkos, the sons of Sisera, the sons of Temah, the sons of Neziah, the sons of Hatipha.
The sons of Solomon’s servants: the sons of Sotai, the sons of Sophereth, the sons of Perida, the sons of Jaala, the sons of Darkon, the sons of Giddel, the sons of Shephatiah, the sons of Hattil, the sons of Pochereth-hazzebaim, the sons of Amon.
All the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants were 392.
The following were those who came up from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer, but they could not prove their fathers’ houses nor their descent, whether they belonged to Israel: the sons of Delaiah, the sons of Tobiah, the sons of Nekoda, 642. Also, of the priests: the sons of Hobaiah, the sons of Hakkoz, the sons of Barzillai (who had taken a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite and was called by their name). These sought their registration among those enrolled in the genealogies, but it was not found there, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.
The whole assembly together was 42,360, besides their male and female servants, of whom there were 7,337. And they had 245 singers, male and female. Their horses were 736, their mules 245, their camels 435, and their donkeys 6,720.
Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 darics of gold, 50 basins, 30 priests’ garments and 500 minas of silver. And some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave into the treasury of the work 20,000 darics of gold and 2,200 minas of silver. And what the rest of the people gave was 20,000 darics of gold, 2,000 minas of silver, and 67 priests’ garments.
So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns.
And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns.” (ESV)
Has God ever done something in your life that you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt was the work of His hand? It might be your dream job, your spouse, a promotion, and for some their immigration status. My life is full of those miraculous moments but in comparison to my whole life, most of my life has been ordinary. If we do not preserve God’s work in extraordinary seasons, we risk forgetting and taking it for granted in the ordinary season of life.
The problem is that as time passes the dream job we wanted, the spouse we prayed for, and the promotion we desired no longer seem as miraculous as they did when they were out of our reach, and we knew only God could do that. What we need is to preserve God’s work as He does something for us so that in the ordinary season, we do not take God’s work for granted.
In Nehemiah 6, God’s people built the wall in merely 52 days, which they were not able to do in 141 years. In Nehemiah 6:16 even their enemies recognized that it was God’s work. Now in Nehemiah 7:1-73, Nehemiah took three actions to preserve God’s work, so that God’s people neither took it for granted nor would forget it.
The question is how do we preserve God’s work? From Nehemiah’s actions, we learn three principles to preserve God’s work to avoid taking it for granted in the ordinary seasons: we preserve God’s work through godly worship, through godly leadership, and through godly fellowship.
Preserving God’s Work through Godly Worship
First, we can preserve God’s work through godly worship. Verse 1 begins, “Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed…” Nehemiah appointed them to reestablish the worship of God because there is no better way to preserve God’s work than through godly worship. The gatekeepers were necessary to guard the city so that the people of God could have uninterrupted worship.
When my wife and my father-in-law visited my dad’s church in Pakistan for the very first time, they were blown away by the number of gunmen guarding the church on Sunday morning. When you are in the midst of the enemy’s territory you trust God and treat the hostile territory with a measure of caution. Trusting God and taking protective measures are not two different things. This is true in our spiritual life also. We cannot just trust God and not take protective measures to restrain from sin.
What is the application? If you want to preserve God’s work, that is what God has done or is doing for you, establish daily worship in your life. Godly worship will guard you against worldly attacks.
Preserving God’s Work through Godly Leadership
The second principle we learn from Nehemiah in this text is that we preserve God’s work through godly leadership. Verse 2 says, “I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many.” Ideally, in a leader, you want competency and character, but many competent people fail as leaders because of a lack of character. Godly character makes godly leaders. The leaders Nehemiah picked must have been competent, but his focus was on character. We see two character traits as qualifications for a leader:
Faithfulness: In the Old Testament in Hebrew, faithfulness means reliable and trustful. In the New Testament, this qualification is a must for every Christian leader, whether at church or home. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.”
Paul uses the Greek word hypéretés for “servants of Christ.” Hypo is “under” and eresso is “to row.” Basically this is refers to an under-rower, the guy who follows the official orders and rows the boat in the direction determined and set by the master pilot or captain, which in this case is Jesus. A Christian leader is also a steward, Paul says, which is a manager of a household. Christian leadership is servant leadership under the Lordship of Jesus whether at home or church. It is not a position of power and authority but humility and service. In a general sense, all believers are leaders because we are leading people to a better way of life, the way of life—Jesus.
God-fearing: This is the term the Bible uses for those who have a deep reverence and awe for God. The Hebrew word for fear of God, “Yare” has a positive connotation but in English, we do not have any word like that.
Once Nehemiah identified faithful and God-fearing leaders, he laid out policies and protocols for them to follow to preserve God’s work. In verse 3, he says, “And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”
Why did he put policies and protocols together? Verse 4 says because “The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt.” Now that the city was secured with walls and gates new people were coming. Anyone opening the gate whenever they wanted and for whomever they wanted would have compromised the security of the nation. I assume these policies and protocols also guarded the city against ungodly people attempting to enter with false gods.
Nehemiah as a godly leader reestablished worship first to preserve God’s work so that they did not forget what God had done for them. The second order of business was to identify godly leaders that could uphold godly worship to preserve God’s work. Why?
Because it was not the first time God did something extraordinary for them. Israel was a habitual offender of forgetting what God had done for them and thus worshiped false gods. God delivered them from Pharaoh. However, when Moses went up on the mountain to speak to God they forgot the work of God, the ten plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea and began to worship the golden cow.
The application for us is this: If we want to preserve God’s work through godly worship, then not only do we need godly leadership to establish godly worship, but also godly leaders to identify and train future godly leaders to preserve Godly worship. Men, as leaders of your household, you are responsible for establishing godly worship in your house and also for raising godly leaders for the future.
Preserving God’s Work through Godly Fellowship
The third and final principle we see in this text is that we preserve God’s work through godly fellowship. If the objective is to preserve God’s work through worship for which we need godly leadership, then we also need to establish a godly fellowship that is willing to submit to and support the preservation of God’s work. In the rest of the chapter that’s what we see in two sets of records: verses 5-69 is the record of genealogy and verses 70-72 is the record of generosity.
Let’s look at these two records:
Record of Genealogy: in verses 5-69, we see the genealogical record served three practical purposes in reestablishing godly worship to establish godly fellowship to preserve God’s work.
The first purpose was to identify the original returnees among God’s people. In verse 5 Nehemiah says, “Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first.”
The original returnees chose to uproot themselves from a land where they had established their homes, business, and connections because God said so when He sent them into exile 70 years earlier. Many of their children were born there. Verses 6-7 list the leaders who led them back to Jerusalem to worship. Verses 8-38 is the list of all the men that came with them, verses 39-42 lists priests, verses 43-45 lists Levites with a sub-category of singers and gatekeepers, and verses 46-60 were the temple servants and the sons of Solomon’s servants.
The second purpose of the genealogical record was to identify the imposters among God’s people. We see that in verses 61-64. Over 141 years imposters had entered and mingled among God’s people. So, for a godly fellowship, it was critical to identify who the imposters were, or else they would have undermined God’s work by sowing seeds of deceit and spreading rumors to divide them from within.
Also, as to whether priests were Jews or not, for those who could not be authenticated verse 65 says, “The governor told them that they were not to partake of the most holy food until a priest with Urim and Thummim should arise.” The Urim and Thummim were mysterious objects the Israelites used to determine God’s will.
The third purposes of the record was to design the city for God’s people. In verses 66-69, we see over 42,000 people in the city with their servants, singers, horses, mules, camels, and donkeys. To plan and rebuild the city within the wall Nehemiah needed that data so that proper provisions were made.
Record of Generosity: It is estimated that the project cost about ½ a billion dollars and the numbers in verses 70-72 represent the contributions from three main sources. Nehemiah gave about one-third, the elite gave one-third, and the rest gave one-third. Nehemiah basically gave the most because godly leaders lead by example.
Notice that in verse 70 he did not even mention his name, he just said the governor gave. That is humility. Jesus taught the same principle in Matthew 6:3-4: when we give our left hand should not know what the right hand is doing. Verse 4 says, “so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Those who believe in preserving God’s work do not just care about the end goal, but about everything it takes to make it there, so they support the effort to preserve God’s work.
The application for us is this: Godly fellowship gives generously because they believe it is an act of worship and helps to preserve God’s work. By giving we support God’s work and by giving we show God’s work in our hearts. The chapter closes with verse 73, “So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, some of the people, the temple servants, and all Israel, lived in their towns. And when the seventh month had come, the people of Israel were in their towns.” This to me is rest that identifies the ordinary season of life.
When I arrived in the United States from Pakistan my life became significantly more comfortable, such that I had never experienced ever before. Though the persecution was awful, deliverance time and time again was awesome. I had become addicted to spiritual highs through the extraordinary works of God. God had to teach me how to preserve His work in the ordinary season through godly worship, godly leadership, and godly fellowship.
The action we should be willing to take to preserve God’s work is godly worship. You can establish daily worship in your household through reading the Bible, praying, and singing hymns and songs together. When I tell my children what God has done for me, I build their faith. Corporate worship on Sunday is the expression of our worship on Monday through Saturday. What steps are you taking to worship throughout the week? Because in eternity we have no other job but worship.
Let me close with an appeal: If God has done or is doing something for you in this season, be intentional about preserving God’s work through daily worship so that you neither forget nor take God’s work for granted in the ordinary season of your life. The greatest work of God is the work of salvation. All sinners saved by Jesus can only preserve God’s work in them through the power of the Spirit. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God’s preserving grace guarantees the perseverance of His people through all seasons for the day when we will stand in His presence.
In the meta-narrative of the Bible which is creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, God decided to preserve His work first through His elected people, the nation of Israel, until the arrival of the Messiah Jesus. Do you realize without these genealogical records it would have been impossible to prove that Jesus the Son of God came through the line of Judah and through the lineage of David the king?
When we worship, we testify that there is no one worthy of worship but the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. We worship God when we love Jesus, serve Jesus, obey Jesus, invite others to obey Jesus, and resist sin and temptation to sin in obedience to Jesus, Reader, when we commit to worshiping Jesus, God commits to see that His work for each of us is carried to completion for the day of Jesus.