On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy.
Once the people of Jerusalem were clean before God, they were ready to celebrate the wall’s completion. So in Nehemiah 12:27, Nehemiah and Ezra called the party specialists of the day–the Levites, the choir, and the orchestra. You may not know this, but music is unique to the Christian faith. James Montgomery Boice wrote, “Singing has always been a striking feature of the worship of God’s Old Testament and New Testament people. This is not true of other religions. Many use repetitive chants. In some, clergy sing.” A scary thought, isn’t it? “But generally the religions of the world are grim things. It is only in biblical religion that the people of God are characteristically joyful and express their joy in great singing.” Why is that? It is a response to the great acts of God on our behalf. Nehemiah understood this. Look at what he did to orchestrate this celebration: “Then I had the leaders of Judah come up on top of the wall, and I appointed two great choirs, the first proceeding to the right on top of the wall. . . . The second choir proceeded to the left, while I followed them with half of the people on the wall” (Nehemiah 12:31, 38). Picture the scene of those people marching down the wall, celebrating the greatness of God. In Christianity today, there is this tendency to say, “The more bland we can make our music, our buildings, and our dress, the more God is glorified.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Everything we do in the name of God should reflect, not refute, the majesty and the greatness of God. That is exactly what you see here.
You might say, “Why did Nehemiah and Ezra spend all this time on a celebration?” I think Nehemiah orchestrated this celebration for the glory of God. Look at verse 43: “On that day they offered great sacrifices and rejoiced because God had given them great joy, even the women and children rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard from afar.” This celebration was so loud, so raucous, that people living outside of Jerusalem heard all about it. Our oldest daughter, Julia, was a cheerleader in high school, so every Friday night, my wife and I would go to the football game to watch Julia cheerlead. But we would inevitably be late to the game, and we would have to park in the hinterlands. You could barely see the stadium. But as we would walk toward that stadium, we could hear the bands playing, and every now and then, there would be a roar that would erupt from the stadium. We knew something exciting was happening, and we better get in there quick. That was the picture here. People on the outside of the wall heard the festivities, and they looked up and saw all of these people marching around with their instruments. Remember Tobiah and Sanballat? They were Nehemiah’s critics who said, “You will never rebuild that wall.” As they stood outside watching hundreds of people dancing on top of this great wall, how embarrassed they must have been. That is why Nehemiah orchestrated this celebration: to prove to the people the glory and the greatness of the God that they served.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Joy In The Rubble” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2010.
James Montgomery Boice, “Nehemiah” (1990; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 130.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org