Doing a Great Work for God
And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing, with cymbals, psalteries, and with harps.
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Our text for this lesson begins with a lengthy list of names which happen to be a record of the priests and Levites that had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. It is not until verse 27 that we find the subject of the chapter and perhaps the reason for the list. The Jews gathered all of the Levites together for the dedication of the walls. This dedication of the work is what chapter 12 is all about.
After the proper people had been gathered together, the ceremony began with purification performed by the Levites. Then Nehemiah formed two groups of people who marched in opposite directions on the walls meeting at the Temple. Nehemiah and Ezra the scribe were a part of this procession along with those who could sing and play the trumpet. It was a day filled with praise, worship, giving thanks, and offering sacrifices to God. It was such a joyful time that we are told "the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off" (verse 43).
The dedication of people or objects to God is not at all uncommon to the Old Testament (Numbers 7; Deuteronomy 20:5; 1 Kings 8:63; Ezra 6:16-17; Psalm 30:1). Things dedicated to God were set aside to be wholly devoted to the worship and service for Him. Today we often dedicate houses, books, and our children to God. It is quite common too for us to talk about dedicating our own life to God as Paul exhorts in Romans 12:1, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service". However, there is something peculiar in the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem especially in light of doing a great work for God.
The walls of Jerusalem were not formally dedicated to God until after they had been completed. If we consider this simple fact in combination with the walls being an illustration of our great work for God, it is clear that there is an application from this passage that more properly belongs to something yet in the future. Yes, at present we may dedicate our Church buildings, services, and even our own lives to God; but we cannot fully do this now in the same manner as will be done when the entire work has been finished. There is coming a grand and glorious day when the great work that we are involved in will be over and it will be dedicated formally to God! Consider what Paul told the Ephesians when he expounded the picture of a man and wife to Christ and the Church: "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Other passages in the New Testament also refer to this future dedication when the Church will be dedicated to God (Colossians 1:22, Jude 1:24). The New Jerusalem of Revelation 21:2 perhaps also pictures this day when "the bride" is presented. If we consider the passage in Colossians 1:12 - 29, it is not just the believer's who make up the work of God. In verse 20, Paul says this work is to "reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven". There is coming a day when all that was lost or marred at the fall of the first Adam will be restored and made better by the second Adam. The Book of Acts calls this "the times of restitution of all things" (Acts 3:21).
In this lesson, let us briefly lift up our eyes and consider the dedication that will take place when the work of God has been completely finished. Sometimes it is good to remember the big picture to more fully comprehend the work that we are involved in. So, we shall study in particular three key phrases in our text that have a significant bearing to dedication of the great work of God.
Verse 27 of our text contains an interesting phrase which describes an event just prior to the dedication ceremony when the Jews "sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem". In order to really understand the significance of this, we need to recall what made the Levites of such special concern.
The Levites were more than just the descendants of Levi, the third son of Jacob, but their significance among the other Israelites did not come about until the journey from Mt. Sinai. In Numbers 3:6-9, the Levites were presented as special ministers to the priests and for all of the service of God. Thus every Levite became a full time worker for the ministry and service of Jehovah. They became a unique group of people not given any inheritance in the land of Canaan and to be provided for by tithes, offerings, and sacrifices from the other children of Israel.
The reason for this special position is given in Numbers 3:12-13: as a tribe, they replaced all of the first-born in Israel. Just before they had left Egypt, God destroyed all of the first-born in the land that did not apply the blood of a lamb. At that time, God told Moses, "Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine" (Exodus 13:2). In the Old Testament, the first-born had a place of preeminence and enjoyed special privileges (Genesis 49:3; Deuteronomy 21:16-17; Colossians 1:18). In Israel, the Levites took on the significance of the first-born in their relation to Jehovah (see also Exodus 4:22).
So, the Levites became a type of those who had a special, first-born, relation to God and who were wholly dedicated to His work and service. As such, they represented all of the redeemed of Israel, and they are a type of the child of God or saint. If you are a believer, Hebrews 12:23 says that you are part of the "church of the firstborn".
Now, if at the dedication of the walls of Jerusalem, all of the Levites were gathered together out of all places, how much more so will all the saints be gathered together for the dedication of the work of God. As we look forward to that day, what a comfort to know that we will get to again be with believers who have gone on before us. Every saint will be gathered from wherever they are to have a part in this great dedication!
Another interesting phrase in our text is found in verse 30: "the priests and the Levites purified themselves, and purified the people, and the gates, and the wall". As God is pure and holy, nothing can rightfully be dedicated to Him without also being pure and holy. As believers, we have been made holy by the blood of Christ (Colossians 1:20-22; Hebrews 9:13-14; Revelation 7:14). However, this is merely the firstfruits of Holiness (Romans 8:23) because we still have a sin nature within our flesh. In addition, the earth is still full of sin being yet under a curse. We must still look forward to the completion of God's work when everything will fully be made holy, as Paul says, "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" waiting for that day (Romans 8:20-22). When the work of God is then purified, we can expect these things:
1. No Sin
Imagine what it will be like to thoroughly be purged from our sin nature. We will never fail God again. We will not have to ask forgiveness because we will not be able to sin. No wicked thoughts will enter our minds. No envy, no jealousy, no temper, and no sin! Jesus didn't go to the cross to just save us from hell, he also saved us from our sin (Matthew 1:21).
2. No Sickness
The sickness and disease that accompanies sin will be totally eradicated. No more cancer, no more heart disease, no more flu, and no more allergies. Our bodies will no longer age nor will we suffer from lack of strength. There will be no fatigue and no need for rest. (1 Corinthians 15:42-46; Philippians 3:21).
3. No Curse
When God has restored all things, the curse on the earth will be lifted. That means no more weeds, no more thorns, no more decay, no more droughts, and no more pestilence. The earth will flourish as it did in the garden of Eden. (Revelation 22:3).
Finally, notice that wonderful phrase in verse 43, "for God had made them rejoice with great joy: the wives also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off". If these Jews could rejoice over the completion of an earthly work, how much greater will be the rejoicing of God's people when His completed work is dedicated? How can we even begin to imagine what that day will be like? As Paul quoted from Isaiah 64:4, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). We know this though - it will be a day of exceeding joy (1 Peter 4:13, Jude 1:24).
It is needful that we often consider the work that we are involved in and its end. In times of tribulation and suffering, it can be such a source of comfort to consider the day when all things are restored and made better. It is too a great source of exhortation to work hard toward getting others saved so they can take part in the dedication. We all have loved ones, friends, and neighbors that we would like to have there. Finally, it is a great way to maintain our focus on the work that is going to really be worth something for eternity. No other work we are involved in can compare and no other work will be dedicated to God like the great work that we are now involved in for Him!
There's no disappointment in Heaven,
No weariness, sorrow or pain;
No hearts that are bleeding and broken,
No song with a minor refrain.
The clouds of our earthly horizon will never appear in the sky,
For all will be sunshine and gladness, with never a sob nor a sigh.
We'll never pay rent on our mansion,
The taxes will never come due;
Our garments will never grow threadbare,
But always be fadeless and new;
We'll never be hungry nor thirsty, nor languish in poverty there,
For all the rich bounties of Heaven His sanctified children will share.
There'll never be crepe on the doorknob,
No funeral train in the sky;
No graves on the hillsides of Glory,
For there we shall never more die.
The old will be young there forever,
Transformed in a moment of time;
Immortal we'll stand in His likeness,
The stars and the sun to outshine.
I'm bound for that beautiful city My Lord has prepared for His own;
Where all the redeemed of all ages Sing "Glory" around the white throne;
Sometimes I grow homesick for Heaven, and the glories I there shall behold;
What a joy that will be when my Savior I see,
In that beautiful city of gold!