Nehemiah 7 gives a long list of who returned to Jerusalem and the surrounding towns from Babylon. I’m going to omit the long list of names and numbers this time, and just include the opening and closing verses of the chapter as well as the beginning of chapter 8.
Nehemiah 7: 1 – 6; 63 – 73 and Nehemiah 8: 1 – 3
“After the wall was finished and I had set up the doors in the gates, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. 2 I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. 3 I said to them, “Do not leave the gates open during the hottest part of the day. (or keep the gates closed until the sun is hot) And even while the gatekeepers are on duty, have them shut and bar the doors. Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts and some in front of their own homes.”
4 At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt. 5 So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration. I had found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah. This is what was written there:
6 Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived.
63 Three families of priests—Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai—also returned. (This Barzillai had married a woman who was a descendant of Barzillai of Gilead, and he had taken her family name.) 64 They searched for their names in the genealogical records, but they were not found, so they were disqualified from serving as priests. 65 The governor told them not to eat the priests’ share of food from the sacrifices until a priest could consult the Lord about the matter by using the Urim and Thummim—the sacred lots.
66 So a total of 42,360 people returned to Judah, 67 in addition to 7,337 servants and 245 singers, both men and women. 68 They took with them 736 horses, 245 mules, 69 435 camels, and 6,720 donkeys.
70 Some of the family leaders gave gifts for the work. The governor gave to the treasury 1,000 gold coins, 50 gold basins, and 530 robes for the priests. 71 The other leaders gave to the treasury a total of 20,000 gold coins and some 2,750 pounds[v] of silver for the work. 72 The rest of the people gave 20,000 gold coins, about 2,500 pounds of silver, and 67 robes for the priests.
73 So the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the Temple servants, and some of the common people settled near Jerusalem. The rest of the people returned to their own towns throughout Israel.
In October, when the Israelites’ had settled in their towns,
all the people assembled with a unified purpose at the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra the scribe to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had given for Israel to obey.
2 So on October 8 (445 BC) Ezra the priest brought the Book of the Law before the assembly, which included the men and women and all the children old enough to understand. 3 He faced the square just inside the Water Gate from early morning until noon and read aloud to everyone who could understand. All the people listened closely to the Book of the Law.”
Nehemiah is now the governor of Judah, a much larger area than just Jerusalem. He appoints his brother, Hanani, to be the governor of Jerusalem. Hanani was the brother who first told Nehemiah in chapter 1 about the mess that Jerusalem was in. He was the one who got Nehemiah started on the road to this project.
God works in interesting ways. Sometimes as we pray, ideas come to our minds about what we should do next. Sometimes ideas keep popping up in our minds, and we start to wonder about why we keep thinking about that particular thing. That is when we should start praying, and asking God if this is something he wants us to do – this thought might not be random. Sometimes, we hear about a project that’s beginning and just know it’s something we want to be involved in, something that God can use our abilities for. Or, another person might make a comment to us about a situation that really strikes home – just like Hanani and Nehemiah.
Nehemiah is an organizer. When he heard about the lack of walls and protection in Jerusalem, he couldn’t get it out of his mind, He knew God was asking him to do something about that situation. But in the months while he prayed about how to do it, he also started organizing what would be needed to complete this project. When King Artaxerxes said he could go, Nehemiah had his list of things needed all ready to go. On arriving in Jerusalem, he spent a few days quietly going around and getting a first-hand look at the situation before he approached the leaders in Jerusalem. Once the project started, he knew exactly who was going to build each part of the wall.
Now the wall is done. The inner city needs more work; houses are needed. Notice Nehemiah doesn’t think he has to do it all. He appoints other people to run the city of Jerusalem – “I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most.” (v. 2) Did you notice the quality of leadership Nehemiah was looking for? “A faithful man who feared God more than most”. He was looking for a man you could count on, someone who does what he says he will do. And he was looking for a man who was committed to putting God first.
This ability to delegate work is important to the success of a project. Although the leader is important, they are not the ‘be all and end all’. God has given each one of us abilities that fit into the larger plan of things. We each have our part to play. As Covid continues on past 6 months, we have learned a lot about how isolated and lonely it feels with our churches shut down. God is working through all this, as we start to figure out how to reconnect in our churches. It’s not just up to the Senior Pastor to do all the work and run the whole thing. He’ll be looking for people who will take on the various aspects of the work and people who will support the ideas. Look at that long list of people who gave items to get the city of Jerusalem going again. Everyone had a part to play.
Chapter 7 segues into chapter 8 – in fact, the sentence continues from one chapter to the next. Ezra stands before the people and reads The Book of the Law. It’s amazing that the wall is now complete, and the people feel safe. There is a leader in the city of Jerusalem to make sure things run smoothly. But that’s not all there is to life. What does God want?
These people in Jerusalem had been taken away to Babylon a few hundred years before. They were just being allowed to return to their homeland in the past 50 or so years. They were steeped in the culture and ways of doing things in Babylon. At this moment, they were discovering what God wanted of them, and we’ll be looking at their reaction tomorrow. In 2020, Covid has brought us to a halt. None of us has ever experienced anything like this pandemic. We’ve been living busy lives, rushing from work to home, to volunteer commitments, to taking our kids to extracurricular activities, to vacations, to …. This ‘halt’ has likely made a lot of us start rethinking how we want to live our lives. There are things we know we need to eliminate. There are things we want to concentrate on more. It’s definitely a time to reorganize.
We need to stop and pray. What does God want of us now?
Where does God fit into our new plans?
Our song for today is Word of God Speak by Mercy Me