Read: Nehemiah 11-12
I’m amazed at how Nehemiah focused on the people, individuals and families, through this entire process. Most of the time I see lists of names and numbers and just move on, but this time I saw faces and families, men, women and children–real people living in difficult times. Nehemiah invested a lot of time keeping track of names because he knew this was the overwhelming reason for the Law in the first place. The Law provided a framework for the all to worship God properly, but without people, it would not be useful.
Ultimately our call is about making disciples of all nations. Jesus came, died and was resurrected for individuals, eternal souls walking around in skin and bones. People matter to God, they should matter to us.
New Residents in Jerusalem
The city was spacious, but not infinite. Nehemiah had a plan that everyone went along with:
Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. Nehemiah 11:1-2
The rest of chapter 11 identifies descendants of Judah and Benjamin, the surviving tribes of the southern kingdom, as well as the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, temple servants and others. I get the impression that Nehemiah kept details to honor the people and perhaps to protect them by listing their names specifically. His position in the palace back in Susa was one of great power and his enemies, namely Sanballat and Tobiah, had to know it.
I really appreciate how the musicians are always recognized in these lists along with gatekeepers and servants. They are part of the fabric of this thing we call church. We can’t lose sight of musicians as we work to create the modern version of the church. At the same time, we have to recognize the appropriate position of musicians and the role they play in supporting worship.
The chief officer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Uzzi was one of Asaph’s descendants, who were the musicians responsible for the service of the house of God. The musicians were under the king’s orders, which regulated their daily activity. Nehemiah 11:22-23
Note: Asaph’s descendants are credited with writing 12 of the psalms (50, 73-83).
The gatekeepers get special attention as well:
Mattaniah, Bakbukiah, Obadiah, Meshullam, Talmon and Akkub were gatekeepers who guarded the storerooms at the gates. They served in the days of Joiakim son of Joshua, the son of Jozadak, and in the days of Nehemiah the governor and of Ezra the priest, the teacher of the Law. Nehemiah 11:25-26
Names matter to people. We have a responsibility to learn names of people, to remember their children and family names. It matters because it reflects whether we truly love our neighbors as Jesus commanded. It’s not a request or suggestion.
Dedication of the Wall of Jerusalem
Nehemiah provides some great details about the dedication ceremony — production does matter! I say that to support the notion that how we worship God makes a difference. In Nehemiah 12:27-46 we read about the details of the production, the order of officials, the two choirs marching in opposite directions and ultimately meeting in a climactic celebration of God’s amazing provision for his people.
So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the musicians and the gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron. Nehemiah 12:47
Lord, help me to love people, to remember names, to honor others appropriately and be an effective disciple maker that loves you above all else.