Songs of Thanksgiving
By: Patty Nicholas-Boyte
Nehemiah 12:1-9 (NASB)
12 Now these are the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua: Seraiah, Jeremiah, Ezra, 2 Amariah, Malluch, Hattush, 3 Shecaniah, Rehum, Meremoth, 4 Iddo, Ginnethoi, Abijah, 5 Mijamin, Maadiah, Bilgah, 6 Shemaiah and Joiarib, Jedaiah, 7 Sallu, Amok, Hilkiah, and Jedaiah. These were the heads of the priests and their kinsmen in the days of Jeshua. 8And the Levites were Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah who was [a]in charge of the songs of thanksgiving, he and his brothers. 9 Also Bakbukiah and Unni, their brothers, stood opposite them in their service divisions.
In the early chapters of Nehemiah, the focus was on rebuilding the walls of the city and the opposition that occurred. The next section was the repopulating of the empty holy city. Chapter 12, which we will begin today, is about the return of refugees from exile, and the re-establishing of worship in the temple. This is why we see their genealogy and their occupation listed by their names.
The reason this is important to Nehemiah and the Jews, is because only those who could prove their lineage were allowed to perform service in the temple. Each man also needed to prove which tribe he was a part of in order to secure land for inheritance and to pass on his name to his children. This is also why you will find long sections of genealogy in scripture.
Today’s passage is about the priests and the Levites who came up with Zerubbable, who was thought to have been a Jewish refugee in Babylon. He led a large band of men in a return to Jerusalem. He became a governor over Judea under the Persian king. Many of the priests are listed by name, and then it says they were the heads of the priests and their kinsman; meaning, there were many who were not listed. God knows their names. The Priests performed the sacrifices along with many other duties in service to God. I love the fact that a pagan king allowed them to return to their homeland to serve God. This tells me that God can use anyone, even a non-believer to bring about His will.
Whatever the reason, I wonder what would happen if we took a small step into something bigger. What kind of move of God would we see? What changes in our cities and in our towns would occur if we all made a move closer to what God has for us?
The next group of people mentioned is the Levites who were in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. These were the men who had the hard task to make sure the people remained thankful even while they were captives in the pagan land of Babylon, hundreds of miles away from their home. They stood opposite of each other. A partnership, if you will, of praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God. It makes me think of the vision Isaiah of the throne room of God and the Seraphim that flew about singing of God’s holiness and how they called out, the others would respond with the same cry.
Isaiah 6: 1-4 (NASB)
In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim were standing above Him, each having six wings: with two each covered his face, and with two each covered his feet, and with two each flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of armies. The [a]whole earth is full of His glory.”4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
What can we learn from Nehemiah?
· No matter if we ever get recognition, God knows our name and knows of service to Him.
· The Jewish people maintained praise and thanksgiving in song, even while in exile. No matter how hard things are, God is worthy to be praised, and when we sing songs of praise it encourages others who might be going through a hard time
· The men stood opposite each other. This allowed the praise to envelope the area, and songs of thanksgiving and praise are contagious. Let our praise be contagious to others.
The men stood opposite in their service divisions, which meant they worked in partnership. We need to be looking for those who will work in partnership with us to build us up and encourage each other to press on when times are hard.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NASB)
24 and let’s consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds, 25 not abandoning our own meeting together, as is the habit of some people, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
What questions can we ask ourselves that can affect change?
- Who can we encourage today that God has not overlooked their service, nor has He forgotten their name?
- What can I do to better live a life of gratitude even when I don’t feel thankful?
- In what way do I not demonstrate thankfulness?
- Who can I work with to build and develop a partnership in our Christian walk?