Lord's Day Evening Meditations June
We saw in chapter 6:15 - 16 that the work of rebuilding
the wall had been completed. The people had worked, but most important
of all, God had worked, so that the great project which had brought
Nehemiah to Jerusalem was finished. But though the wall was finished,
Nehemiah's work was not finished, and his concerns were not ended
either. That is the way that it will always be down here. If the
Lord helps us to accomplish a task, or fulfill a responsibility,
then there will be another one waiting for us.
After the wall was built and the doors were set
up, then Nehemiah turned to the organization of inside matters,
in verse one, the appointment of "the porters and the
singers and the Levites." Let's consider each of these
three forms of service.
The "porter" was not a man
who carried luggage; he was a doorkeeper. Each door or gate into
Jerusalem had one or more doorkeepers who were responsible for
the opening and the closing of the doors. "Let not the
gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they
stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them." v.
3. The gate was opened at a certain time in the morning and closed
at a certain time at night. So we can see that the porter's responsibility
was basically the control of who was allowed to enter the city.
This was a very important responsibility that went along with
the building of the wall, for of what use was the wall if there
was no control as to who went through the doors?
The principle of the "porter"
is important for us too. We are responsible, personally, to exercise
control as to what we allow to enter our lives and our homes,
but we are also responsible to exercise control in the assembly
as to what is allowed to enter there. Every true believer has
a title to the Lord's Table, but there are some things which could
disqualify someone who would want to break bread. Notice especially
how the gates were always closed every night and all night. This
signifies that the things of darkness are not to be admitted.
The appointment of the porters was a matter of
course, for they formed part of Nehemiah's exercise concerning
the wall. But I find most interesting that he also appointed "the
singers." Read chapter 12:44 - 47. "For in
the days of David and Asaph of old there were chief of the singers,
and songs of praise and thanksgiving unto God." ch.
12:46. The service of song in the house of God, as a distinct
service, had been started by King David. Read 1 Chron. 6:31 -
32 and 9:26 - 32. You see how David organized every detail of
the work connected with the service of God, and one of these was
the "singers" who were "employed
in that work day and night." The writer of Psalm 92
said, "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord,
and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High." Ps.
92:1. Solomon continued this, and so if you had approached the
temple of God, at any time of the day or night, you would have
heard songs of praise ascending to God. Do you think He deserved
How pleasant is the sound of praise!
It well becomes the saints of God. L.F. no. 317
Do you think that He deserves that same praise
It is interesting to see some singers in the time
of King Jehoshaphat. It was a time of deep trouble when the Ammonites
and others came against Judah to battle. Jehoshaphat prayed, ending
with, "Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon
Thee." Read 2 Chron. 20: 1 - 25. God responded through
a prophet, that they were not to be afraid but to go out against
the enemy. Then Jehoshaphat "appointed singers unto the
Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went
out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for His
mercy endureth for ever." v. 21. Notice that - the
singers went out "before the army"! In the
front line, before all the soldiers, were the singers! "And
when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments
against the children of Ammon, etc.," and it was not
long that the enemy had fallen and Jehoshaphat and his people
had only to pick up the spoils of the battle.
Josiah also, another of Judah's good kings, was
careful to follow out David's instructions concerning the singers.
When he kept that memorable Passover in 2 Chron. 35, he made sure
that "the singers, the sons of Asaph, were in their place,
according to the commandment of David, etc." v. 15.
So we see that these men of faith in the Old Testament were careful
to have the Lord get some of the praise that He deserved. What
about us; are we concerned about the Lord getting some of the
praise that He deserves? This morning we sang,
For every gift a song we raise,
But this demands eternal praise. L.F. no. 336
If we were to sing a song of praise for every gift
from the Lord, we would never stop singing! Let us be like Nehemiah
- concerned that the Lord gets some of the praise He deserves.
A brother used to often read on Lord's Day morning, "Whoso
offereth praise glorifieth Me." Ps. 50:23. We should
be praising Him at all times, but how much more so on that special
occasion when, gathered around Himself, we are reminded of His
wonderful love, manifested at Calvary.
However, this reference to praise in the Old Testament
raises a question, because there it was almost always accompanied
with musical instruments. What about the use of musical instruments
in New Testament times; what is the Lord's mind on this matter?
Well firstly, we find that when the Lord pronounced "Woe"
on some of the evils in Zion, one of them was, "That
chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments
of music like David." Amos 6:5. In the New Testament
we find that "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal"
give only an empty sound. 1 Cor. 13:1. A pipe or a harp are "things
without life." 1 Cor. 14:7. Obviously, though they
can make beautiful music, things without love or life cannot praise,
or help to praise, God.
When this old creation was first made, God looked
on it, "and behold, it was very good." And
now, even though sin has come in with all its ruinous consequences,
some of the original beauty still remains - we can enjoy a glowing
sunset, a beautiful scene, the taste of good food, the love and
joy of family relationships, etc. Instrumental music is one of
those beautiful things that can be enjoyed, but the point is,
that it is part of the old creation, not of the new. It was God's
mercy and love for His people in the Old Testament that allowed
them to use musical instruments in their worship; it was something
for them to enjoy. They were still in the old creation.
Today, in Christ, we are part of the new creation in which God
seeks worshippers "in spirit and in truth."
John 4:23. Today, our harps are our hearts - "singing
and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Eph.
5:19. And just as a musical instrument has to be properly tuned
so that it will make proper music, so our hearts must be in tune
also. Our voices may not always be melodious, but if our hearts
are right, then our songs of praise will be sweet music to His
ear. He deserves the best and the most we can give!
Lastly, the Levites were appointed. The porters
and the singers were Levites, but there were many other Levite
services. As a type, the Levite brings before us the thought of
service. Nehemiah saw to it that the Lord's service was properly
taken care of. Are we concerned about His service today? Every
one of us can have opportunities to serve the Lord in our own
daily sphere. To be concerned about the Lord's service is to be
aware of this, and to make ourselves available to Him for it.
Now, there are two beautiful qualifications referred to in verse
2: "He was a faithful man, and feared God above many."
A faithful person is someone who can be trusted - a thing which
is as true in natural things as in spiritual things. Can our Lord
trust us with responsibilities committed to our care? We can't
claim to have been faithful, but we can desire to be. S.L.