Lord's Day Evening Meditations June 8, 2003

Nehemiah 7:1-3

The Singers

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 it?

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 today?

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.