Grace For The Journey
Nehemiah Chapter 7 is this long list of names. Just names. Chapter 7 is like preaching through the Jerusalem phonebook. The names of gazillions of the men of Israel and their sons. As we go through these verses, I am praying that . . .
What we know not, teach God will teach us;
What we do not have, God will give us;
What we are not, God will make us . . .
All through Christ Jesus our Lord and for His sake!
Have you heard of Jim Croce? He was an American folk and rock legend in the late 1960s early 1970s. He died in a plane crash along with five others 1973 at the age of 30, tragically at the height of his popularity. Many of you know his song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” His song, “Time in a Bottle,” was an artful writing, thought-provoking lyrics, sung with ease on a simple acoustic guitar. The day after he died, the lead single to his fourth album was released and became another hit. It was the song, “I’ve Got a Name.” Do you know the lyrics? Those of you my age and older probably do? I don’t what. All the good music ended with the 80s!
Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid
It is a song that inspires gratitude for the gift of life and the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, grateful for the blessing of our ancestors and how we are shaped by their legacy.”
Nehemiah 7 is a list of the names of men and the names of their sons. There is a legacy of faith here in chapter 7 . . . A heritage of faith . . . A tradition of families . . . of following the One True and Living God and their names are recorded here in Scripture. At first glance, we see a list like this, and we want to just skip over it. More names we think! But imagine if you had a personal interest in this list. Imagine you are a Jewish family living hundred years later and you gather together with your family one evening. You are all huddled there in your home next to a small oil lamp that’s burning and giving off just enough light to your spouse and kids seated around the table. Your family nudges a little closer together as you unroll a scroll there in the dark. You carefully unroll the scroll of Nehemiah and you open it up to this chapter and slowly trace your finger through the lines and stop and read your family name aloud. Your kids are wide-eyed and the family smiles as they see the name of your father and their grandfather and know that they are one of the “sons” numbered in this list.
Long before ancestry.com God’s people painstakingly recorded the names of family members and their connection to other families in the greater family of God. Genealogy was an especially important work for these many descendants of Father Abraham. It is from these descendants God’s Promised Seed would come – the promised Messiah we know by the name of Jesus Christ. Names matter.
That is what we are going to talk about this morning – How names matter . . . How your name matters . . . How my name matters. What we are going to do is study this passage and think of it along the lines of how our name matters in two main areas . . .
The life we lead
The legacy we leave.
We start our study in verse 4, “Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.” Before the walls were completed God’s people were living here and there around Jerusalem or in nearby towns. They were not living inside the city because there was no inside. There was only outside. The walls are finished now, and Nehemiah is wanting to get folks inside the city gates, repopulating the city. This will take some time because we are told in verse 4 that “the houses were not rebuilt.” They are going to need to get those houses built and then figure out who can live inside the city as the houses are going up. When we get to Chapter 11, we will see that Nehemiah has a plan for this – He is going to have the folks cast lots to bring in one out of every ten to live in the city and the other nine out of ten will remain in other towns. Nehemiah gets a list of names together to figure out who all is scattered around Jerusalem.
Verse 5 tells us, “Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return, and found written in it.” That phrase “the first return” refers to the people who returned from exile after King Cyrus allowed God’s people to go back to Jerusalem. Remember God’s people were exiled during the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. They were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC and then the Babylonians in 586 BC. God was behind this. He was disciplining His children because of their sin of unfaithfulness to Him. And after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God caused the Persian King Cyrus to issue a decree in 536 allowing the people to return to Jerusalem. The Persian People Group are a people whose lineage can be traced to King Cyrus, King Artaxerxes, and in the Book of Esther King Xerxes and Queen Vashti. The Persian People Group; only 2% Christian today.
In the last part of verse 5 again, the phrase “those who had come up in the first return” refers to the first of three waves of God’s people returning to Jerusalem. You can read about this in the Book of Ezra. In fact, Ezra chapter 2 gives a list of names that is essentially this list here in Nehemiah. The list was most likely updated a bit from the list in Ezra to allow for births and deaths since the original list.
Before we proceed in out study, it is interesting to see how Nehemiah was led to get this list together. It was not his idea. The first part of verse 5 tells us, “Then my God put it into my heart…” Notice those two phrases that Nehemiah says, “.. my God” … “my heart.” Nehemiah has a very close, personal walk with the One True and Living God! He saw God at work all the time, God’s hand moving through circumstances, God’s hand moving through His prayers. Nehemiah is a man’s man, but Nehemiah walked with God. Some of us men need to spend more time with God. Taking time to pray; taking time to read God’s Word. Reading God’s Word to ourselves, reading God’s Word to our wives, reading God’s Word to our kids, to our grandkids. Real men love the Lord and spend time with Him often.
Nehemiah finds this registry of names and verse 6 introduces the list, “These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city.” And then the list of names. I hope you will take time later to read these names. It does not seem fruitful to do so this morning given our limited time together, but remember when you read them later how meaningful it would have been for these folks to have their name literally in print in both the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Warren Wiersbe . . .
“The important thing is not
To count the people but
To realize that
These people counted.”
And your name counts. Your name matters. You were created in God’s image. You matter to God.
The big question we want to answer today is, “How Do I Make My Name Matter?” Let me suggest two areas where your life matters . . .
1. The Life I Lead.
a. My Living.
There are so many names here in this list, names of just regular folks here who walked with God and lived their lives for Him. Names of believers.
How many of you got up this morning and thought about how the way you live your life today will affect others? Our living will have some effect – good or bad – upon others. Your name matters. Your name matters in the life you lead – your living . . . but also your giving.
b. My Giving.
When people mention your name, do they think of you as being generous? We have talked about the generosity of God’s people before in Nehemiah and we come to it again in this passage. Look down at verses 70 through 72 where it says, “And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas (that’s like 20 pounds of gold), fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments. Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas (several million dollars by today’s standards), and two thousand two hundred silver minas. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments.”
There is a lot of giving here! Our names should evoke gratitude for our giving and generosity to the work of God. Think of it: your money helps people come to Jesus, has helped people get their names on the list of those who are in heaven. It is an investment that never goes south! It never loses value. It is an eternal investment that yields eternal rewards.
Secondly, your name matters in . . .
2. The Legacy I Leave
a. My Family.
Each church exists to develop generations (note that) of God-glorifying disciples who make disciples from our communities to the continents. The road map to fulfilling that vision comes from our mission of strengthening the family in the Word and in their walk. The greatest impact we will make is on our family, and future generations of those who have our name. We are talking about a legacy of faith.
That is why when we date others or court someone for marriage we are not interested in just anyone, amen?! Not just anyone. We want someone who loves Jesus, who is surrendered to His will and purpose. Rather than physical appearance, scholastic achievements, social prowess, or talents, the real issue should be – Does they love Jesus, will they a godly person, are they living for just this earth or eternity?
You are going to leave a legacy,
So let the Lord make it a good one.
Some of you were raised in Christian homes. Some of you were not. If you were not, then be the one who says, “It will start with me. I will be the person who starts a legacy of faith. And I will read the Bible to my wife and kids and we will build our lives upon the rock of Jesus Christ.”
Are you divorced or abandoned, hurt or hurting, has your life crashed and burned through sin? Remember: it is never too late for a new beginning. God will take the rubble from your past and rebuild you in the present. From this point forward say, “I am following Jesus and doing all I can to ensure that my family lives for the Lord.”
- My Future
Are you living with the eternity in mind, your eternal future? Hebrews 13:14 has a great word about that, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one to come.” Here, in this life, we have no lasting city, no continuing city – it will be gone when we die and it will eventually fade away when God creates a new heaven and new earth. Here we have no lasting city, but we see the one to come! Heaven! If you are living merely for this world, you are a fool. Jesus says that. Look up the parable later of the man who wanted to build bigger barns for his grain. Awaken to the need to live with the future in mind, your eternal future.
Nehemiah is going through this list, establishing who the Jewish citizens of city of Jerusalem are. He is doing this to find out who is allowed to live in Jerusalem; who will be able to move in from the surrounding towns. Only those whose identity was validated as pureblood Israelites, the “authentic people of God” were permitted entrance.
I was struck by mention in this list of some priestly folks who were in a bit of jam as they could not prove their Jewish ancestry as priests. In verse 64 we are told, “These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled.” They could not locate their family records, so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. Their names would not be included on the list of those who could enter the city.
Do you see the spiritual implications here? Who is allowed to enter heaven? Revelation 22 tells us – only those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Only true believers are given access to the eternal city. Only those who are followers of Jesus, whose “identity” are those who are “the people of God” who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. In Luke 10:20, Jesus says, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
This is why church membership is so important. Only those who are truly regenerate, new creations in Christ, comprise the spiritual Body of names that enter into heaven, those who have been saved and are growing in the faith in Christ. These are the only ones who are allowed “in” the eternal city. And all others are excluded, they remain “outside.” There are only two groups of people, those who are in and those who are out. You cannot be both – You are either in or out . . . Lost or Found . . . in Light or Darkness . . . have Life or Death. One of the main purposes of the church is to bring more people “in” to the body of Christ. Many are still “out” and God has given us the mission to bring them in. Jesus says in Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that My house may be filled.”
There are so many people we walk right by. We will walk right by maybe a couple hundred people before the day is over. People who have names. People who are “outside.” People God loves and wants to bring “inside.” We have neighbors who are “outside” the kingdom of God. People in the highways and hedges of work and play. People we need to compel to come in. There are people whose names are not written in the Book of Life. People you will sit next to you in class this week. People in the office cubicle next to you at work. People working the line at the warehouse. What are their names? People who need Jesus. Churches must both edify and multiply because of names. Names of people who are outside and need to be brought inside. Get to know the names of the people you see this week. Talk to them about the name of above all names, the great name of Jesus Christ.
Nehemiah knew God. Nehemiah knows God by name. Verse 5 tells us that Nehemiah called God, “My God.” Do you know him? God has a name. He is personal. He is not some impersonal, generic higher power or force. He has a name. He has a name above all names. He is Lord. His name is Jesus Christ.
If you are “out” you can be “in” today. The Gospel means Good News. The Gospel means that you can go from being an outsider to an insider; you can go from being lost to being found; you can go from being “in sin” to being “in Him;” united together with Christ through glorious union such that God is in you and you are in God.
This is far better than getting into an ancient city with newly rebuilt walls around it. Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one to come. You can live in the city to come even now in the sense that you can enter into the spiritual realm of God’s reign. The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. Enter into His reign now and live with the future in mind when you will live with him in a literal kingdom forever and ever.
There is a list in heaven. Is your name on that list? The only way to make sure our name is written down in the Book of Life is to place our name under the great name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling you to follow Him. Repent of sin and turn to Him. Tell Him you are a sinner and ask for His forgiveness.
Thank God for His love for us. Thank Him for giving us this day to live. Thank Him for loving us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to live for us – fulfilling the laws that we have broken – and to die for us – taking our punishment for sin upon Himself, drinking the entire cup of wrath that was meant for us. Thank God that on the third day He arose from the grave in a demonstration of life and the life that we can have if we will place our name under His great name. It is true: ‘the lost are saved, and find their way, at the sound of Your great name.’ We rejoice in His great name!
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”