Rebuild: Nehemiah 12:44-47 – Joy and Giving

Grace For The Journey

  We are studying verse-by-verse through Nehemiah in a series entitled, REBUILD.   Nehemiah records the events some 400 years before Christ when God’s people had been under the discipline of God for their sin.  They had been unfaithful to God so God allowed the Babylonians to attack Jerusalem, knock down its buildings and walls, and carry off God’s people into captivity.  The city of Jerusalem lay in ruins for many years after that.  But . . .

By God’s grace that was all over now,

And the people are brought back to

Their homeland in Israel and the city is rebuilt,

The walls rebuilt in just 52.  And God then

Begins a “rebuilding” of the people. 

Having rediscovered the Word, the people

Are led to rededicate themselves.

That brings us to Chapter 12 where last time we read of this great dedication ceremony.   The people gather together to dedicate the rebuilt walls, the rebuilt city, and their rebuilt selves to the One True and Living God.  Nehemiah gives us the details in Chapter 12, the two thanksgiving choirs marching around the tops of the walls, meeting together at the front of the temple in what was surely a grand musical offering of praise and thanksgiving to God.

We paused to reflect on the concluding verse of that narrative, where the word “joy” or “rejoice” occurring no fewer than five times.  Verse 43 says, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”  Resounding joy!  We talked about how God created us to joy in Him.  While we experience times of real sorrow, God created us to delight in Him, to love in Him, to sing in Him, and to joy in Him. 

He both

Expects our joy

And

Enables our joy.

We also noted that the people of God in their worship offered up sacrifices of thank offerings to God.  Our thank offerings today are found largely in what the writer of Hebrews calls “the sacrifice of praise to God.”  Hebrews 13:15 states, “Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”

Worship, singing, and praise is natural for the Christian as he or she has Christ within and the word of Christ that dwells within.  The Bible says in Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” 

The presence of Christ

Is the essence of joy. 

It is easy to sing when

You walk with the King.

But is joyful worship only about singing?  Is it enough just to shout and sing and lift our voices in praise?  Are there not also practical expressions that accompany our shouts of joy.  It is easy enough to shout and sing, but is more expected of us?  The Bible answers that question with a resounding, “Yes.”  And our passage today opens up with Nehemiah’s telling us something that happened at the same time, on that very day.

Many of you are familiar with that is called the Shorter Catechism; a longstanding disciple-making booklet put together in question and answer format to teach basic doctrines of the Bible.  The old Baptist catechism is based largely upon the Shorter Catechism.  There are these question and answers, for example . . .

Q. Which is the first commandment?

A. The first commandment is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

The very first question of the Shorter Catechism asks this question . . .

Q. What is the chief end of man?”  

A. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

The chief end – that is, the whole point of our existence – is “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”  Others have noted that we glorify Him most when we are enjoying Him most.  But . . .

Joy is more

Than singing. 

Joy is living.

Nehemiah shows us in today’s passage that joy is also giving.  These verses describe a people who found joy in giving. 

These verses tell us about the peoples’ joyful giving.  Were we to look inside the walls of the rebuilt city we would see not only the temple, but a bunch of storerooms that contained food, grain, pots and pans, and other things used for ministry. The priests and Levites would come in from the villages and prepare everything for worship.  It took time and it took resources.  Tithes were collected into the temple and the monies and resources were distributed to those who led in worship, supporting the ministry of the Lord.

By the way, you have got to love Nehemiah!  He is keen to capitalize on the joyous occasion, striking while the iron is hot, he teaches the importance of tithing and giving to support the work of the Lord.  As one preacher says, “It is one thing to shout on a great occasion, but another to offer the sacrifice of praise continually and to make realistic provision for the church’s needs.”

In today’s blog, we are going to look at three words about given . . .

1. It was Cheerful – Verse 44.

Their giving was done cheerfully.  We have already noted the theme of jubilation that precedes this passage, the people rejoicing with great joy.  Nehemiah tells us in verse 44 that as the people gathered together tithes and offerings that they did so joyfully.  The very last phrase in verse 44 says, “for Judah (that is, the people of God), rejoiced over the priests and Levites who ministered.”  The passage goes on to show that the peoples’ giving was the joyful expression of gratitude for those and to those who led in worship at the temple.  Cheerful giving.

The Bible teaches the same truth in 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.  Someone has said, “You’re not really giving to God until you enjoy it.”  I think that is true.  Some say, “Give till it hurts” and for others “It just hurts to give,” but I think it is true that we are not really giving to God until we enjoy it.  We are not to give grudgingly, nor of necessity, as though being forced in some way.  We are to give cheerfully.  

You will remember Jesus one day was watching people give their tithes and offerings in the temple.  Some were showy in their giving, pouring a number of coins into the giving containers making as much noise as possible.   And Jesus saw a poor widow woman putting in just two small copper coins into the temple treasury—not much, not even worth a penny in our day.  And He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had”  (Luke 21:1-4).  You cannot give like that if you are not giving cheerfully.  We cannot expect God to honor our giving if we give grudgingly or of necessity.

Some of you will know the name Harry Ironside.  Ironside was the famous pastor for some 20 years at Moody Church in Chicago and author of a number of commentaries.  Ironside used to tell the story about an old Scotsman who accidentally gave more than he intended into an offering bag during a worship service.  In Scotland, the ushers at the church used a pole with a bag on the end of it and they would make their way through the pews and position that bag in front of you and you put your offerings in the bag.  This one guy accidentally dropped in a gold sovereign coin by mistake when he meant to put in a shilling.  Now a shilling back then was worth a quarter, 25 cents.  And a gold sovereign was worth 20 shillings, worth $5 which was a lot back then.  This old Scotsman accidentally drops in the sovereign and, as soon as he realizes it, he tries to get it back.  But the user pulled the bag back and said, “Nah, once in, always in!”  And the old Scotsman says, “Ah well, I’ll get credit for it in glory.”  And the usher says, “Nah, you’ll get credit for the shilling!”  That is all the old man intended to give, so that is all the credit he will get.  We are to give as God has given to us: joyfully, freely, gladly, cheerfully.

Their giving was Cheerful.  Second word about their giving . . .

2. It was Scriptural – Verses 44-46.

Nehemiah notes twice in verses 44 and 45 that their giving was “by the Book,” according to the Scriptures.  These verses say, “And at the same time [on that very day] some were appointed over the rooms of the storehouse for the offerings, the firstfruits, and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions specified by the Law for the priests and Levites …”  The phrase “specified by the Law” means, “as recorded in the Scriptures.”  Tithing was biblical.   

You will also see in verse 45 the phrase, “… according to the command of David and Solomon his son.”  The service of ministers was supported by the people as the ministers were doing what was commanded in the Word.  Ministry was supported by tithing and giving.

The word “tithe” means “tenth.”  That is literally what the word means: “tenth; one tenth, or ten percent.”  Strictly speaking, to tithe is to give 10% of what you have received.  A tithe is 10% of your earnings.  Earn $1,000, and if you tithe on that, $100 dollars goes to the Lord. An “offering” is when you give above the tithe.  As you have returned your tithe to the Lord and as God often prompts you, you may give an offering in addition to, or above your regular giving.  That is an offering.

It is not our place this morning to do an exhaustive Old Testament survey about the various tithes of grain, money, and offerings collected by God’s people.  I will leave that to your further study later.  But one truth is unmistakable: God expected His people to give the first tenth of what they had received, to return that to God to support the ministry, the ministry to God’s people.  The people in verse 44 were obeying that command, the command “specified by the Law.”

They obeyed God’s command, His Law about giving and tithing.  And again, you can read some of those commands later in places like Leviticus 7, Numbers 7, and Deuteronomy 18.  By the way, I am reading through Numbers in my devotion time and discovered that one of the longest chapters in the Bible is Numbers Chapter 7, nearly 2,000 words and all of them about giving.

The greater point is that God uses the tithe to do the work of the ministry to God’s people.  Tithing is a principle that continues into our day.  Some may differ on whether the Old Testament Law about tithing is still binding as a law, but nearly every Christian agrees on the principle of tithing, tithing is an ongoing principle is the means by which God funds the ministry of the church.

Our church expects members to discover the joy of tithing, the joy of returning to the Lord the “first fruits” of their harvest, the top of their giving, the first tenth, 10% of what God has given us through the providence of a job.  Like God’s people giving to the temple, we give our tithe to the church and all those monies support the ministries of the church.  You are receiving ministry from the church – including the ministry of hearing the Word of God, sitting under the teaching of God’s Word in Bible Study classes, gathering together for worship – you are receiving so it is natural to be giving; giving to support what you are receiving.  That is why the tithe is returned to the local church.  

We are not to use our tithe for other things.  That is, we do not take our 10% and give it to other causes and call that “tithing.”  We give our 10% back to God through the local church ministry (Malachi 3:10); that i’s tithing and then – as God leads us to give above our tithe – we may choose to give offerings to other causes, missional, or humanitarian needs, or otherwise.  

God always honors our giving.  Tithers will provide testimony that when they return their tithe, God always provides.  As God says through the Prophet Malachi in Malachi 3:10, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”  A good question for us to ask is, “What would the church look like if everyone were to give as I give.”

Their giving was Cheerful.  Their giving was Scriptural.  And, thirdly . . .

3. It was Bountiful – Verse 47.

Verse 47 essentially demonstrates that the people provided more than enough funds for one another.  Everyone received what was necessary.  Verse 47 declares, “In the days of Zerubbabel [a hundred years earlier] and in the days of Nehemiah [both then and now] all Israel [note that: all of God’s people] gave [all gave] the portions for the singers and the gatekeepers, a portion for each day. They also consecrated holy things for the Levites, and the Levites consecrated them for the children of Aaron.”  What you have here is unity of the people with regard to their giving.  They gave cheerfully, Scripturally, and bountifully so that each and every person received what was needed to do the ministry.

One commentator has noted, “The people funded the worship of God.  Their perspective was, ‘Whatever it costs us, though we must sacrifice, we must support the worship of God in the temple. That is what our lives are about.” 

Bountiful giving is easy

Once we reflect on what

We have bountiful

Received from God.

Jesus says in Luke 12:48, “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required.”  Here is the question: “What have we NOT received from God?”  If we belong to Christ, it’s logical that everything we have belongs to Him.  As Isaac Watts wrote in the hymn we often sing: “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”

Giving to God is just taking our hands

Off of what belongs to Him.”

It is in the context of giving in 1 Corinthians 9 that Paul says, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (1 Corinthians 9:15).

The greatest gift we have received from God is Jesus Christ.  Thanks be to God for HIs indescribably GREAT GIFT, the gift of salvation that is ours through Jesus Christ.

Danny Akin, president of Southeaster Seminary, was talking about Christian giving and how those who are believers should give generously, the tithe to the local church merely being the start of our giving.  Rather than splitting hairs about how much a person should give each week he suggested this exercise, he said, “Get on your knees, look to the cross, and give based on that.”

As we close out study, let’s consider the teaching we have heard from God’s Word.   When God’s people give, their giving is to be cheerful, their giving is to be Scriptural, and their giving is to be bountiful.  What are you giving?  Do you tithe, do you give 10% back to God through the church ministry?  Many of you do.  Really, if we are serious about living by God’s truth, the Bible teaches that, for the Christian, 10% is only the beginning.  The Bible teaches us in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 says, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye.  Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him,  …”  But how do you do that?  Do you give cheerfully – or begrudgingly, out of necessity?  Maybe our motives are not right.  Let’s take a moment to confess silently and repent from sin.

Some of you are convicted about giving to God, beginning to return the tithe to Him, the first 10% of your paycheck as the means by which you say, “God, I trust You to provide.  I am taking You at Your Word when You said, ‘Prove Me now in this.’  I am doing just that, believing You will pour out every need I have through the open window of Your provision.”  Silently thank God for His abundant provision and ask for His grace to be a faithful giver.

If you do not know Jesus Christ . . .

God does not want your money,

He wants your soul. 

Your greatest need is not

To receive more stuff,

Your greatest need is

To receive a Savior;

The Lord Jesus Christ.

Be encouraged to know that God loves you this morning and has made a way for you to be accepted by Him, forgiven of sin through Him, and finding life in Him.  Turn to Christ this morning and be saved.

When we survey the wondrous cross, when we look to the cross, we see there every reason for our giving generously.  God’s love is so amazing, so divine, that it demands our soul, our lives, and our all.  May God be honored and glorified as we respond to Him  in truth through Christ Jesus our Lord, amen.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

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.”

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