The Meaning of True Worship. (Nehemiah 12:1-26)

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[otw_shortcode_info_box border_type=”bordered” border_color_class=”otw-black-border” border_style=”bordered” shadow=”shadow-down-right” rounded_corners=”rounded-10″]This sermon is part of the Expository Preaching Collective on the Book of Nehemiah. Follow the link below to know more about What Expository preaching is and Why is it important to us. (Click here)[/otw_shortcode_info_box]

Our text for today is Nehemiah 12:1-26

So far from Nehemiah 1-11 we saw how God restores his people back to himself through a man called Nehemiah who participates in the re-building of the broken walls.

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Against all the opposition and problems they could see God’s sovereign hand over them and when the walls are completed they go back to the Law of God and as the Word of God convicts their heart they confess and repent of their sins.

In Nehemiah 10 we saw that they don’t just stop there but continue to give themselves to God’s work of redemption in their lives.

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They now have a renewed understanding of what it means to live like children of God, they are more committed to God, they are courageous to walk in obedience to God’s word.

Last Sunday in Nehemiah 11 we saw another serious side of their commitment where they are now inhabiting the land and giving themselves in serving God. Two lessons we learned about serving from those verses were

1. Serving God is unpopular yet pleasing in the eyes of God
2. Serving God is unattractive yet beautiful in the plans of God.

In today’s passage in verse 1-9 we see a list of names of the chief priests and Levites that came up with Zarubbabel, in verse 10 & 11 we see the succession of the high priests, in verse 12-21 is the next generation of the other chief priests, verse 22-26 gives the names of the eminent Levites that were in Nehemiah’s time.

What caught my attention while reading 1-26 was verse number 24 which said

“And the leaders of the Levites were Hashabiah, Sherebiah, Jeshua son of Kadmiel, and their associates, who stood opposite them to give praise and thanksgiving, one section responding to the other, as prescribed by David the man of God”

The statement “prescribed by David the man of God” is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles 8:14 but in different context and slightly different words. It says

“In keeping with the ordinance of his father David, he appointed the divisions of the priests for their duties, and the Levites to lead the praise and to assist the priests according to each day’s requirement”

The context in 2 Chronicles is that now Solomon has completed the building of the temple of God which his father assigned to him, he is now appointing priests who will offer worship to God on behalf of the people.

In both these context what we see common is God re-establishing His worship. We saw in Nehemiah earlier that the reason why God brings them all together is not because there were better job opportunities in the land but because He wanted to re-establish his worship.

Worship is at the center of God’s work in their lives. Even today Worship is at the center of God’s mission on earth. Just as in the times of Nehemiah or Solomon even today God gathers His people to himself only for one reason and that is to worship Him.

Jesus points that in John 4:23 and says

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

Why does God demand, seek or request that we worship him?

Worship is “to give honor, homage, reverence, respect, adoration, praise or glory to a superior being”

  • Firstly, God demands worship because He and He alone is worthy of it. He is the only being that truly deserves worship

Rev 4:11

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

And Exodus 20:3-5 God says

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me”

  • Secondly, God expects us to worship Him as an expression of reverence and thanksgiving to Him

Heb 12:28

“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken,let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,”

  • Thirdly, God desires that we worship Him because our eternal destiny depends on our worship of the true and living God.

Please do not be deluded to think that God is here to make you rich and famous, and to give you a comfortable living with no troubles.

God desires his glory and worship more than anything else.

And our greatest pleasure and satisfaction in life will come only when we worship the true and libing God giving him the highest glory he deserves.

So, what is worship?

Is it just singing some songs on a Sunday morning? Lets answer that question from God’s word.

In Nehemiah 12 God is re-establishing His worship, Levites and priests are been appointed in the temple courts in a particular fashion as prescribed by David, which originally points to Leviticus and the times of Moses.

In the time of Moses when God brings the people out of slavery from Egypt, he instructs Moses to build a tabernacle for Him where he will be worshipped by the people, offering sacrifices at the altar.

In the book of Leviticus we see God giving Moses specific instructions about every single detail of the tabernacle. From what material should be used, its measurements, the design of each and every object in the tabernacle, the kind of clothes the priests were suppose to wear while conducting the ceremonies, what kind of offerings were acceptable, what kind of fire should be used etc.

In total that book of Leviticus has 27 chapters and all verses were instructions given by God on how they were supposed to worship him.

When we read that book we feel overwhelmed and wonder whats the point behind doing all of it. How did they even remember to follow all of it to the dot?

The apostle Paul talking about the Laws and regulations in Galatians 3:10, he says

For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

He says that if someone fails to keep every command perfectly he is cursed and condemned.

James 2:10 says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”

The Law is basically points us to the standard of God’s Holiness and gives us an impression that no matter how hard we try we can never match up to God’s Holiness.

Recently I saw a video of R.C Sproul where he gives an excellent demonstration of Gods standard of holiness in comparison to ours while explaining the concept of sanctification and glorification.

What does this teach us about Worship?

In Psalms 96:9 the Psalmist says “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before him, all the earth.”

  • The first lesson we learn here is that True worship should lead us and point us to God’s Holiness.

When the people of God gathered around the tent to offer sacrifices they would revere and acknowledge God’s Holiness and worship him and tremble before him.

Even God takes his holiness quite seriously. In Leveticus 10:1-3 Nadab and Abihu died in the presence of God because they offered unauthorised fire before the Lord.

  • The second thing the Law and the rituals reveal is our sinfulness

Romans 7:7 “What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law”

Romans 3:20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”

What does it teach us about worship?

It teaches us that True worship of God should reveal our sinfulness when we compared to the standards of God’s Holiness. The more the people of God approached God’s Holy Laws the more they realized how sinful they were in the sight of God.

Even today when we worship on a Sunday morning or when we worship him in private we should remind ourselves that its not just about singing and dancing but its about acknowledging and remembering God’s Holiness and our sinfulness.

Thirdly, in the book of Leviticus God instructs the people to offer sacrifices to compensate for their sins. Every time the people of God would approach him they would bring a sacrifice with them, either a goat or a dove or grain etc and offer it at the altar as a burnt offering and the aroma of the sacrifice would reach God.

Why would the aroma of a sacrifice be important to God?

The importance of the sacrifice’s aroma was not the smell but what the smell represented – the substitutionary atonement for the sins of men – a temporary solution that God offered by which the people could go near him and enjoy his presence.

The permanent solution God offers is His son Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 10:14-22

1 John 2:2 says “Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”

What does it teach us about worship?

  • It teaches us that True worship eventually should lead us in appreciating the finished work of Jesus on the cross – His death as a perfect sacrifice for the compensation of our sins.

It the Jesus that bridges the gap between God’s Holiness and our sinfulness and we should cherish that.

So, what kind of worship is God re-establishing for himself?

It’s not the one that ends up as singling spiritual songs on a Sunday morning without pointing us to God’s Holiness and our sinfulness leading us to appreciating and cherishing Christ above everything else.

In the light of what’s been shared here are three questions I want us answer today.

Q1. When we come to worship on a Sunday morning and in our private time do we come to God in reverence in our hearts, acknowledging His holy presence or are we too casual about it?

Q2. When we come to worship do we see our sinfulness and our inability to please God in our own strength or do we come with pride in our hearts and a self righteous attitude?

Q3. When we come to worship do we see and cherish the beauty of Christ and his finished work on the cross that helps us relate with God?

I believe that as we give ourselves to God in worship in this manner every single day He will sanctify our hearts and make us more like Christ.