The Journey So Far
Here is what has happened in the story of Nehemiah so far. Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the king, felt a burden to help rebuild the wall around Jerusalem after it had been destroyed.
This wasn’t a particularly spiritual task, but it was an essential one. A wall around a city was it’s protection. Without a wall the people were sitting ducks and vulnerable to attack.
Nehemiah displayed great leadership during the rebuilding process by uniting the people around a common goal and overcoming opposition to the building. The wall was rebuilt in 52 days, which we learn in chapter six. So don’t they celebrate the rebuilding and dedicate the wall until chapter 12? Because after the wall was rebuilt, scores of people returned home to the revitalized city. They waited for the city to be repopulated. Now it was time to party!
Joy of Dedication
What better way to celebrate a rebuilt wall and revitalized city then to have a parade? So that is what they do.
They organize two processions to celebrate all that God had done. One walks around the wall to the south, the other to the north and they plan to meet at the temple for singing and sacrifices. Together the two processions dedicate every foot of the wall. The procession is the deep breath after all the opposition, work, late nights keeping watch and sore bodies.
Listen to how this procession was marked with joy.
At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.
-Nehemiah 12:27 (NIV)
And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.
-Nehemiah 12:43 (NIV)
Perhaps the best part is that they didn’t just walk around the wall, they walked on the wall.
This is significant (and not just because it is awesome). Do you remember when they were facing ridicule early on in the rebuilding? One comment of ridicule recorded in 4:3 says, “Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, ‘What they are building—even a fox climbing up on it would break down their wall of stones!’” Remember, ridicule is an attempt to render your work worthless. Their marching ON TOP of the wall was a statement that the work they did counted! It was significant! It mattered! It was a bold statement that the ridicule they faced made no difference, they accomplished it anyway!
Any work you are doing for the kingdom matters! And one day, you are going to march on top of your kingdom work to prove it!
Recounting the Journey
Look closer at the details of the procession.The first procession goes south toward the Dung, Fountain, & Water Gates before going to the temple. The second procession goes north toward the Fish & Sheep Gates. This means it is very likely their procession began at the Valley Gate. Why is that significant? Check this out.
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate.
-Nehemiah 2:11–15 (NIV)
Nehemiah’s journey around the wall to assess the damage also began at the Valley Gate. This procession of celebration was a direct counterpoint to Nehemiah’s midnight journey. It was literally a recounting of the journey they had been on.
Every step was a recounting of God’s presence with them.
God’s provision for them.
God’s protection over them.
God’s power displayed through them.
A new year is a great time to retrace your steps and reflect with joy on all the ways God has been with you. I encourage you to “parade” through the year and remember God’s presence, provision, protection and power in your life. After you have identified the activity of God, respond with joy, worship, singing, and celebration!
We have New Year’s Eve parties to celebrate a new beginning with new possibilities. I like that because the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about new possibilities. What if you were also to have a party that celebrated all the ways God was with you through all that you faced last year? Have a parade! A dance party! Sing! Whether your year was good or bad, God was with you. He was right there in the middle of the mess or the center of celebration. And all the while he was working to bring about his will and work things toward the good. Recounting the journey is a good thing to do because it reminds you of the faithfulness of God and gives you faith for the future.
For the people marching ON the wall around Jerusalem, the procession wasn’t the end. It was a new beginning.
For more on the journey of faith, click on the resources below from Emmaus Road Church, a church in Fort Collins. We encourage you to join the journey with us any Sunday at 10:00am.