South Woods State Prison in Bridgeton, NJ –Men’s Evening Chapel on 6/17/2018
(edited October 2021)
[note: This message was originally shared on Father’s Day. We gave each man a Scripture bookmark from Aldine Church at the end of the service.]
Four weeks ago we studied Nehemiah chapter 3 with a theme of “Rebuilding the Walls” of Ancient Jerusalem. I spoke to you then about doing the Lord’s work and building His Kingdom in ourselves and in our world today. Like our study then, this passage in Nehemiah chapter 7 has many, many names and details I don’t totally understand. But one thing is clear – these people weren’t just some religious group. Ancient Israel was a real family.
Verses 1- 3: “Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed, That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many. And I said unto them, 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: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house.”
With the walls of the city restored and all the gates installed for protection, it was time to get to work inside the city of Jerusalem. The dangers they were facing were very real, as Nehemiah attests to in great detail in the chapters between last month’s chapter and this one.
Verses 4-7: “Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded. And my God put into mine heart to gather together the nobles, and the rulers, and the people, that they might be reckoned by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of them which came up at the first, and found written therein, These are the children of the province, that went up out of the captivity, of those that had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and came again to Jerusalem and to Judah, every one unto his city; Who came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, Baanah. The number, I say, of the men of the people of Israel was this;”
God called Nehemiah to take a census and, as much as possible, to gather the Nation together. At least, what was left of the nation after 70 years of foreign captivity.
Verses 8-13: “The children of Parosh, two thousand an hundred seventy and two. The children of Shephatiah, three hundred seventy and two. The children of Arah, six hundred fifty and two. The children of Pahathmoab, of the children of Jeshua and Joab, two thousand and eight hundred and eighteen. The children of Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. The children of Zattu, eight hundred forty and five.”
The roll call is by FAMILIES. The phrase “the children of” will occur 18 times. Now, I won’t lie to you, I don’t know too much about any of these names or these folks. But, God does. And He knows your name and mine very well, also! Let’s rejoice in that:
Verses 14-25: “The children of Zaccai, seven hundred and threescore. The children of Binnui, six hundred forty and eight. The children of Bebai, six hundred twenty and eight. The children of Azgad, two thousand three hundred twenty and two. The children of Adonikam, six hundred threescore and seven. The children of Bigvai, two thousand threescore and seven. The children of Adin, six hundred fifty and five. The children of Ater of Hezekiah, ninety and eight. The children of Hashum, three hundred twenty and eight. The children of Bezai, three hundred twenty and four. The children of Hariph, an hundred and twelve. The children of Gibeon, ninety and five.”
The Lord God cherished His family, His Children on the Earth. And He still does.
Verses 26-33: “The men of Bethlehem and Netophah, an hundred fourscore and eight. The men of Anathoth, an hundred twenty and eight. The men of Bethazmaveth, forty and two. The men of Kirjathjearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth, seven hundred forty and three. The men of Ramah and Gaba, six hundred twenty and one. The men of Michmas, an hundred and twenty and two. The men of Bethel and Ai, an hundred twenty and three. The men of the other Nebo, fifty and two.”
You know, I haven’t often thought of this, but I believe the Lord knows our towns and our neighborhoods today, too. And He cares about the places where we live and ALL those who live there!
Verses 34-56: “The children of the other Elam, a thousand two hundred fifty and four. The children of Harim, three hundred and twenty. The children of Jericho, three hundred forty and five. The children of Lod, Hadid, and Ono, seven hundred twenty and one. The children of Senaah, three thousand nine hundred and thirty. The priests: the children of Jedaiah, of the house of Jeshua, nine hundred seventy and three. The children of Immer, a thousand fifty and two. The children of Pashur, a thousand two hundred forty and seven. The children of Harim, a thousand and seventeen. The Levites: the children of Jeshua, of Kadmiel, and of the children of Hodevah, seventy and four. The singers: the children of Asaph, an hundred forty and eight. The porters: the children of Shallum, the children of Ater, the children of Talmon, the children of Akkub, the children of Hatita, the children of Shobai, an hundred thirty and eight. The Nethinims: the children of Ziha, the children of Hashupha, the children of Tabbaoth, The children of Keros, the children of Sia, the children of Padon, The children of Lebana, the children of Hagaba, the children of Shalmai, The children of Hanan, the children of Giddel, the children of Gahar, The children of Reaiah, the children of Rezin, the children of Nekoda, The children of Gazzam, the children of Uzza, the children of Phaseah, The children of Besai, the children of Meunim, the children of Nephishesim, The children of Bakbuk, the children of Hakupha, the children of Harhur, The children of Bazlith, the children of Mehida, the children of Harsha, The children of Barkos, the children of Sisera, the children of Tamah, The children of Neziah, the children of Hatipha.”
If I was the author of this part of the Bible, I think I might have skipped some these names. But the Lord does not skip them. Each family was worth mentioning, according to God. And if the Lord gathered Israel, back then, by FAMILY (and He did it that way more than once—see Moses’ records in the book of Numbers, for instance) then, what I get out of all this is that the Lord wants His People to be, most of all, a family—HIS FAMILY!
Let’s look at a few more of these verses:
Verses 57-65: “The children of Solomon's servants: the children of Sotai, the children of Sophereth, the children of Perida, The children of Jaala, the children of Darkon, the children of Giddel, The children of Shephatiah, the children of Hattil, the children of Pochereth of Zebaim, the children of Amon. All the Nethinims, and the children of Solomon's servants, were three hundred ninety and two. And these were they which went up also from Telmelah, Telharesha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not shew their father's house, nor their seed, whether they were of Israel. The children of Delaiah, the children of Tobiah, the children of Nekoda, six hundred forty and two. And of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Koz, the children of Barzillai, which took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name. These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but it was not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. And the Tirshatha said unto them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and Thummim.”
Wow, with God, FAMILY MATTERS! That’s the point. And if you believe in Christ then you are part of the Family of God’s Children on the Earth today.
By the way, that Urim and Thummim is an interesting thing. My opinion, based on reading and what I’ve heard is that it was something like a lottery in which they let God guide them into the best answer for the really toughest questions. But that’s just my best guess about it.
Verses 66-73: “The whole congregation together was forty and two thousand three hundred and threescore, Beside their manservants and their maidservants, of whom there were seven thousand three hundred thirty and seven: and they had two hundred forty and five singing men and singing women. Their horses, seven hundred thirty and six: their mules, two hundred forty and five: Their camels, four hundred thirty and five: six thousand seven hundred and twenty asses. And some of the chief of the fathers gave unto the work. The Tirshatha gave to the treasure a thousand drams of gold, fifty basons, five hundred and thirty priests' garments. And some of the chief of the fathers gave to the treasure of the work twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand and two hundred pound of silver. And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand drams of gold, and two thousand pound of silver, and threescore and seven priests' garments. So the priests, and the Levites, and the porters, and the singers, and some of the people, and the Nethinims, and all Israel, dwelt in their cities; and when the seventh month came, the children of Israel were in their cities.”
If you study the Old Testament Books of Kings and Chronicles you will find ample evidence that Ancient Israel had done a lot to cause the Family of God to self-destruct. Satan helped out, of course, as he will today if we aren’t careful. But, even after the fall of Israel, we see here that it is still God’s will to restore His Family and to hold it together!
As you can see, we are out of verses in Nehemiah chapter 7 but, in closing, there is a little more I would like to say about the Family of God, today. I’ll keep it moving, as I know we are pressed for time:
1. You don’t have to be Jewish by birth or in the physical genealogy of Abraham to belong to God’s Family now (as a gentile believer, I thank the Lord for that!). Look at what Paul, writing in the New Testament, told all the believers in Rome:
2. The Apostle John was Christ’s “buddy.” At the time of His death, Jesus left His own mother, Mary, in John’s care. That’s right, when Jesus walked this Earth, He had a friend named John. There was nothing sinister or unfair about it. But, after the Resurrection of Christ, look at how John thought about what his relationship to the Lord ought to be. He does not say friend, does he? Look:
I John 3:1-8
“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”
3. Abraham believed God and acted on that faith. We are Abraham’s Spiritual Children today if we believe on Jesus and accept His Holy Spirit into our hearts by faith. And when you accept Christ today, two things happen:
A. You are immediately ADOPTED by God the Father
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”
And you will be ASSURANCE that you are now His child
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
B. BUT, eventually, you will also be thrust into the middle of a very, very ugly Paternity Dispute
I John 3:9-10
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
If you accept Christ, you are Born Again and adopted into the Family of God. But, at some point, the Devil will begin to question the legitimacy of your new relationship with God. And what I’ve found is that I sometimes leave the door wide open for those accusations. I do that by sinning. Then Satan can accuse and question my relationship with and my Faith in the Lord. But, as John just told us, there is another side to it. Something wonderful, I think. It is this: while we are not saved by obeying God’s commands we are free, after we believe, not only to have faith but ALSO to obey the Lord. John tells us that when this happens “HIS seed remains in us!” So we are adopted by faith, but when, with faith, we obey God then we discover that we aren’t only adopted, we actually have the HEAVENLY FATHER’S DNA in us! Then John reminds us, in the very next verse, of the commandment we need to obey, in order for this to be so:
I John 3:11
“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
It’s a challenge, isn’t it? It is for me. But when we trust AND obey God, then no matter what the Devil says, the Lord can look down from Heaven and say “That’s MY child!”
Let’s believe Him, beloved, but let’s also obey Him! Let’s let EVERYBODY know, without ANY doubt that we are the Children of God! Then they can draw all the DNA samples they want, and none of it will matter. Let’s pray.