Priests and Levites have a serious job to do. As men called to serve at the temple, that job involved cleaning it, guarding it, receiving and managing the gifts of the worshippers, praying for the people, offering up their sacrifices to God, and teaching the people God’s Word. Why does Nehemiah give us these lists of priests and Levites? Because under God, he was building a new community. And for that community to stand and to thrive, they needed to know and to relate to God according to His Word. So these men are not some luxury – they are an essential part of a community living in fellowship with God.
Today, it’s not that we’ve done away with priests; instead, we have the Great Priest, Jesus Christ. He does for us everything which these ancient priests were called to do, but could never do perfectly, as He did. He teaches us the Word of God by His Spirit, He brings our sacrifices of praise and obedience to God, and makes them acceptable in His sight. And gloriously, His once for all sacrifice on the cross is the sacrifice which washes us clean of all of our sins. As Hebrews says, we have a great High Priest!
What does our High Priest do? Hebrews 2.10–13 says that Jesus brings us into God’s presence, makes us holy through His sacrifice, and leads us in the worship of His Father. As v.11 says, He is not ashamed to call us His brothers. And so, prefiguring that worship, in our chapter we hear of priests leading their people around the city walls in joyful worship together (v.8, 24). The second half of the chapter is a powerful and challenging scene of community praise. And let’s learn from it. God’s people are overwhelmed with God’s grace and goodness. They have to worship, it’s the natural overflowing of grateful hearts. And what a witness it is!
God loves a church worshipping and singing of His glory. The world needs the witness of the church focused in praise and thanksgiving. We may speak many words about God; but if our worship is cold, how is the world to know if we believe our words or not? Public worship declares the power of the Gospel to the world, and shows the integrity of our hearts to God. True worship is the sign that we are being truly transformed by the Gospel, in the power of the Spirit.
Some questions, then. Do we turn up to worship casually? Do we allow ourselves to be distracted or to distract others during worship? Do we stay at home, fellowshipping with the TV remote control? All of these temptations should be firmly rejected by the true children of God. God is looking for those who worship Him in spirit and in truth. It appears that He had such worshipers that day on the city walls in Jerusalem. Does he have such a worshiper you?
A prayer to pray
Lord, You have my heart. Please bring forth from it a song of humble, contented, joyful praise. And please give me a love for worshipping You with my brothers and sisters, increasingly aware of and amazed by the fact that I worship in the presence of the One Who is not ashamed to call me His brother, by His love. Amen.