The thanksgiving choirs were divided in half – singers lined the stairs of the house of God and circled the walls around the city of David. The conductor directed the music, the choir sang loudly, and the men, the women, and the children rejoiced to hear songs of praise.
I remember being in the choir and the marching band in high school – the practices, the nervous solos, the performances. And like the recorded names of the Levites and priests who were singing at the rebuilding of Jerusalem, our names were written in yearbooks and occasionally in the newspaper below our group picture. To belong to this elite group of singers and to march in our award winning band was the highlight of my high school years. I really thought I was going somewhere when I majored in music that first year of college. Wrong!
I was derailed by worldly activities of the hippie generation, free love, communes, getting back to the land. My big plans to attend college were short circuited by the culture and the lack of direction and support. After withdrawing twice, I was back in my hometown looking for work. So I empathize with that group of Hebrews so full of hope at that memorable concert.
It may at first seem odd that after rebuilding the walls and celebrating the return to God that the Israelites went back to life as it was before Nehemiah came. When the prophet left, so did the dream. He returned and found the people, including the religious leaders, conducting business as usual, and he went berserk, to put it bluntly. He even tore at their hair and pushed people away from him who were disobeying God’s commandments to keep the Sabbath holy and to refrain from marrying foreigners. In other words, he took hold of these people and shook some sense into them. In some ways, I wish there had been someone in my life that would have been so passionate about snatching me out of the mess I returned to. It was many years later before I came to know God and found my way back to the hope of getting an education.
Yet, whether we come through scathed or unscathed, in the end we will be able to trace the hand of God when He opens the books and our story is read. Will my life’s chronology sound like that of Nehemiah, a list of good deeds and sacrificial living with a multitude of grateful souls singing God’s praise? Not likely. I’ve lived more years than are probably left to me, and the markers are rare and broken when it comes to true service to God or a smooth, steady walk with Christ. Yet, my hope is that He will write in His books that I was a woman after His own heart and one who learned to sing a new song of celebration for His return.