Nehemiah 10-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His presence fills the lives of those who worship in purity

Through the years I’ve met dozens of individuals who desire to be a church worship leader, and many appear to be musically qualified.  And others?  Well, we’ve all heard a singer at one time or another whose exuberance was not matched by talent. Listening to them can be painful.  The responsibility of a worship leader is much more than ability, however, and the challenge is daunting to me.  Leading a congregation into the presence of God is not a role for the showman or exhibitionist.  The most successful worship leaders I know are almost invisible to the worshipers.

I was part of a worship team in a large church for many years. Our ministry and sound were good and our worship leaders were spirit-led and anointed.  The team always had prayer together before the services began, each of us surrendering ourselves to His purpose, but I vividly remember a particular admonition one Sunday from the worship leader.  He challenged us to purify our hearts and lives in the privacy of our homes before we ever entered the church on a Sunday morning for practice and warm up.  He asked us to take care of business with the Lord before we met collectively in prayer.  Our ministry, then, would not be stopped by any area where we had given access to the enemy nor would it be hindered by hurt feelings, a prideful spirit, etc.  In our reading today, Nehemiah required the same holiness from those who led worship, and then some. 

@ Nehemiah 12
After returning from Babylon, the Israelites rebuilt their Temple and now the Jerusalem walls had been restored. It was time for dedication, and Nehemiah planned a celebration for God’s people, “For the dedication of the new wall of Jerusalem, the Levites throughout the land were asked to come to Jerusalem to assist in the ceremonies. They were to take part in the joyous occasion with their songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps, and lyres. The singers were brought together from the region around Jerusalem and from the villages…” (27-28)

All the articles from the Temple had been returned to the Israelites, so the musical instruments were tuned, the singers gathered and the songs of praise and worship that had been passed down from David and Asaph were readied.

Not a note was sounded, however, until their lives and surroundings had been purified, “The priests and Levites first purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates, and the wall.” (30)  My mind goes back to my worship leader who challenged us to ready our hearts for worship, to remove any obstacles before we attempted to enter the presence of our Holy God.  The priests purified their own hearts first and then the hearts of the people.

Any worship leader will tell you that sometimes it’s difficult to draw a congregation into worship, but I’ve noticed the atmosphere often changes when believers are first led in a prayer of consecration, giving them an opportunity to take care of business in preparation for worship. They “first purified themselves; then they purified the people, the gates and the wall.”

Some may say that we live in the grace of the New Testament and these old customs are passé, but let me just say that God is still Holy, sin is still sin, and they just don’t mix.  Through the anointed ministry of Nehemiah and the priests and the purified hearts of His people, the celebration and dedication of the wall was a great success.

“Many sacrifices were offered on that joyous day, for God had given the people cause for great joy. The women and children also participated in the celebration, and the joy of the people of Jerusalem could be heard far away.” (43) Let the purity of our worship resound throughout the earth to touch our world and may it reach the heavens! 

Moving Forward:  From a repentant heart I declare today, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 143-145