When my daughters were infants, they were dedicated at the church we attended. In a brief, happy ceremony, the pastor spoke words over them in front of the congregation, dedicating them to the Lord and calling the church to invest in raising them to follow Jesus. It was a beautiful moment, each time.
When the church I grew up in and the Christian company I work for each broke ground for new buildings, they held ceremonies to dedicate the structures to the work of the Lord. The projects were prayed over and a biblical charge was given to everyone present, reminding us of the gospel’s greater mission.
The dedication of Jerusalem’s wall was nothing like these instances at all. Yes, the work was dedicated to the Lord and prayers were prayed. But this was no ceremonial groundbreaking, featuring men in suits awkwardly wielding monogrammed brass shovels. Nor was it a baby dedication wedged in at the beginning of a Sunday morning service. This was a dedication.
The Levites—the tribe dedicated to the service of the temple and worship before God—led thanksgiving and singing with harps, cymbals, and lyres, and with singers and musicians gathered from all around. That’s a full band.
They purified themselves and the city so that it literally gleamed, but more importantly, so it reflected God’s law and their desire to honor Him. Then they encircled the city with praise and prayer and thanks, with one column going to the left and the other to the right around the wall. And their rejoicing could be heard far and wide (Nehemiah 12:43)—hardly the sedate ceremony we so commonly call “a dedication.”
This raucous, joyous celebration of Jerusalem’s rebuilding is but a foretaste of what Scripture tells us is to come. In Nehemiah’s day, a crowd of thousands lifted praise that could be heard from far away. One day, a numberless multitude will gather in praise with a sound like thunder. In Jerusalem, they offered sacrifices as a pleasing offering before God. In the days to come, a ceaseless sacrifice of praise will be lifted up. The old Jerusalem was worthy of passionate worship before God. One day, the new Jerusalem will teem with worshipers and pulse with praise.
Nehemiah and those with him knew they were commemorating and dedicating something profound and miraculous—a city established by God’s redeemed people, in God’s promised land, and under God’s protection. They could not have known how this would echo into the millennia to follow, as an appetizer for the unbridled, perfect celebration of a wedding between Christ and His Church—the same celebration every believer will have the joy to participate in one day.
Written by Barnabas Piper