27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem—from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall. Nehemiah 12:27-30The text never tells us how long after the completion of the wall this dedication took place, but we can assume it was very soon. The worship for this service was extremely important, so important that Levites were sought out to celebrate. The Levites were the ones who performed all the various functions revolving around God’s Temple and its worship. Not only were the Levites sought out to participate in the worship service, so were the musicians. Musicians came with their instruments from surrounding towns to celebrate all God had done for Israel. This gathering of the people united the residents of Jerusalem with the Israelites residing in the countryside.
Look how they came in verse 27; joyfully. They were brought to joyfully celebrate but before they could celebrate there needed to be a purification (vs. 30). We don’t know exactly what this purification consisted of. It may have had something to do with ceremonial washing, fasting could have been involved, it could have involved abstaining from sexual relations and possibly sin offerings. The gates and the walls were purified also. The gates and walls may have been purified by sprinkling them with the blood of the sacrifices. All of these were part of the purification ceremony described in the Law of Moses. It would not have been uncommon to purify animate and inanimate objects.
Why would they start with all of this purification? Because joyful worship requires a pure heart. Have you ever tried to worship while harboring or hiding sin from the Lord? It makes it almost impossible. Some people come to church, put on a smile and try to worship the Lord all while hiding sin in their hearts. The book of Hebrews says,
“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22).Before you walk into church do you ask God to cleanse your heart? Are you in the regular habit of confessing your sin before worship? If not, now is a great time to start purifying yourself before worship. The truth is, God cares more about the heart in worship than in the voice.
Let me explain this more. When I surrender my life to the Lord at the age of 20 I began attending a growing church that meet at San Diego State University. The worship was great. The sermons were convicting. The 7:15pm service was full of young people. And the girls were hot! I would arrive early, walk down to the very front of the church and pretend that I was looking for a friend. While scanning the crowd I would look for the hottest girl I could find with a seat open next to her. I did this a few times in an attempt to meet girls with little success. The reason; my heart was impure. After trying this a few times God convicted me of my actions. How could I walk into church and make picking up girls my main focus. I needed to purify my heart and focus on God. This is what the Israelites did. They purified their hearts and turned their focus on God.