Overcomer! Don’t give up! Don’t give in!

Overcomer ... Challenges ahead

Ever had obstacles get in the way of what you are trying to get done? Ever found yourself in a position where you need to get around, get over, or get through something? Ever been faced with a struggle or conflict? Ever been faced with difficulties in your life?

Well this morning’s reading starts out on the topic of being an overcomer!

Ever heard Mandisa’s song?

The devil is going to try and block you from being or becoming all that God has planned for you. He will try to get your mind racing so that you can’t focus on anything but his lies. So cry out to God and ask Him for help for when we put our focus on God rather than the problem, the problem seems so much smaller and we can overcome it. God’s made promises and so grab a hold of that even if you hit rock bottom. Look up to Him! Start the journey back up, get up and get started! He is hope for the hopeless. He is air for the breathless. Nothing is impossible with or for God!

Let’s be overcomers just like we read about Nehemiah this morning.

Nehemiah Overcomes Opposition to His Work

1When Sanballat heard that we Jews had begun rebuilding the wall, he became furious and began to ridicule us. 2In front of his companions and the Samaritan troops he said, “What do these miserable Jews think they’re doing? Do they intend to rebuild the city? Do they think that by offering sacrifices they can finish the work in one day? Can they make building stones out of heaps of burnt rubble?” 3Tobiah was standing there beside him, and he added, “What kind of wall could they ever build? Even a fox could knock it down!” 4I prayed, “Hear how they make fun of us, O God! Let their ridicule fall on their own heads. Let them be robbed of everything they have, and let them be taken as prisoners to a foreign land. 5Don’t forgive the evil they do and don’t forget their sins, for they have insulted us who are building.” 6So we went on rebuilding the wall, and soon it was half its full height, because the people were eager to work. 7Sanballat, Tobiah, and the people of Arabia, Ammon, and Ashdod heard that we were making progress in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem and that the gaps in the wall were being closed, and they became very angry. 8So they all plotted together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion, 9but we prayed to our God and kept men on guard against them day and night. 10The people of Judah had a song they sang: “We grow weak carrying burdens; There’s so much rubble to take away. How can we build the wall today?”
11Our enemies thought we would not see them or know what was happening until they were already upon us, killing us and putting an end to our work. 12But time after time Jews who were living among our enemies came to warn us of the plans our enemies were making against us. 13So I armed the people with swords, spears, and bows, and stationed them by clans behind the wall, wherever it was still unfinished. 14I saw that the people were worried, so I said to them and to their leaders and officials, “Don’t be afraid of our enemies. Remember how great and terrifying the Lord is, and fight for your relatives, your children, your wives, and your homes.” 15Our enemies heard that we had found out what they were plotting, and they realized that God had defeated their plans. Then all of us went back to rebuilding the wall. 16From then on half of my men worked and half stood guard, wearing coats of armor and armed with spears, shields, and bows. And our leaders gave their full support to the people 17who were rebuilding the wall. Even those who carried building materials worked with one hand and kept a weapon in the other, 18and everyone who was building kept a sword strapped to their waist. The man who was to sound the alarm on the bugle stayed with me. 19I told the people and their officials and leaders, “The work is spread out over such a distance that we are widely separated from one another on the wall. 20If you hear the bugle, gather around me. Our God will fight for us.” 21So every day, from dawn until the stars came out at night, half of us worked on the wall, while the other half stood guard with spears. 22During this time I told the men in charge that they and all their helpers had to stay in Jerusalem at night, so that we could guard the city at night as well as work in the daytime. 23I didn’t take off my clothes even at night, neither did any of my companions nor my servants nor my bodyguards. And we all kept our weapons at hand. — from Nehemiah 4

Sometimes we need to overcome those closest to us who are holding us back too. It isn’t always just the enemy that is clear to us, but it can be people closer to us who need to come into alignment in order to stop holding us back. We can overcome! All things are possible for those who believe! We can do something about it! We can lead change! Let’s be bold and courageous!

Oppression of the Poor

1Some time later many of the people, both men and women, began to complain against the other Jews. 2Some said, “We have large families, we need grain to keep us alive.” 3Others said, “We have had to mortgage our fields and vineyards and houses to get enough grain to keep us from starving.” 4Still others said, “We had to borrow money to pay the royal tax on our fields and vineyards. 5We are of the same race as the other Jews. Aren’t our children just as good as theirs? But we have to make slaves of our children. Some of our daughters have already been sold as slaves. We are helpless because our fields and vineyards have been taken away from us.” 6When I heard their complaints, I grew angry 7and decided to act. I denounced the leaders and officials of the people and told them, “You are oppressing your own relatives!”I called a public assembly to deal with the problem 8and said, “As far as we have been able, we have been buying back our Jewish relatives who had to sell themselves to foreigners. Now you are forcing your own relatives to sell themselves to you, their own people!” The leaders were silent and could find nothing to say. 9Then I said, “What you are doing is wrong! You ought to obey God and do what’s right. Then you would not give our enemies, the Gentiles, any reason to ridicule us. 10I have let the people borrow money and grain from me, and so have my companions and those who work for me. Now let’s give up all our claims to repayment. 11Cancel all the debts they owe you—money or grain or wine or olive oil. And give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses right now!” 12The leaders replied, “We’ll do as you say. We’ll give the property back and not try to collect the debts.”I called in the priests and made the leaders swear in front of them to keep the promise they had just made. 13Then I took off the sash I was wearing around my waist and shook it out. “This is how God will shake any of you who don’t keep your promise,” I said. “God will take away your houses and everything you own, and will leave you with nothing.”Everyone who was present said, “Amen!” and praised the Lord. And the leaders kept their promise.

Nehemiah’s Unselfishness

14During all the twelve years that I was governor of the land of Judah, from the twentieth year that Artaxerxes was emperor until his thirty-second year, neither my relatives nor I ate the food I was entitled to have as governor. 15Every governor who had been in office before me had been a burden to the people and had demanded forty silver coins a day for food and wine. Even their servants had oppressed the people. But I acted differently, because I honored God. 16I put all my energy into rebuilding the wall and did not acquire any property. Everyone who worked for me joined in the rebuilding. 17I regularly fed at my table a hundred and fifty of the Jewish people and their leaders, besides all the people who came to me from the surrounding nations. 18Every day I served one beef, six of the best sheep, and many chickens, and every ten days I provided a fresh supply of wine. But I knew what heavy burdens the people had to bear, and so I did not claim the allowance that the governor is entitled to. 19I pray you, O God, remember to my credit everything that I have done for this people. –from Nehemiah 5

When we are being attacked, we need to turn to God and ask Him for the strength and the courage to be able to know what to do and to do it! We put our hope and trust in God so that no matter what comes our way, we can be overcomers! We must complete the work God has given us to do!

Plots against Nehemiah

1Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and the rest of our enemies heard that we had finished building the wall and that there were no gaps left in it, although we still had not set up the gates in the gateways. 2So Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message, suggesting that I meet with them in one of the villages in the Plain of Ono. This was a trick of theirs to try to harm me. 3I sent messengers to say to them, “I am doing important work and can’t go down there. I am not going to let the work stop just to go and see you.” 4They sent me the same message four times, and each time I sent them the same reply. 5Then Sanballat sent one of his servants to me with a fifth message, this one in the form of an unsealed letter. 6It read: “Geshem tells me that a rumor is going around among the neighboring peoples that you and the Jewish people intend to revolt and that this is why you are rebuilding the wall. He also says you plan to make yourself king 7and that you have arranged for some prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem that you are the king of Judah. His Majesty is certain to hear about this, so I suggest that you and I meet to talk the situation over.”
8I sent a reply to him: “Nothing of what you are saying is true. You have made it all up yourself.” 9They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!” 10About this time I went to visit Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah and grandson of Mehetabel, who was unable to leave his house. He said to me, “You and I must go and hide together in the Holy Place of the Temple and lock the doors, because they are coming to kill you. Any night now they will come to kill you.” 11I answered, “I’m not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won’t do it.” 12When I thought it over, I realized that God had not spoken to Shemaiah, but that Tobiah and Sanballat had bribed him to give me this warning. 13They hired him to frighten me into sinning, so that they could ruin my reputation and humiliate me. 14I prayed, “God, remember what Tobiah and Sanballat have done and punish them. Remember that woman Noadiah and all the other prophets who tried to frighten me.”

The Conclusion of the Work

15After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul. 16When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help. 17During all this time the Jewish leaders had been in correspondence with Tobiah. 18Many people in Judah were on his side because of his Jewish father-in-law, Shecaniah son of Arah. In addition, his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. 19People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me. –from Nehemiah 6

Don’t give up on God! God hasn’t given up on you! He continues to provide a second chance! He has made a way when we couldn’t and can’t do it in our own strength!

1And now the wall had been rebuilt, the gates had all been put in place, and the Temple guards, the members of the sacred choir, and the other Levites had been assigned their work. 2I put two men in charge of governing the city of Jerusalem: my brother Hanani and Hananiah, commanding officer of the fortress. Hananiah was a reliable and God-fearing man without equal. 3I told them not to have the gates of Jerusalem opened in the morning until well after sunrise and to have them closed and barred before the guards went off duty at sunset. I also told them to appoint guards from among the people who lived in Jerusalem and to assign some of them to specific posts and others to patrol the area around their own houses.

The List of Those Who Returned from Exile

(Ezra 2.1-70)
4Jerusalem was a large city, but not many people were living in it, and not many houses had been built yet. 5God inspired me to assemble the people and their leaders and officials and to check their family records. I located the records of those who had first returned from captivity, and this is the information I found: 6Many of the exiles left the province of Babylon and returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own hometown. Their families had been living in exile in Babylonia ever since King Nebuchadnezzar had taken them there as prisoners. 7Their leaders were Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum, and Baanah. 8-25This is the list of the clans of Israel, with the number of those from each clan who returned from exile:
Parosh – 2,172
Shephatiah – 372
Arah – 652
Pahath Moab (descendants of Jeshua and Joab) – 2,818
Elam – 1,254
Zattu – 845
Zaccai – 760
Binnui – 648
Bebai – 628
Azgad – 2,322
Adonikam – 667
Bigvai – 2,067
Adin – 655
Ater (also called Hezekiah) – 98
Hashum – 328
Bezai – 324
Hariph – 112
Gibeon – 95

26-38People whose ancestors had lived in the following towns also returned:
Bethlehem and Netophah – 188
Anathoth – 128
Beth Azmaveth – 42
Kiriath Jearim, Chephirah, and Beeroth – 743
Ramah and Geba – 621
Michmash – 122
Bethel and Ai – 123
The other Nebo – 52
The other Elam – 1,254
Harim – 320
Jericho – 345
Lod, Hadid, and Ono – 721
Senaah – 3,930

39-42This is the list of the priestly clans that returned from exile:
Jedaiah (descendants of Jeshua) – 973
Immer – 1,052
Pashhur – 1,247
Harim – 1,017

43-45Clans of Levites who returned from exile:
Jeshua and Kadmiel (descendants of Hodaviah) – 74
Temple musicians (descendants of Asaph) – 148
Temple guards (descendants of Shallum, Ater, Talmon, Akkub, Hatita, and Shobai) – 138

46-56Clans of Temple workers who returned from exile:
Ziha, Hasupha, Tabbaoth,
Keros, Sia, Padon,
Lebana, Hagaba, Shalmai,
Hanan, Giddel, Gahar,
Reaiah, Rezin, Nekoda,
Gazzam, Uzza, Paseah,
Besai, Meunim, Nephushesim,
Bakbuk, Hakupha, Harhur,
Bazlith, Mehida, Harsha,
Barkos, Sisera, Temah,
Neziah, and Hatipha.

57-59Clans of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile:
Sotai, Sophereth, Perida,
Jaalah, Darkon, Giddel,
Shephatiah, Hattil, Pochereth Hazzebaim, and Amon.

60The total number of descendants of the Temple workers and of Solomon’s servants who returned from exile was 392. 61-62There were 642 belonging to the clans of Delaiah, Tobiah, and Nekoda who returned from the towns of Tel Melah, Tel Harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer; but they could not prove that they were descendants of Israelites. 63-64The following priestly clans could find no record to prove their ancestry: Hobaiah, Hakkoz, and Barzillai. (The ancestor of the priestly clan of Barzillai had married a woman from the clan of Barzillai of Gilead and taken the name of his father-in-law’s clan.) Since they were unable to prove who their ancestors were, they were not accepted as priests. 65The Jewish governor told them that they could not eat the food offered to God until there was a priest who could use the Urim and Thummim.

66-69Total number of exiles who returned – 42,360.
Their male and female servants – 7,337
Male and female musicians – 245
Horses – 736
Mules – 245
Camels – 435
Donkeys – 6,720

70-72Many of the people contributed to help pay the cost of restoring the Temple:
The governor 270 ounces of gold
50 ceremonial bowls
530 robes for priests
Heads of clans 337 pounds of gold
3,215 pounds of silver
The rest of the people 337 pounds of gold
2,923 pounds of silver
67 robes for priests

73The priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the musicians, many of the ordinary people, the Temple workers—all the people of Israel—settled in the towns and cities of Judah.
–from Nehemiah 7

The truth will set you free! There are many people who may have heard about it, but never actually heard it! Might there be a way to get it shared so that others can come to know the truth and be set free?

Ezra Reads the Law to the People

1By the seventh month the people of Israel were all settled in their towns. On the first day of that month they all assembled in Jerusalem, in the square just inside the Water Gate. They asked Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law which the Lord had given Israel through Moses, to get the book of the Law. 2So Ezra brought it to the place where the people had gathered—men, women, and the children who were old enough to understand. 3There in the square by the gate he read the Law to them from dawn until noon, and they all listened attentively. 4Ezra was standing on a wooden platform that had been built for the occasion. The following men stood at his right: Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and the following stood at his left: Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam. 5As Ezra stood there on the platform high above the people, they all kept their eyes fixed on him. As soon as he opened the book, they all stood up. 6Ezra said, “Praise the Lord, the great God!”All the people raised their arms in the air and answered, “Amen! Amen!” They knelt in worship, with their faces to the ground. 7Then they rose and stood in their places, and the following Levites explained the Law to them: Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, and Pelaiah. 8They gave an oral translation of God’s Law and explained it so that the people could understand it. 9When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don’t have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don’t be sad. The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.” 11The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them.

The Festival of Shelters

13The next day the heads of the clans, together with the priests and the Levites, went to Ezra to study the teachings of the Law. 14They discovered that the Law, which the Lord gave through Moses, ordered the people of Israel to live in temporary shelters during the Festival of Shelters. 15So they gave the following instructions and sent them all through Jerusalem and the other cities and towns: “Go out to the hills and get branches from pines, olives, myrtles, palms, and other trees to make shelters according to the instructions written in the Law.” 16So the people got branches and built shelters on the flat roofs of their houses, in their yards, in the Temple courtyard, and in the public squares by the Water Gate and by the Ephraim Gate. 17All the people who had come back from captivity built shelters and lived in them. This was the first time it had been done since the days of Joshua son of Nun, and everybody was excited and happy. 18From the first day of the festival to the last they read a part of God’s Law every day. They celebrated for seven days, and on the eighth day there was a closing ceremony, as required in the Law. –from Nehemiah 8

When people get to hear the truth, they will turn back from their ways and start to walk in alignment with God’s will and God’s plan for their lives! Let’s not only be overcomers, but let’s be people who help other people become overcomers too! How strong are you behind this idea and move of God?

The People Confess Their Sins

1-2On the twenty-fourth day of the same month the people of Israel gathered to fast in order to show sorrow for their sins. They had already separated themselves from all foreigners. They wore sackcloth and put dust on their heads as signs of grief. Then they stood and began to confess the sins that they and their ancestors had committed. 3For about three hours the Law of the Lord their God was read to them, and for the next three hours they confessed their sins and worshiped the Lord their God. 4There was a platform for the Levites, and on it stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani. They prayed aloud to the Lord their God. 5The following Levites gave a call to worship: Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah. They said:
“Stand up and praise the Lord your God; praise him forever and ever! Let everyone praise his glorious name, although no human praise is great  enough.”

The Prayer of Confession

6And then the people of Israel prayed this prayer:
“You, Lord, you alone are Lord; you made the heavens and the stars of the sky. You made land and sea and everything in them; you gave life to all. The heavenly powers bow down and worship you. 7You, Lord God, chose Abram and led him out of Ur in Babylonia; you changed his name to Abraham. 8You found that he was faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him. You promised to give him the land of the Canaanites, the land of the Hittites and the Amorites, the land of the Perizzites, the busites, the Girgashites, to be a land where his descendants would live. You kept your promise, because you are faithful. 9“You saw how our ancestors suffered in Egypt; you heard their call for help at the Red Sea. 10You worked amazing miracles against the king, against his officials and the people of his land, because you knew how they oppressed your people. You won then the fame you still have today. 11Through the sea you made a path for your people and led them through on dry ground. Those who pursued them drowned in deep water, as a stone sinks in the raging sea. 12With a cloud you led them in daytime, and at night you lighted their way with fire. 13At Mount Sinai you came down from heaven; you spoke to your people and gave them good laws and sound teachings. 14You taught them to keep your Sabbaths holy, and through your servant Moses you gave them your laws. 15“When they were hungry, you gave them bread from heaven, and water from a rock when they were thirsty. You told them to take control of the land which you had promised to give them. 16But our ancestors grew proud and stubborn and refused to obey your commands. 17They refused to obey; they forgot all you did; they forgot the miracles you had performed. In their pride they chose a leader to take them back to slavery in Egypt. But you are a God who forgives; you are gracious and loving, slow to be angry. Your mercy is great; you did not forsake them. 18They made an idol in the shape of a bull-calf and said it was the god who led them from Egypt! How much they insulted you, Lord! 19But you did not abandon them there in the desert, for your mercy is great. You did not take away the cloud or the fire that showed them the path by day and night. 20In your goodness you told them what they should do; you fed them manna and gave them water to drink. 21Through forty years in the desert you provided all that they needed; their clothing never wore out, and their feet were not swollen with pain. 22“You let them conquer nations and kingdoms, lands that bordered their own. They conquered the land of Heshbon, where Sihon ruled, and the land of Bashan, where Og was king. 23You gave them as many children as there are stars in the sky, and let them conquer and live in the land that you had promised their ancestors to give them. 24They conquered the land of Canaan; you overcame the people living there. You gave your people the power to do as they pleased with the people and kings of Canaan. 25Your people captured fortified cities, fertile land, houses full of wealth, cisterns already dug, olive trees, fruit trees, and vineyards. They ate all they wanted and grew fat; they enjoyed all the good things you gave them. 26“But your people rebelled and disobeyed you; they turned their backs on your Law. They killed the prophets who warned them, who told them to turn back to you. They insulted you time after time, 27so you let their enemies conquer and rule them. In their trouble they called to you for help, and you answered them from heaven. In your great mercy you sent them leaders who rescued them from their foes. 28When peace returned, they sinned again, and again you let their enemies conquer them. Yet when they repented and asked you to save them, in heaven you heard, and time after time you rescued them in your great mercy. 29You warned them to obey your teachings, but in pride they rejected your laws, although keeping your Law is the way to life. Hard-headed and stubborn, they refused to obey. 30Year after year you patiently warned them. You inspired your prophets to speak, but your people were deaf, so you let them be conquered by other nations. 31And yet, because your mercy is great, you did not forsake or destroy them. You are a gracious and merciful God! 32“O God, our God, how great you are! How terrifying, how powerful! You faithfully keep your covenant promises. From the time when Assyrian kings oppressed us, even till now, how much we have suffered! Our kings, our leaders, our priests and prophets, our ancestors, and all our people have suffered. Remember how much we have suffered! 33You have done right to punish us; you have been faithful, even though we have sinned. 34Our ancestors, our kings, leaders, and priests have not kept your Law. They did not listen to your commands and warnings. 35With your blessing, kings ruled your people when they lived in the broad, fertile land you gave them; but they failed to turn from sin and serve you. 36And now we are slaves in the land that you gave us, this fertile land which gives us food. 37What the land produces goes to the kings that you put over us because we sinned. They do as they please with us and our livestock, and we are in deep distress!”

The People Sign an Agreement

38Because of all that has happened, we, the people of Israel, hereby make a solemn written agreement, and our leaders, our Levites, and our priests put their seals to it.
–from Nehemiah 9

Will you be an overcomer? Will you help others to become over comers? Will you point people to the source of becoming an overcomer?

It’s amazing what can happen and what can be overcome when people come together in unity!

1The first to sign was the governor, Nehemiah son of Hacaliah, and then Zedekiah signed. The following also signed: 2-8Priests: Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, Maaziah, Bilgai, and Shemaia. 9-13Levites: Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the clan of Henadad, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, Zaccur, Sherebiah,  Shebaniah, Hodiah, Bani, and Beninu. 14-27Leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, Malluch, Harim, and Baanah.

The Agreement

28We, the people of Israel, the priests, the Levites, the Temple guards, the Temple musicians, the Temple workers, and all others who in obedience to God’s Law have separated themselves from the foreigners living in our land, we, together with our wives and all our children old enough to understand, 29do hereby join with our leaders in an oath, under penalty of a curse if we break it, that we will live according to God’s Law, which God gave through his servant Moses; that we will obey all that the Lord, our Lord, commands us; and that we will keep all his laws and requirements. 30We will not intermarry with the foreigners living in our land. 31If foreigners bring grain or anything else to sell to us on the Sabbath or on any other holy day, we will not buy from them. Every seventh year we will not farm the land, and we will cancel all debts. 32Every year we will each contribute one-eighth of an ounce of silver to help pay the expenses of the Temple. 33We will provide for the Temple worship the following: the sacred bread, the daily grain offering, the animals to be burned each day as sacrifices, the sacred offerings for Sabbaths, New Moon Festivals, and other festivals, the other sacred offerings, the offerings to take away the sins of Israel, and anything else needed for the Temple. 34We, the people, priests, and Levites, will draw lots each year to determine which clans are to provide wood to burn the sacrifices offered to the Lord our God, according to the requirements of the Law. 35We will take to the Temple each year an offering of the first grain we harvest and of the first fruit that ripens on our trees. 36The first son born to each of us we will take to the priests in the Temple and there, as required by the Law, dedicate him to God. We will also dedicate the first calf born to each of our cows, and the first lamb or kid born to each of our sheep or goats. 37We will take to the priests in the Temple the dough made from the first grain harvested each year and our other offerings of wine, olive oil, and all kinds of fruit. We will take to the Levites, who collect tithes in our farming villages, the tithes from the crops that grow on our land. 38Priests who are descended from Aaron are to be with the Levites when tithes are collected, and for use in the Temple the Levites are to take to the Temple storerooms one-tenth of all the tithes they collect. 39The people of Israel and the Levites are to take the contributions of grain, wine, and olive oil to the storerooms where the utensils for the Temple are kept and where the priests who are on duty, the Temple guards, and the members of the Temple choir have their quarters. We will not neglect the house of our God. –from Nehemiah 10

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