27When the city wall was dedicated, Levites from everywhere in Judah were invited to join in the celebration with songs of praise and with the music of cymbals, small harps, and other stringed instruments. 28-29The Levite singers lived in villages around Jerusalem, and so they came from there, as well as from the villages around Netophah, Beth-Gilgal, Geba, and Azmaveth. 30The priests and Levites held special ceremonies to make themselves holy, and then they did the same for the rest of the people and for the gates and walls of the city.
31I brought the leaders of Judah to the top of the city wall and put them in charge of the two groups that were to march around on top of the wall, singing praises to God. One group marched to the right in the direction of Garbage Gate. 32Hoshaiah and half of the leaders followed them. 33Then came the priests Azariah, Ezra, Meshullam, 34Judah, Benjamin, Shemaiah, and Jeremiah, 35all of them blowing trumpets. Next, there was Zechariah of the Asaph clan 36and his relatives, Shemaiah, Azarel, Milalai, Gilalai, Maai, Nethanel, Judah, and Hanani. They played musical instruments like those that had been played by David, the man of God. And they marched behind Ezra, the teacher of the Law. 37When they reached Fountain Gate, they climbed the steps to David's City and went past his palace, before stopping at the Water Gate near the eastern wall of the city.
38The second group of singers marched along the wall in the opposite direction, and I followed them, together with the other half of the leaders of Judah. We went past Oven Tower, Broad Wall, 39Ephraim Gate, Old Gate, Fish Gate, Hananel Tower, Hundred Tower, and on to Sheep Gate. Finally, we stopped at Gate of the Guard, 40where we stood in front of the temple with the other group, praising God. In the group with me were half of the leaders, 41as well as the priests Eliakim, Maaseiah, Miniamin, Micaiah, Elioenai, Zechariah, and Hananiah, who were blowing trumpets. 42Maaseiah, Shemaiah, Eleazar, Uzzi, Jehohanan, Malchijah, Elam, and Ezer also stood there, as Jezrahiah led the singers. 43God had made the people very happy, and so on that day they celebrated and offered many sacrifices. The women and children joined in the festivities, and joyful shouts could be heard far from the city of Jerusalem.
Preparation for Worship
44On that same day, some leaders were appointed to be responsible for the safekeeping of gifts for the temple and to be in charge of receiving the first part of the harvest and the ten percent of the crops and livestock that was offered to God. These same leaders also collected the part of crops that the Law of Moses taught was to be given to the Levites.
Everyone was pleased with the work of the priests and Levites, 45 when they performed the ceremonies to make people acceptable to worship God. And the singers and the temple guards did their jobs according to the instructions given by David and his son Solomon. 46In fact, ever since the days of David and Asaph, there had been song leaders and songs of praise and worship. 47During the time that Zerubbabel and I were in charge, everyone in Israel gave what they were supposed to give for the daily needs of the singers and temple guards from the Levi tribe. Then the Levites would give the priests their share from what they had received.
The day for the dedication of the newly completed rebuilt walls of the city had finally come. It must have been an exceptional celebration with the two processions of the civic leaders and the Temple musicians encircling the city walls. They converged on the Temple where festivities continued with sacrifices and singing. One can only imagine the level of musical celebration from the choirs and the instrumentalists with their cymbals, harps, and other stringed instruments. And it was not that the rest of the crowd was just watching the Temple musicians perform. Rather, everyone, including the women and children, were joining in the rejoicing (v. 43b).
Today, when a sports team wins a championship – like the Super Bowl or World Series – there is a vast celebration with a parade and people lining the streets, cheering. That’s the kind of picture that is given here, except the people were not celebrating a sports victory, nor a national hero, nor even congratulating themselves for a job well done. Rather they were rejoicing and giving praise and acknowledgement to God (v 40) because of what he had enabled them to do. And they were celebrating with the fullness of their musical and vocal abilities. When we worship God, do we do so with an exuberance of music and singing, as we thank and praise him for giving us the ability to accomplish his work here on earth?
In verse 43, it states that this celebrating was a God-generated thing: “God had made the people very happy.” True worship is that which God inspires us to do, rather than merely a human-generated activity. And when we worship in that way, we bear witness to the world of God’s glory: “the joyful shouts could be heard far from the city of Jerusalem” (v 43b).
God, you are worthy of our praise for all that you have done, and for all that you have enabled your people to accomplish. May the worship of our songs and music give full voice to the praise that is due to you. May we celebrate with joyful songs, so that among the nations it will be said, “The LORD has worked miracles for his people” (Psalm 126:2).