I’ve Got a Name
“I’ve Got a Name”
Series: REBUILD (Nehemiah)
Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD
Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson
- I invite you to join me in Nehemiah chapter 7.
While you’re finding that let me say thank you for praying for our two teams who were in Central Asia in our missional partnership there the last two weeks. Everyone’s home safely. People got home at different times. Our family got home early yesterday morning and went right to bed and then woke up a few hours later. I was dreaming in Turkish and Farsi and walking the streets of Istanbul, all discombobulated; you know how that is.
But thank you so much for praying. You are in for a treat tonight as the teams will share how God answered your prayers through effective evangelism and ministry to the Persian People Group in Central Asia. We’ll share this evening things we can’t talk about in our morning worship because of security and can’t put things on social media like some of our other missional partnerships. So it’s going to be great tonight. We’re eager to take this partnership to a new level of commitment so that’s tonight at six o’clock.
Nehemiah 7. I was telling Rich last week that I had a real clunker of a text this morning. Chapter 7 is this long list of names. Just names. In fact, I thought about “pulling rank” and asking Jacob to preach this passage in advance and I would come back and preach last week’s passage because I really liked last week’s text, especially verses 15 and 16 of chapter 6 where Nehemiah says that they finished rebuilding the wall in 52 days, bringing fear to their enemies because they perceived that the work was done by God. Amen!
And Jacob did a great job preaching that text. I got on the website and listened to the message. I hope you do that when you miss a Sunday or you’re out of town. You can listen on WSON or the TuneIn Radio app or get on the website later and listen.
So we’re in Chapter 7 and, as I say, there’s this long list of names. I mean Chapter 7 is like preaching the Jerusalem phonebook. The names of gazillions of the men of Israel and their sons. So here’s what we’re going to do. I’d like to read just the first four verses of the text, verses 4 through 7.
- Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word.
4 Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt.
5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there:
6 These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town,
7 in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah):
The list of the men of Israel:
- Pray: “Father, we ask for help this morning by way of Your Holy Spirt. This simple request: What we know not, teach us. What we have not, give us. What we are not, make us—through Christ Jesus our Lord and for His sake, amen.”
Have you heard of Jim Croce? This is music appreciation 101 again. Often we have some kind of music appreciation lesson. Jim Croce. Late 1960s early 1970s. American folk and rock. Died in 1973 at the age of 30, tragically at the height of his popularity, died in a plane crash along with five others. Many of you know the song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” That’s Jim Croce. Or, “Time in a Bottle.” Artful writing, thought-provoking lyrics, easy and simple acoustic guitar. The day after he died, the lead single to his fourth album was released and became another hit. It was the song, “I’ve Got a Name.” And this is the song that’s been playing in my head as I studied this passage. Any of you know the lyrics? Those of you my age and older? Some of you younger folks, I don’t know what to tell you. All the good music ended with the 80s!
Like the pine trees lining the winding road
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
I’ve got a name, I’ve got a name
And I carry it with me like my daddy did
But I’m living the dream that he kept hid
It’s a song that inspires gratitude for the gift of life and the opportunity to live our lives to the fullest, grateful for the blessing of our ancestors and how we are shaped by their legacy: I’ve got a name “and I carry it with me like my daddy did.”
That’s Nehemiah 7! It’s a list of the names of men and the names of their sons. There’s a legacy of faith here in chapter 7. A heritage of faith. A tradition of families following the One True and Living God and their names are recorded here in Scripture.
Years ago when I was studying journalism at Georgia State University, the professor invited a local writer from The Atlanta Journal & Constitution to come and speak to our class. He was talking about journalism as a career and how writing for the paper didn’t really pay that much money. And I remember that he opened up that morning’s edition of the Atlanta Constitution and he pointed to a story he had written. And he held the paper up and put his finger on the byline of the article—the byline is the line just below the headline that tells who wrote the story—he put his finger there where his name appeared in print and read his name aloud. And then he said, “That’s why I do this!” His point was that he didn’t do it for the money, but for the satisfaction of writing a story well and seeing his name appear in print next to it. He was honest. He liked to see his name in the paper. He was proud of it, proud in a good way.
That’s how to approach a chapter like this with a long list of names. At first glance we see a list like this and we want to just skip over it. More names! But imagine if you had a personal interest in this list. Imagine you are a Jewish family living some hundred years later and you gather together with your family one evening. And it’s dark and you’re all huddled there in your home next to a small oil lamp that’s burning and giving off just enough light to your spouse and kids seated around the table. And your family nudges a little closer together as you unroll a scroll there in the dark. And you carefully unroll the scroll of Nehemiah and you open it up to this chapter and slowly trace your finger through the lines and stop and read your family name aloud. And your kids are wide-eyed and the family smiles as they see the name of your father and their grandfather and know that they are one of the “sons” numbered in this list.
Long before ancestry.com God’s people painstakingly recorded the names of family members and their connection to other families in the greater family of God. Genealogy was an especially important work for these many descendants of Father Abraham. It is from these descendants God’s Promised Seed would come—the promised Messiah we know by the name of Jesus Christ. Names matter.
That’s what we’re going to talk about this morning. How names matter. How your name matters. How my name matters. And what we’re going to do is study this passage and think of it along the lines of how our name matters in two main areas: the life we lead and the legacy we leave. The life we lead and the legacy we lead. First, go back and look at verse 4:
4 Now the city was large and spacious, but the people in it were few, and the houses were not rebuilt.
Before the walls were completed God’s people were living here and there around Jerusalem, living in nearby towns. They weren’t living inside the city because there was no inside. There was only outside. But the walls are finished now and Nehemiah is wanting to get folks inside the city gates, repopulating the city. This will take some time because we’re told in verse 4 that “the houses were not rebuilt.” So they’re going to need to get those houses built and then figure out who can live inside the city as the houses are going up. When we get to Chapter 11 we’ll see that Nehemiah has a plan for this. He’s going to have the folks cast lots to bring in one out of every ten to live in the city and the other nine out of ten will remain in other towns. So Nehemiah gets a list of names together to figure out who all is scattered around Jerusalem.
5 Then my God put it into my heart to gather the nobles, the rulers, and the people, that they might be registered by genealogy. And I found a register of the genealogy of those who had come up in the first return, and found written in it:
That phrase “the first return” refers to the people who returned from exile after King Cyrus allowed God’s people to go back to Jerusalem. Remember God’s people were exiled during the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. They were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC and then the Babylonians in 586 BC. God was behind this. He was disciplining His children because of their sin of unfaithfulness to Him. And after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, God caused the Persian King Cyrus to issue a decree in 536 allowing the people to return to Jerusalem.
By the way, the Persian Empire, the Persian People, are the very ones our church has been ministering to these past two weeks. Folks whose ethnicity hails from this very area in what is now modern Turkey, and Iran, Iraq, and so on. The Persian People Group are a people whose lineage can be traced to King Cyrus, King Artaxerxes, and in the Book of Esther King Xerxes and Queen Vashti. The Persian People Group; only 2% Christian.
So verse 5 again, last part of the verse, the phrase “those who had come up in the first return” refers to the first of three waves of God’s people returning to Jerusalem. You can read about this in the Book of Ezra. In fact, Ezra chapter 2 gives a list of names that is essentially this list here in Nehemiah. The list was most likely updated a bit from the list in Ezra to allow for births and deaths since the original list.
Before we go any further, see how Nehemiah was led to get this list together. It wasn’t his idea. See it there in the first part of verse 5: “Then my God put it into my heart…” Nehemiah says “my God…my heart.”
Nehemiah has a close, personal walk with the One True and Living God! He saw God at work all the time, God’s hand moving through circumstances, God’s hand moving through Nehemiah’s prayers. Nehemiah is a man’s man, but Nehemiah walked with God. Some of us men need to spend more time with God. Taking time to pray. Taking time to read God’s Word. Reading God’s Word to ourselves, reading God’s Word to our wives, reading God’s Word to our kids, to our grandkids. Real men love the Lord and spend time with Him often. He says, “God put this into my heart.”
So Nehemiah finds this registry of names and verse 6 introduces the list:
6 These are the people of the province who came back from the captivity, of those who had been carried away, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away, and who returned to Jerusalem and Judah, everyone to his city.
And then the list of names. And I hope many of you will take time later to read these names. It doesn’t seem fruitful to do so this morning given our limited time together, but remember when you read them later how meaningful it would have been for these folks to have their name literally in print in both the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Warren Wiersbe, “The important thing is not to count the people but to realize that these people counted.”
And your name counts. Your name matters. You were created in God’s image. You matter to God. So write this down big and plain:
**How My Name Matters:
- The Life I Lead
- My Living
There are so many names here in this list, names of just regular folks here who walked with God and lived their lives for Him. Names of believers.
How many of you got up this morning and thought about how the way you live your life today will affect others? Our living—the way we live our lives today—will have some effect—good or bad—some effect upon others. Your name matters. Everyone say, “My name matters.” Your name matters in the life you lead—your living—but also your giving.
- My Giving
When people mention your name do they think of you as being generous? We’ve talked about the generosity of God’s people before in Nehemiah and we come to it again in this passage. Look down at verses 70 and following:
70 And some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the work. The governor gave to the treasury one thousand gold drachmas (that’s like 20 pounds of gold), fifty basins, and five hundred and thirty priestly garments.
71 Some of the heads of the fathers’ houses gave to the treasury of the work twenty thousand gold drachmas (several million dollars by today’s standards), and two thousand two hundred silver minas.
72 And that which the rest of the people gave was twenty thousand gold drachmas, two thousand silver minas, and sixty-seven priestly garments.
So a lot of giving here! Our names should evoke gratitude for our giving, generosity to the work of God, weekly tithing, sacrificial giving. Many people are sitting here in this room because of your giving. Facilities, materials, study aids, missional giving such as the giving many of you did to support Christian refugees in Central Asia the last two weeks. Think of it: your money helps people come to Jesus, helped people get their names on the list of those who are in heaven. It’s an investment that never goes south! It never loses value. It’s an eternal investment that yields eternal rewards.
Your name matters with regard to the life you lead—your living, your giving. Secondly, your name matters not only regarding the life you lead, but the legacy you leave.
- The Legacy I Leave
- My Family
Our vision statement says: “We exist to develop generations (hear that?) of God-glorifying disciples who make disciples from the community to the continents.” And the road map to fulfilling that vision comes from our mission of “strengthening the family.”
We said the way we live our life affects others. We’ll the greatest impact we will make is on our family, and future generations of those who have our name. We’re talking about a legacy of faith.
That’s why when we date others or court someone for marriage we’re not interested in just anyone, amen?! Not just anyone. We want someone who loves Jesus. I like what one pastor said when he asked a young fella: “Well, why do you want to marry her?” He said, “She’s hot!” The pastor said, “So is hell. You’re going to have to do better than that. Does she love Jesus? Will she be a good wife? A good mother? A good grandmother?” Your going to leave a legacy so make it a good one.
Some of you were raised in Christian homes. Some of you were not. If you were not, then be the guy who says, “It will start with me. I’ll be the guy who starts a new legacy of faith. And I’ll read the Bible to my wife and kids and we’ll build our lives upon the rock of Jesus Christ.
You’re divorced or abandoned? Hurt or hurting? Crashed and burned through sin? Remember: it’s never too late for a new beginning. God will take the rubble from your past and rebuild you in the present. From this point forward say, “I’m following Jesus and doing all I can to ensure that my family lives for the Lord.”
- My Future
Are you living with the future in mind, eternal future? Remember that great line from the writer of Hebrews in the thirteenth chapter? Hebrews 13:14, “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one to come.” Here, in this life, we have no lasting city, no continuing city—it will be gone when we die and it will eventually fade away when God creates a new heaven and new earth. For here we have no lasting city, but we see the one to come! Heaven! If you are living merely for this world, you are a fool. Jesus says that. Look up the parable later of the man who wanted to build bigger barns for his grain. Awaken to the need to live with the future in mind, eternal future.
Nehemiah is going through this list, establishing who the Jewish citizens of city of Jerusalem are. He is doing this to find out who is allowed to live in Jerusalem. Who will be able to move in from the surrounding towns. Only those whose identity was validated as pureblood Israelites, the “authentic God’s people” were permitted entrance.
I was struck by mention in this list of some priestly folks who were in a bit of jam as they couldn’t prove their Jewish ancestry as priests. Down near the end here in verse 64. Without going into all the detail just see it there in verse 64: “These sought their listing among those who were registered by genealogy, but it was not found; therefore they were excluded from the priesthood as defiled.” They couldn’t locate their family records so they were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. Their names would not be included on the list of those who could enter the city.
You feel the spiritual implications here? Who is allowed to enter heaven? Last chapter of the Bible, New Testament, Revelation 22, only those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Only true believers are given access to the eternal city. Only those who are followers of Jesus, whose “identity” are those who are “the authentic God’s people” who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Luke 10:20, Jesus says Don’t rejoice in your ministry…”Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
This is why church membership is so important. Only those who are truly regenerate, new creations in Christ, comprise the spiritual body of names that enter into heaven. We want to be sure that our church roll is an accurate list of those who have been saved, baptized, and are growing in the faith in Christ. These are the only ones who are allowed “in” the eternal city.
And all others are excluded, they remain “out” or “outside.” So there are only two groups of people, those who are in and those who are out. You can’t be both. You’re either in or out. Lost or Found. Light or Darkness. Life or Death.
So one of the main purposes of the church is to bring more people “in” to the body of Christ. Many are still out and it is our job to bring them in. Jesus says in Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
There’s a movie I like called “The Shawshank Redemption.” I can’t really recommend it to all families as its got some gritty stuff in it. It’s about an innocent guy framed and convicted of murder and sentenced to life in Shawshank Prison. Tim Robbins is the guy, he plays the part of Andy Dufresne. And there’s another guy, Morgan Freeman, is the character known as Red. But there’s this one scene that causes some people to scratch their heads. Andy and Red and others are sitting at a table during the rushed breakfast one morning where they’re talking about the new inmates who came in the previous night. The inmates who had been in prison the longest referred to the new guys as “fresh fish” and they’re sitting there and someone says that this one particularly weak guy died last night. He had been beaten for being soft and crying for his mother and so forth. So he had been targeted by the guards and made an example.
And so everyone hears that the guy died and there’s this awkward silence where everyone’s processing that and then Andy asks whether anyone knew his name. He asks, “What was his name?” And again, a moment of silence before one guy gruffly replies angrily: “It doesn’t matter what his name was. He’s dead.”
And the point of the scene is to show that Andy is not like all the other inmates. The other guys didn’t want to have to think about this guy whose name no one knew. Because having a name personalized the tragedy. Learning about his family, his life, his situation. The other inmates didn’t want to think about it. They didn’t care. Andy, on the other hand, had compassion and concern. What was his name?
There are so many people we walk right by. We’ll walk right by maybe a hundred people before the day is over. People who have names. People who are “outside.” People God loves and wants to bring “inside.” We have neighbors who are “outside” the kingdom of God. People in the highways and hedges of work and play. People we need to compel to come in. There are people whose names are not written in the Book of Life. People you’ll sit next to in class this week. People in the office cubicle next to you at work. People working the line at the warehouse. What are their names? We take a gift bag to folks inviting them to our special Easter services beginning next week with Palm Sunday. People who need Jesus. Churches must both edify and multiply because of names. Names. Names of people who are outside and need to be brought inside. Get to know the names of the people you see this week. Talk to them about the name of above all names, the great name of Jesus Christ.
Nehemiah knew God. Remember verse 5? “My God.” Nehemiah knows God by name. Do you know him? God has a name. He’s personal. He’s not some impersonal, generic higher power or force. He has a name. He has a name above all names. He is Lord. His name is Jesus Christ.
If you are “out” you can be “in” today. Gospel means good news. The gospel means that you can go form being an outsider to an insider. You can go from being lost to being found. You can go from being “in sin” to being “in Him,” united together with Christ through glorious union such that God is in you and you are in God.
This is far better than getting into an ancient city with newly rebuilt walls around it. Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the one to come. You can live in the city to come even now in the sense that you can enter into the spiritual realm of God’s reign. The kingdom of God is both now and not yet. Enter into His reign now and live with the future in mind when you will live with him in a literal kingdom forever and ever.
So there’s a list in heaven. Is your name on that list? The only way to make sure our name is written down in the Book of Life is to place our name under the great name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling you to follow Him. Repent of sin and turn to Him. Tell Him you are a sinner and ask for His forgiveness. I’ll be in the Response Room right after the service if you need to talk about making sure your name is on a list in heaven. You can come and we’ll pray together. I’ll also give you information about baptism and church membership. Response Room right after the service.
Let’s pray and then we’ll respond though song. Stand and I will lead in prayer.
“Father thank You for Your love for us. Thank You for giving us this day to live and come together to worship You in prayer, in Scripture, sermon, and song. Thank You for loving us so much that You gave Your Son Jesus to live for us—fulfilling the good laws that we have broken—and to die for us—taking our punishment for sin upon Himself, drinking the entire cup of wrath that was meant for us. Thank You that on the third day He arose from the grave in a demonstration of life and the life that we can have if we will place our name under His great name. It is true: ‘Lost are saved, and find their way, at the sound of Your great name.’ We rejoice in Your great name right now, amen.”
RESPONSE: “Your Great Name”
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