Lord's Day Evening Meditations June 22, 2003

Nehemiah 7:1-5,8:1-5

Some Good Examples To Follow

In verse 2 of chapter 7 there are two men named and it is hard to know which one was the faithful man who feared God above many. Judging by chapter 1:2 - 3 I think that it might be Hanani, but that isn't important. What is important is the good example we have in one who "was a faithful man, and feared God above many." Remember that Nehemiah was writing under the direction of the Spirit of God, so that it is God Himself who gave this wonderful commendation of being "faithful." There are some New Testament examples of faithful men. Tychicus was "a beloved brother, and a faithful minister (servant) and fellowservant in the Lord." Onesimus was "a faithful and beloved brother." Col. 4:7, 9. Onesimus had been a runaway slave, unprofitable to his master, but through contact with Paul he got saved and became a faithful believer. In the days of Pergamos, the Lord said, "Wherein Antipas was My faithful martyr." Rev. 2:13. Antipas was faithful even to death. If we had known Paul before he was saved, we would have been afraid of him. But the Lord looked down on him and saw in him someone He could trust. Paul afterward wrote, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord for that He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry." 1 Tim. 1:12. The Lord saved Paul and gave him a great work to do, which he carried out faithfully, even to death.

What does it mean to be faithful? Put very simply, it is to be trustworthy, dependable. An employer who has a faithful employee is not afraid to give him respon-sibilities because he knows that he can trust him. That is the way it should be between us and the Lord. He has given us a new life, His Word, His truth, and many opportunities of serving Him. Can He trust us with these things? Two of the servants in the parable of the talents heard their master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Matt. 25:21, 23. Would you like to hear the Lord say that to you? That is a possibility that is open to every one of us.

It was because he was faithful that Hanani was chosen for this great responsibility. But he was not only faithful; he "feared God above many." Job says that, "The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom." Job 28:28. Solomon wrote, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Prov. 1:7. What is it to fear God? It is not the fear we would have of a powerful, hateful person. We have a God Who is all-powerful, but Who also is so loving, gracious, and kind, and to Whom we owe everything! Is it not right to fear to displease Him or to do something contrary to His will?

The opposite of this is in Rom. 3:18 - "There is no fear of God before their eyes." God tells us in His Word that certain actions are sin; we must not do them. But who cares about what God says? Who is God? And so people go on in all their sinful ways with no thought of God or of consequences. For us, before doing anything that may be questionable, we should stop and ask ourselves, "What does the Lord say about this? Does He approve?" The "fear of God" is a very healthy thing, and will keep us out of much mischief and trouble.

In verse 3 we see that now that the walls were repaired and the gates and bars in place, directions were given as to controlling entrance into the city. We could say that this was controlled access, an important principle for the assembly, and also for our homes. In the assembly, it is not who comes through the door of the meeting room, but who is allowed to identify with the Lord as gathered to His Name, for we are required to maintain holiness and truth. Here, not only was there a watch over the city, but also "everyone to be over against his house." Everyone who has a home and a family is responsible to control what is allowed to enter there. Otherwise, the enemy is sure to gain a victory by introducing defilement.

Verse 4 shows a sad picture of Jerusalem: "The people were few therein, and the houses were not builded." A remnant had come back with Zerubbabel, and then another with Ezra, and this is that same remnant 81 years later. Apparently there was not much interest in the welfare and the reconstruction of the city, just as today, how much interest is there in the welfare and the building up of an assembly that is truly gathered according to the Lord's will?

In verse 5 we see something that was characteristic of Nehemiah - "My God put into my heart to gather, etc." Nehemiah didn't take the credit for the things he did. He always recognized the hand of God in it. The remainder of chapter 7 is almost identical to Ezra 2 which we have already considered, and so I will not go over it again. We'll go on now with chapter 8.

"And all the people gathered themselves together as one man and they spake to Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses." Up until now we have seen the remnant very busy with building the wall, and very occupied with guarding against the enemy. Now the wall was finished and they were safe; now they had some relief from the stress and strain that they had been under. What did they do then? They asked Ezra to bring the book of the law and to read it to them. What a good example! We all have times of stress and pressure of work, but what do we do when the pressure is off and we get some leisure time? Do we take the opportunity to have the Word of God?

This was a distinct work of the Spirit of God. See three things that we find in verse one: 1) the attendance

2) the unity

3) the desire for the Word

1) "All the people," all the company of the remnant that is; no one was missing. 2) "Gathered themselves together as one man." We have seen dissension among them before, but here the unity is remarkable. 3) We need to remember that in those days the Word of God was not printed and readily available as it is now. Firstly, they had only the Books of Moses, and then, the copy Ezra had was maybe the only copy, or at least, one of very few. What a contrast with the many Bibles we have right here in the meeting room! Remember also that many of those people couldn't read a book if they had one; but, they had a genuine desire for the Word. What would we do under those conditions? How much value do we put on the Word of God, we who have such easy access to Bibles at any time?

We find at the end of verse 2 that it was "the first day of the seventh month." That was a significant day in the Jewish calendar as we can see from Leviticus 23. There you get the seven feasts of the Lord: the Passover, the feast of unleavened bread, the feast of first fruits, the feast of Pentecost, the feast of trumpets, the great day of atonement, and the feast of tabernacles. These feasts are all types, and the first 4 have had their accomplishment. The last three are still future, the first of these being the feast of trumpets which was on "the first day of the seventh month." It prefigures the gathering again of Israel in a future day.

Do you find that a meeting of an hour, or an hour and a half, seems very long? How about this one that lasted "from the morning (daylight) until midday," about 5 hours! Besides, "The ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law." Nobody fell asleep! They were not occupied with Ezra who did the reading, but with the Word itself. Likewise for us, someone has to present the Word, but we are not to be occupied with whoever the Lord uses as an instrument. We need to recognize that in this book it is the Lord Himself Who is speaking to us, so that we sit up and take notice.

"And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people and when he opened it, all the people stood up." v. 5. Do you see the respect that they had for the Word of God? That is something that we need to be reminded of, and that the young ones need to learn - respect and reverence for this Book that we hold in our hands. Though it is ink on paper, it is God's holy Word. S.L.