Lord's Day Evening Meditations June
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
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.