Lord's Day Evening Meditations September 7, 2003

Nehemiah 10:32-34

For The House of our God

We have seen how the remnant had taken a right position as God's people. They had been listening to His Word, and that Word had reached their consciences, making them desire to do all that was written there. They went about it the wrong way, making a covenant, but they wanted to do the right thing, and in this they are an excellent example for us. May we also, as we listen to the Word of God, allow it to awaken desires in our hearts to do all that it asks of us.

They had separated from the heathen of the land and from their filthy practices, and now they intended to maintain that separation (v. 30). They purposed to observe the Sabbath day according to the law (v. 31). We have the Lord's Day to reserve for Him. They would also leave "the exaction of every debt," (v. 31), speaking to us of forgiving personal wrongs and grievances. Then, in verse 32 they charged themselves yearly "with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God." Notice that all that follows was in connection with "the house of our God," a phrase that occurs over and over in the next few verses.

"The service of the house of our God" required the provision of many things: animals for the many offerings, wood to burn the offerings, flour, oil, wine, food for the priests and Levites, etc. The "third part of a shekel" was to be put to the purchasing of all these necessary things. Just the continual burnt offering of two lambs every day would require many lambs in one year! Someone had to pay for them! Remember that all this was in connection with "the house of our God," which for us today is the assembly, the two or three, or more, who are gathered to the Lord's name, by the Holy Spirit, and who thus function locally as representing the body of Christ. Each assembly has material needs, such as for ourselves here: a meeting room with rent to pay and repairs to make, bread and wine for the remembrance, furniture, light and heat, snow removal, etc. It is the responsibility and privilege of those who compose the assembly to provide the money needed to meet these expenses.

But there are other needs besides material needs, and we will get them in the next few verses. First, there was the shewbread. v. 33. In the tabernacle and temple, in the holy place, if you faced the veil, you would see the table of shewbread on the right. It was made of wood and covered with gold. On it were placed twelve loaves which were to be replaced with fresh loaves every Sabbath day. The twelve loaves represented the twelve tribes of Israel, and the table presented and maintained them continually before God. The table of shewbread speaks of Christ and of how He continually presents and maintains His people in the presence of God. However, if Christ faithfully presents His own to God and intercedes for them, we also are exhorted to present them to God in prayer. We can do this personally, continually, but as this is in connection with "the house of our God," we can see here an assembly responsibility - to bear up the Lord's people before God in prayer. This brings before us the regular prayer meeting, a very important function of the assembly.

Next was "the continual meat offering." v. 33. It should read "meal offering" instead of "meat offering" because it was made of flour, not meat. The "meal offering" was made of fine flour, "mingled with oil," and the regular one was also accompanied with frankincense. The continual burnt offering was always accompanied with a meal offering. Read Numbers 28:3 - 9. The meal offering speaks of Christ, and His perfect life as a man on earth, perfectly even and pure, in the power of the Holy Spirit, which when under trial, only produced a sweet savour to God. In the regular meal offering, the priest took a handful of the flour, with all of the frankincense, and burned it on the altar as a sacrifice. The remainder of the meal offering was eaten by the priests. Every believer today is a priest to God, and as priests, some of our food is the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, that perfect Man Whom we find in the Word of God. How and when do we get that food? We should be getting some of it on our own every day. But as this is in connection with "the house of our God," we have here the meetings for the purpose of having the Word, the ministry or the reading meeting, very necessary on a regular basis.

They also intended to make full provision for "the continual burnt offering and for the sin offerings to make an atonement for Israel." v. 33. The burnt offering and the sin offering both speak of the death of Christ at Calvary, but in two different aspects. The burnt offering aspect is Christ offering Himself to God; the sin offering aspect is Christ offering Himself for us. See Eph. 5:2. Just as the continual burnt offering caused the sweet savour of the sacrifice to ascend to God continually, so the sweet savour of the sacrifice of Christ is always before God. It should also always be before us and be foremost in our thoughts; however, there is an occasion on which that wondrous sacrifice is brought especially before us. Our Saviour's dying request was, "This do in remembrance of Me," and so on the Lord' Day, in the meeting for the remembrance of the Lord, we go back to Calvary and not only see that sacrifice once again, but also express our adoration and worship in response to such unspeakable love and grace.

The next thing, in verse 34, was that they would provide for "the wood offering to burn upon the altar of the Lord our God." The fire on the altar of burnt offering was to burn continually, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year long. Can you imagine how much wood was needed simply to keep the fire going, beside what was required to burn all the various offerings? It would be a tremendous amount for a whole year! Where did this wood come from? It had to be provided for. What they did was that they divided the group into families, and each family had a time period assigned to them in which it was their responsibility to supply the wood. Notice that the responsibility was shared; it didn't all fall on one or two. Also note that when the wood burned, along with the sacrifice, it became part of the sacrifice and of the sweet savour that went up to God.

Often, in the Old Testament types, wood speaks of the Lord's humanity - how He became a man, with a body like ours. When Abraham went to offer up Isaac, he laid the wood on Isaac. Christ took on the burden of manhood in order to be able to die for us. In the tabernacle, the ark and the table of shewbread were made of wood, covered over with gold - type of His humanity and His deity. The altar of burnt offering was also made of wood, covered over with brass - type of the Man, the only man, Who could bear the judgment of God for our sins.

Is there an application of this to ourselves? We also have bodies, and in Romans 12:1 we read, "I beseech you that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." There is "the wood offering" for today. The Lord didn't only redeem our souls. He redeemed us "spirit, soul, and body." In the context of "the house of our God," an assembly cannot even exist unless there are a certain number of "bodies" present, some of the Lord's people who are willing to put other things aside for the Lord's sake and say, "I'll be there." And being present, there have to be those who are exercised to be clean vessels which are available to the Lord for His use. If we met here for an hour and had an hour of silence because no one was willing to do what was required, according to the purpose of the meeting, there soon would be no assembly at all! Remember that the wood on Israel's altar became part of the sacrifice, and if we yield our bodies to our Lord in this way, they will be "a living sacrifice" which will be a pleasure and an honour to Him. Remember that the remnant also planned to share the responsibility of "the wood offering." How important that is! This remnant was weak and failing, but may their desires awaken similar desires in our hearts. S.L.