Lord's Day Evening Meditations October 5, 2003

Nehemiah 10:35-39

The Claims of Christ

After the remnant of Israel, had finished rebuilding the wall, they asked for the law of God to be read to them. We have been seeing the effect that it had as they realized what their God required of them. They heard things that, either they had never heard before, or that they had forgotten, and a firm resolve formed itself in their hearts to conform to all that they heard. v. 29. We have been seeing, beginning at verse 29, some of the things that they intended to do, all of them fully according to the law of God, which was the Word of God for them at that time. We come now to verse 35.

"And to bring the firstfruits of our ground, and the firstfruits of all fruit of all trees and that we should bring the firstfruits of our dough." v. 35, 37. Along with this was, "Also the firstborn of our sons, and of our cattle and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks." v. 36. Lastly they purposed to bring "the tithes of our ground." v. 37 - 38. So there were 3 things here that they intended to bring:

1) the firstfruits (of ground, trees, dough)

2) the firstborn ( of sons, cattle, herds)

3) the tithes

All of these things were the requirements of the law of God. The first sheaves, and the first ripe fruit was to be given to the Lord. The requirement of the firstborn brings us back to Egypt when all the firstborn in the land, who were not sheltered by the blood of the lamb, died under the judgment of God. From that time on God claimed the firstborn as His. Children were to be redeemed, and the firstlings of unclean animals were to be redeemed or killed. At a specified time, the Israelites were to bring their tithes, which was 10% of their income, to the Lord. This was the law of God given to Israel by Moses; it is no longer in effect today. It never did apply to Gentiles. However, it all has a typical application with very important instruction for us, because it sets before us the Lord Jesus and His claims on us.

1 Cor. 15:23 explains the meaning of 1) "the firstfruits" - "But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits." This is His position in resurrection - the risen Man Who has died, but Who is risen again as the Head of a new creation. "And He is the head of the church: Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence (first place)." Col. 1:18. He is the risen and glorified Man to Whom God has given first place "in all things." Not only has God given Him the first place, but God intends that He will have first place in all things, and He will have it, in a coming day. Meanwhile the will of God is that we recognize Christ as the risen Man, and that we give Him first place in our natural and temporal things (fruit of the ground), in our spiritual and heavenly things (fruit of the trees), and in our domestic things (the dough). Is that asking too much?

2) The firstborn, we said, reminds us of the story of the deliverance from Egypt. Firstborn can refer to other things, but we'll consider it in the light of the truth of redemption - Christ as our Redeemer. What does the word redeemer mean? There is a good illustration in Exodus 13:13. Remember that after the Passover night in Egypt, God claimed, and rightly so, every firstborn as His. The firstling of a lamb, goat, or ox was to be sacrificed to the Lord. A firstborn son was to be redeemed with a sum of money, but the firstling of an unclean animal was to be redeemed with a lamb. "Every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck." If the unclean ass did not have a lamb to "redeem" it, then it must die. This is a simple and clear picture of the gospel. I was that unclean ass, but a Lamb was found to take my place. The Lord Jesus Christ is that Lamb Who took my place in death so that I might live. He is my Redeemer, the One Who not only has taken my place, but Who has bought me with His precious blood. "Know ye not that ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price." 1 Cor. 6:19 - 20. Yes, He has redeemed us from the judgment of God and from all the power of the enemy, and now we are called upon to recognize His rights over us as Redeemer. He "gave Himself" for His bride! What more could He give? Are we not rightfully His?

The key to the gospel is: submit to Christ; just what man refuses to do. He wants to be independent of God, and fancies himself free, when really, he is a slave of Satan. Remember that there are only two masters, and if you are not redeemed by Christ, then you are a slave of Satan. What a wonderful thing it is to be redeemed by Christ and to belong to Him! And what a price He paid! Yes, you and I are not our own; we are the Lord's property and are called upon to recognize His rights over us as Redeemer.

We come now to 3) the tithes. Some believers feel that this still applies to us - that they must give 10% of their salary to the Lord. But it is not so; today the requirement is 100%! Now that doesn't mean that you have to go and give everything away. It is the recognition that "Jesus Christ is Lord" (Phil. 2:11), and that as Master, all belongs to Him. We are not owners, only administrators. In 1 Cor. 4:1 the Apostle Paul called himself a "steward." A steward is someone who is responsible for the goods of others. Paul was a "steward of the mysteries of God," but there is stewardship also in other things. Maybe in today's terms, we would understand the word "manager" better.

Look at this question in 1 Cor. 4:7 - "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" In easier English it is, "What do you have that was not given to you?" Do you have anything that was not given to you? Think of the whole range of things from health, food, home, family, salary, etc., to salvation, the Scriptures, untold spiritual blessings and a home in glory for eternity. All has been given to us. We acquired nothing ourselves, and if these things have been committed to us, then we are responsible to "manage" them properly and faithfully for the One to Whom they rightfully belong. In doing this we recognize the claims of Christ over us as Lord.

These three things: firstfruits, firstborn, and tithes were mandatory things, that is, they were required in the law. But then, there were also voluntary offerings: "our offerings, and the fruit of all manner of trees, of wine and of oil." v. 37. An Israelite could bring things to give to the Lord, not because he had to, but because he wanted to - he could give "willingly with his heart." Exod. 25:2. What a delight those gifts are to the Lord, which are given "willingly" from the heart.

The last statement in our chapter is, "And we will not forsake the house of our God." v. 39. All of these things were in relation to the temple - for us, in a local context, the assembly gathered to the Lord's Name, where He is in the midst. Let's review, then, these things which that remnant intended to do, in the typical application to ourselves that we have had. Suppose an assembly of the Lord's people, gathered to His name, who firmly purposed to: keep His Word and not deny His name (v. 29), maintain separation from all the sin, defilement, and idols of the world (v. 30), honor the Lord's Day and reserve it entirely for Him (v. 31), forgive all personal trespasses or offences (v. 31), make provision for all the material needs of the assembly (v. 32), make full provision for the profitable and regular continuance of the meetings for prayer, for the ministry of the Word, and for the remembrance of the Lord (v. 33), offer their bodies a living sacrifice for whatever service the Lord may require of them (v. 34), and finally, recognize the claims of Christ over them as the risen glorified Man, as their Redeemer, and as their Lord (vs. 35 - 38). What an assembly that would be! What peace, what joy, and what testimony would be found there! We know that it is not so with us, but we can ask the Lord to help us in that direction. S.L.