Lord's Day Evening Meditations November 2, 2003

Nehemiah 11-12:43

"To Dwell At Jerusalem"

To get the continuation of the story in Nehemiah 11 we have to go back and read chapter 7:1 - 4. At the end of chapter 6 they had finished building the wall. The first few verses of chapter 7 show the state of Jerusalem after the wall was built: "Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded." v. 4. The remainder of chapter 7 is a list of those who had come out of the captivity. Chapter 8 begins the account of the reading of the law, and chapters 9 and 10 show the results of it. So the continuation of chapter 7:4 is chapter 11:1 - 2, the subject being those who lived in the city.

Jerusalem was not an attractive place to live at that time. The ruins of the city were still everywhere - "The houses were not builded," and what is a city without people? Besides, as the Jews depended largely on agriculture for their living, dwelling in the city was not practical. The surrounding villages with their fields would seem so much more sensible. However, in spite of this, there were some men "that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem," - a very commendable thing, and the people "blessed" those men. Why? Let us see some of the thoughts of God about Jerusalem.

While still in the wilderness, God had said to His people, "When ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the Lord your God giveth you to inherit then there shall be a place which the Lord your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there." Deut. 12:10 - 11. We know that that chosen place was Jerusalem, because the Lord said in the days of Solomon, "But I have chosen Jerusalem, that My name might be there." 2 Chron. 6:6. So we see that the city of Jerusalem was God's choice, His earthly center for His earthly people. In the days of Solomon, it was a city of power and glory, the capital of his empire. "And the king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones." 2 Chron. 1:15. However, the disobedience of the people brought judgment on the city so that, in the days of Nehemiah, even though the wall had been rebuilt, still it was comparatively empty. Jerusalem today is still a very troubled place under Gentile oppression.

But, it will not always be that way. When Christ, the true Solomon, reigns, it will be "the city of our God the joy of the whole earth the city of the great King." Read Ps. 48:1 - 2. There are still many judgments to come on Jerusalem, but in that future day it will be the glorious capital of the whole world. So, keeping these thoughts in mind, what was the proper attitude of a faithful Jew, towards Jerusalem, whether prosperous, or under judgment? Read Ps. 122:1 - 6. "They shall prosper that love thee." Read Ps. 137:1 - 6. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." These were the breathings of heart of the faithful Jew towards the city that God had chosen. That city was God's choice, and therefore those who understood God's thoughts gave it the place in their hearts that God gave it in His. It was some of these "that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem."

We might wonder, What has this to do with us? Well, the things that "were written aforetime were written for our learning." Jerusalem was an earthly center for an earthly people, and both have been temporarily set aside while God calls out a heavenly people, a bride for His Son. The Holy Spirit works to gather the members of Christ to His name, and this is now God's center - the two or three gathered by the Holy Spirit to the Lord's Name. It is not a spot on a map, like Jerusalem was, but a ground of gathering given to us in the Scriptures. Because these things are so precious to Christ, they will be precious to us as well, if we want to be in the current of His thoughts.

Going back to Neh. 11:1 - 2, we see that there were three different groups of people living in Jerusalem. There were 1) the rulers, 2) those whose lot it was to dwell there, and 3) those who willingly offered themselves. Referring this to the assembly, we have 1) those whom the Lord raises up to bear responsibility - not ruling, but bearing responsibilities. Thank God there are some willing to do that. 2) There are those who were brought up in the assembly, and those whose contact with the Lord was through individuals in the assembly and so they are there through no choice of their own. It is their "lot." 3) There are those who, coming from elsewhere have perceived the Lord's will in the matter of gathering and have willingly identified themselves with the Lord and His feeble "two or three" gathered to His Name.

Just as Jerusalem had a glorious past, and will have a glorious future, with much failure and judgment in between, the assembly likewise had a glorious beginning (first part of Acts) and has a glorious future before it when the Lord comes. In between, there has been much failure so that the path of faith in gathering to the Lord's Name is largely forsaken and neither attractive nor easy. Yet there are those who, like "the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem," see the path, and who undertake to walk in it, in spite of all the difficulties and trials that it entails.

The remainder of chapter 11 gives us those of Judah and Benjamin who dwelt at Jerusalem (vs. 3 - 9, the priests and the Levites (vs. 10 - 18) and the porters, the Nethinims and some officials (vs. 19 - 24). Verses 25 - the end list other towns and villages where the people dwelt. Chapter 12:1 - 26 lists further priests and Levites with some genealogies and leaders among the people who were responsible to maintain the service of God. We can notice in verse 10 that Eliashib was the grandson of Jeshua the high priest. As far as I know, Jeshua has a record in the Scriptures of being a faithful man. It is sad to see that his grandson, Eliashib, did not follow in his footsteps but turned out to be a traitor, in league with the enemy (see ch. 13:4). Likewise, it is sad to see young people today, who have had faithful parents or grandparents, turn away from the Lord to follow the enemy.

But there is a cheerful note in this first part of chapter 12. Remember that we have here at Jerusalem a very small fraction of the people of Israel found at God's chosen earthly center. The rest were gone, as it were, with the wind, indifferent to the will, the Word, the center, and the people of their God. But here was a feeble remnant who still kept up the offering of praise and thanks to their God (v. 24), and the "keeping the ward at the thresholds (storehouses) of the gates" (v. 25). The Lord saw this, and recorded it in His eternal Book.

Verses 27 - 43 give an account of the dedication of the wall. The remnant had rebuilt the wall - a huge task; they had accomplished a remarkable service for the Lord, and now they marked this accomplishment with a special celebration. Nehemiah gathered the Levites, the singers, the priests, and the people at Jerusalem. All were purified and divided into two companies which went in two different directions and finally met in the house of God (v. 40).

This dedication of the wall was marked by thanksgiving and songs of praise, sacrifices, and great joy. Thanksgiving recognizes that we owe all to the Lord; He really is the doer of anything that has been accomplished. Their singing was accompanied by musical instruments. The instruction for us is, "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Eph. 5:19. Our heart is our musical instrument, but it must be in tune if it is to make "melody to the Lord." Eph. 5:19. "They offered great sacrifices." Those sacrifices all spoke of the sacrifice of Christ - the basis of all relationship to God and of all approach to Him, both then as well as now. Finally, God "made them rejoice with great joy so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off." v. 43. The Lord wants His people to be happy. A number of times in John He repeated to His disciples, "That your joy may be full." S.L.