Lord's Day Evening Meditations November
"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
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."