A. Chapter 10 spoke of the Spiritual Revival that took place in Jerusalem, centering on renewing their vows to the Lord to keep His Law and to not neglect His temple. Now, in Chapter 11, we will see the Jews making sacrifices to make sure that the Holy City is protected and populated.
II. 11:1-2, Giving Yourself to God
A. V1, Jerusalem, the Holy City.
1. “Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem…” For the leaders there was no drawing of lots, they as leaders would live in Jerusalem. In order to run the nation efficiently it would need a central government and authority for the people to go to. The situation of Jerusalem was still dangerous; being that the army of the people of Israel would be leaving their posts on the wall that they had assumed during construction and returning to their ancestral homes and lands. Jerusalem would have less people guarding the walls but it would remain the main target for its enemies. It would loss its guards but it would not loss its enemies. All those who stayed in Jerusalem were taking a risk and making their homes, their families, and their very own lives a target for the enemy.
a) Any time you take a position of leadership you automatically take the responsibility to live in danger of attack from the enemy, more so than the rest of the people. As a Christian leader you put your house, your family, and your very life in danger from the attacks of Satan and the world that follows him. The posts of honor and the posts of danger are often one and the same. The leaders had to set the example by choosing to willingly live in Jerusalem, leaders must live by example. Those who will not live by example have no right to ask others to.
2. Why worry about repopulating the city at all? “Nehemiah also knew the bigger the population of Jerusalem, the greater the resources for defense and strength in battle. He didn’t rebuild the walls just to see some conquering army come and break them down again.”–David Guzik
3. “The rest cast lots… one out of ten to dwell in…the holy city…” The rest of the people cast lots. Sadly, it seems that there were not enough volunteers to follow in the example of the leaders; so Nehemiah had to institute a draft based on the lottery system. Perhaps the people were unwilling to live in Jerusalem for the danger, the higher calling of holiness, or the lack of ability to acquire more wealth; all of which are temptations to the Christian when we are called to sacrifice for the glory of God. In this we see two important concepts, first that of casting lots the second of self-sacrifice.
a) Casting Lots in the Old Testament was a way to find out what God’s will was. It was sort of like tossing a dice to see who would be chosen to stay in Jerusalem. Proverbs 16:33 says “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.”
(1) “Casting lots causes contentions to cease, And keeps the mighty apart.” Proverbs 18:18, A good time to use lots is when you are in situations that could cause contentions in decision making and helps to keep the mighty from fighting one another. Although we very rarely use lots as a means of decision making it is a valuable tool that can help you to choose certain people to do something that no one wants to do. I think voting has a close relation to casting of lots and has the same effect.
(2) “This would prevent strife, and would be a great satisfaction to those on whom the lot fell to dwell at Jerusalem, that they plainly saw God appointing the bounds of their habitation.” -Matthew Henry
b) “One out of ten” The people had promised to tithe one tenth of all of their possessions, here they make good on it by showing they are willing even to tithe their very selves.
(1) For these guys, to live in the Holy City meant a life of sacrifice and a life of hardship. Also, it meant a life of holiness, for to live in the Holy City came with the responsibility of living holy.
B. Tithing ourselves to God.
1. Romans 12:1-3, In the New Testament it is not just one out of ten that are called upon to offer their lives as a sacrifice for the glory of God, it is ten out of ten. All Christians are called to offer their bodies up to God as a living sacrifice, this is only reasonable after all that Jesus has done for us being that He offered up His body as the sacrifice for our sins.
2. Giving our bodies to God as living sacrifices is the secret to blessing and victory over our flesh in the Christian life. Many people do not know the blessing that it is to walk in complete surrender to God and the freedom from sin that comes from it, just as the Jews who did not live in Jerusalem ever experience the blessing and honor that it was to live in the Holy City. Sure, it is hard and even at time more dangerous because you make yourself a bigger target to the enemy, but the blessing is worth it. The freedom is worth it. The only way to have victory over your flesh is to put it to death, to deny yourself and offer yourself up to God as a living sacrifice.
C. V2, The people blessed, or praised, the people who willingly offered themselves to live in Jerusalem. Although they were chosen through the lottery, they still went along willingly. This is because they accept the decision as a decision from the Lord. A good prayer to pray is to ask God to be in control of all that happens in the day, so that way when it does happen you are more prepared to accept it as His will and it allows you to go along willingly, even to some of the hard situations of life.
1. The word “willing” is extremely important. There are many times God calls us to do things that we don’t want to do, or things that we think we might not like, even things that might be outright dangerous. The key though is to be willing. If you are willing to accept the callings of God then that is enough. Just be willing and God can change your heart, and make that which was something you were just willing to surrender to into that which is the complete and full desire of your heart to do. God did this with me when I went to Bible College, at first I didn’t want to go. Finally though, I submitted and became willing, only for God to completely change my heart so that there was nothing else in the world that I wanted to do. From that point on going to Bible College became the biggest blessing I had ever had in my life.
2. The posts of honor and the posts of danger are often one and the same. There is no honor in that which cost you nothing to obtain and you will be surprised at who honors those who have chosen the harder path, the right path. Honor is a concept almost extinct in our society and yet everyone wants it. Honor though is not free, it costs you everything. We should live a life of honor for the Lord, sacrificing all that we are and have. The great thing about the life lived honorably is that it easily inspires others to do the same.
D. David Guzik makes some good observations about the sacrifices required for them to live in Jersualem;
1. “i. To live in Jerusalem, you had to re-order your view of material things. You had to give up land in your previous region and take up some kind of new business in Jerusalem.
ii. To live in Jerusalem, you had to re-arrange your social priorities, certainly leaving some friends and family behind in your old village.
iii. To live in Jerusalem, you had to have a mind to endure the problems in the city. It had been a ghost town for 70 years, and was now basically a slightly rebuilt, somewhat repopulated ghost town. The city didn’t look all that glorious and it needed work.
iv. To live in Jerusalem, you had to live knowing you were a target for the enemy. There were strong walls to protect you, but since Jerusalem was now a notable city with rebuilt walls, the fear was more from whole armies than bands of robbers. The old village was nice, but not in much danger from great armies.
v. The Bible tells us there is a city coming down from heaven to earth, when God is done with this earth as we know it, and it calls that city New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2). People don’t want to be citizens of the New Jerusalem for the same reasons many didn’t want to be citizens of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem.”
III. 11:3-24 God Remembers His Servants
A. Here we have more lists of names. We see that Nehemiah is diligent in remembering those who served God and sacrificed for His glory. It is not a bad thing to remember those who have served and even to give some recognition for it, but the important lesson to learn is that God does not forget those who sacrifice for Him.
B. We will also see somewhat of a division of labor in the following verse of the chapter. 1 Cor. 12
C. V3, The following verses (3-24) lists the heads of family who dwelt in Jerusalem. So every time you see a name you’re not just seeing one person represented but an entire family.
1. Whether they like it or not, fathers represent their family. The responsibility of the family goes on the father, either for good or for bad.
D. V4, Only those descended from Judah or Benjamin could live in the city of Jerusalem, since it was their city historically. Other people from other tribes would have dwelt elsewhere in Israel.
E. V4b-6, Here we have the count of the men of the tribe of Judah. These 468 men were called valiant. True to their historical background this meant that they were warriors. It takes valiant men to defend a de-populated city surrounded by enemies.
1. It is the job and calling of men to be valiant, especially in times of danger.
a) There will come a day when we will no longer have to learn the art of war, but for the time being it is the duty of men to be valiant and to protect their families, their homes and their people even if that means force is necessary. As Christians we are to be quick to forgive, to bless our enemies and even love our enemies, and even turn our cheek to those that persecute us. But when someone threatens your family it is Biblical to protect them, there is a time for peace and a time for war. If someone persecutes me for the name of Christ I am to bless them and pray for them, but if someone tries to come into my house and hurt my wife or children I am to protect them with my life. There is a difference between persecution for Christ and the way that you react to that and the way you react to a bully who just wants to hurt people for no reason other than evil. Being a Christian does not being a weakling, in fact it mean you might have to put your life on the line to defend someone for the sake of righteousness.
F. V7-9, Next we have the count of the men from the tribe of Benjamin. We find out that Benjamin is more prone to administrate than fight. Judah, the son of Senuah, was second over the city.
G. V10-12a, Next we have the Priests. Priests were those who worked in the temple of God, the Levites were assistants to the priests. The families of Jedaiah and Jachin did the work of the temple; mainly taking care of the sacrifices.
H. V12b-13a, These men were the heads of the fathers houses, the leaders of the men of the temple.
I. V13b-14a, The 128 men listed as “mighty men of valor” meant these were warrior priests, those who would protect the temple with their lives. The temple would have been the biggest target in Jerusalem, since it was sacred to them and also because it housed all treasury of God and contained valuable instruments that were used in the worship of God.
1. “It is said of some of them that they were mighty men of valour (v. 14); it was necessary that they should be so, for the priesthood was not only a work, which required might, but a warfare, which required valour, especially now.” –Matthew Henry
2. Serving God “in the ministry” is a war. Yet it is a war not fought with traditional weapons. It is a spiritual war fought over the souls of many against spiritual powers of darkness. It is fought through the power of God in prayer and through knowing His Word.
J. V14b, over all the Priests was Zabdiel, who is said to have descended from a great man.
1. The local church can copies this organization with it’s spiritual leaders. Pastor’s, elders, teachers.
K. V15-16, Now we see the Levites, those who assisted the Priests of the temple in more practical ways. It is said that these guys had oversight of the business outside of the house of God, while the priests took care of the internal and spiritual work of the temple. This would have included repairs to the temple when needed.
L. V17, Here we see Mattaniah who was the spiritual leader of these guys and because he was the leader began the prayer of thanksgiving. And we see Bakbukiah was second, along with his brethren in this role.
1. This role is performed by Deacons, who are spiritual leaders but head up practical areas of ministry.
M. V18, Although they were few, the Levites played a vital role in taking care of the practical work of the temple.
1. The local church congregation should have similar organization, janitors, groundskeepers, construction workers, etc.
N. V19, Next we see among the Levites the gatekeepers. They would have been in charge of protecting the gates of the temple and keeping the temple pure.
1. This role can be fulfilled by ushers.
O. V20-21, This verse seems slightly out of order since Nehemiah lists in v22-24 some more people who live in Jerusalem. But he makes special mention of the Nethinim because they had no inheritance in Israel, their only job was to be servants of the Levites. The reason they are listed here is because Ophel was rightouside of Jerusalem, so close that it bordered the outer wall of Jerusalem. They were not allowed to live in Jerusalem but they got as close as they could to it. They had the hardest and lowest job, and actually lived in the most danger since they lived right outside of the walls. They would have been the first to go. Despite being descendants of Gentiles, God records them in His book and makes special recognition of them.
P. V22-23, Uzzi was the overseer of all the Levites, and he seems to have been descended from the sons of Asaph which meant he was in charge of the worship at the house of God. The singers were to be take care of, as commanded by the King of Persia, and the King of Persia likely donated the resources necessary to do so, this was probably because he wanted them to pray for him and his family at the temple.
1. Being that Uzzi was a worship leader, and had his food provided for him by the Persian Empire, he would have had a lot of down time. This made him a good candidate to not just oversee the worship of the temple but a lot of the practical aspects about the care of the temple. This role can be filled in the modern church by a worship leader, who oversees the deacons, whom then in turn oversee the rest of the workers at the church.
Q. V24, Also living in the city was the newly appointed deputy of the king. This man would have been the representative of the King of Persia to the people of Jerusalem and the people of Jerusalem to the King of Persia. Nehemiah was wise to pass on this position so that way he could more effectively govern Israel.
IV. 11:25-36, Small Town Heroes.
A. The rest of the people repopulated the land. We should not look upon these people as less of heroes for not living in Jerusalem, because everyone who returned to the land after the captivity was a hero. They just had different callings and different vocations, some of the callings came with a higher level of sacrifice than the others but all were necessary.
A. Leaders don’t get the option to cast lots. They must be the first to set the example and take the hardest conditions and way of life for the sake of the betterment of the people.
B. Secondly, God calls 10 out of 10 Christians to give their lives as a living sacrifice to God. We are more happy when we do this and it is the only way to live victoriously over our flesh.
C. Lastly, we all have our different places and callings in the body of Christ. Some callings, although harder or more dangerous, also come with more honor, but no place in the body of Christ is unimportant.