A Willing People
The Bridegroom in the Canticles says: “I went down into the garden of nuts to see the fruits of the valley, and to see whether the vine flourished, and the pomegranates budded. Or ever I was aware, my soul set me among the chariots of my willing people” (Song of Solomon 6:11, 12; 1911 Version); and in Psalms 110:3 we read, “Thy people shall be willing (or, a free-will offering) in the day of Thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.”
Words like these form a fitting introduction to the chapter now soliciting our thoughtful consideration-a passage that seems to be filled only with hard names and meagre details if the important truth be passed over that it is God’s own inspired honor-roll, never to be forgotten, of His willing people. Then indeed we recognize in it such a delightful valley as that described in the Song where the vine is flourishing and the fragrant pomegranates budding for the delectation of Him who rejoices to dwell among His willing-hearted saints-made willing by His power working among them, manifested in holiness of heart and life, engendered and refreshed by the precious dews of the Holy Spirit.
A free-will offering was made, not now of money or other means, but of men devoted to the Lord, to dwell in Jerusalem, that the holy city might be furnished and defended. “And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem: the rest of the people also cast lots, to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem the holy city, and nine parts to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men that willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem” (vers. 1, 2). As before they had tithed their produce and possessions, so now they tithed themselves. But it was not conscription; for each one chosen responded with a free heart, glad thus to be especially linked with the defense and up-building of the city of the Name. They loved the place where God’s honor dwelt, and they were pleased to be at home there.
Of old, in the wilderness, it was the “willing-hearted and the wise-hearted” who built the sanctuary of the Lord; and may we not say that the willing-hearted are the wise-hearted? For surely it is the evidence of wisdom abiding in the heart when the whole life is freely devoted to the service of the Lord. And so when the evil had been put away from among the remnant of the Jews, and the interests of Jehovah had been made paramount to every other interest, it was the free and loyal service of His willing people that gave joy to the heart of God.
To most of us, perhaps, the details that follow in the balance of the chapter can, in the very nature of things, possess very little interest. It is a mere tabulation of families and individuals whose names to us are often well-nigh unpronounceable, and usually, forgotten almost as soon as read. But in the sight of God it is a tabulation of great importance, and, like other lists we have noticed in these post-captivity books, will be consulted at the judgment-seat of Christ. For these willing offerers will then learn how good was their choice when they accepted loss in this world that they might the better care for the city of God’s choice. Very little is said of these members of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (vers. 4-9), and of Levi also who dwelt in Jerusalem (vers. 10-18), but every one is well known to the Lord, and every word and act that told their devotedness of heart to Himself will be manifested in that day. And, even now, where scholarship enables one to read something of the significance of these names, there are doubtless helpful lessons which for the present most of us fail to see.
The porters and servants (the “Nethinim”), yea, and the singers too-true sons of Asaph set “over the business of the house of God” who had their special portion by the king’s commandment (vers. 19-23)-will all be called by name when Messiah sits upon His throne to reward every one who in every dispensation had respect unto the coming recompense. For it was just as truly a service for some to till the fields and dwell in the restored villages, thus holding all the land for God, so far as strength and numbers permitted, as it was for their willing-hearted brethren to abide in the city of the coming King (vers. 25-36). He valued all according to the intention of the heart, and He does the same to-day.
We would not therefore pass carelessly over what some might call so “dry” a chapter as this, but reading it thoughtfully and prayerfully let us challenge our own hearts as to how far we have been and are now characterized by the spirit of willing, joyous obedience to all that God has been pleased to make known to us concerning His holy desires. Words need not be multiplied on such a theme; but exercise may well be real and deep, lest in that day, when the record of our service is opened on high, there be only a blotted story of slothful, almost forced obedience, contrasting unfavorably indeed with the willing offering of these men of old.
In view of this may we be stirred up to heed the Christian poet’s words:
“Go on, go on; there’s all eternity to rest in,
And far too few are on the active service list;
No labor for the Lord is risky to invest in;
But nothing will make up should His ‘well done’ be missed.”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Nehemiah 11". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany