the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Ironside's Notes on Selected Books Ironside's Notes
by Henry Allen Ironside
Prefatory Note for Nehemiah
The little book now before the reader has been in contemplation ever since its companion-exposition, “Notes on the Book of Ezra,” was published. If read in connection with that work and also the writer’s “Notes on Esther” (the three issued separately, also in one volume), and the “Notes on Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi” in the volume on “The Minor Prophets,” a connection will be traced throughout.
As heretofore, no attempt has been made to write for scholars or to produce a literary work. But in the simplest way, I have sought to emphasize important truths that are being neglected in many places where they need to be pressed more insistently than ever.
The Lord watch over all for His name’s sake.
H. A. Ironside
In the book of Ezra, we see a remnant people gathered back to the place where the Lord had set His name, after a long- period of bondage and exile in Babylon, the centre of the false religious system of that day. Nehemiah pursues the further history of this company for some years afterwards, but is especially devoted to the work of guarding the place of privilege, as indicated in the large space given to the narration of events in connection with the building of the wall of Jerusalem. This was a wall both of protection and exclusion, and doubtless speaks to us to-day of principles which may easily be abused where self-judgment and spirituality are lacking, but which are nevertheless of supreme importance if any scriptural testimony is to be maintained in a day of declension. It is considered a mark of liberality and brotherly kindness with many, to declaim against all exclusiveness on the part of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is to be feared numbers object to a term they neither understand nor see the reason for.
A word in the book of Deuteronomy might help as to this. In chapter 22:8 we read: “When thou buildest anew house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thy house if any man fall from hence.” The battlement surrounding the flat roof of the Israelite’s dwelling conveys much the same thought as the wall enclosing Jerusalem. The roof was to the oriental the place of communion and retirement (1 Samuel 9:25; Proverbs 21:9); of prayer (Acts 10:9), and of testimony (Matthew 10:27). It was commonly used very much as both the parlor and the study of the occidental. There the family would commune together, and there they would entertain friends. But if there were no protecting wall about this favored place, it would be one of danger to the young and to any inclined to be careless. Therefore the divine instruction that a battlement be built to completely surround the house-top; otherwise the owner of the house was held responsible if any one fell from thence and so was slain.
The house-top is a fitting picture of assembly privilege. For, as gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus, believers are in the place of retirement from the distracting things of the world, of communion with the Father and the Son, and with one another, in the Spirit’s power; and is likewise the place of prayer and of testimony. But hallowed as such a place is, there are always the young in Christ and those weak in the faith to be considered. Pre-eminently for their sakes it is imperative that the wall of separation (not only from the world, but from worldly Christianity) be maintained, otherwise many of these little ones will fall from this hallowed sphere of privilege into which grace has brought them.
And here I desire to quote the words of a brother beloved, written in a private letter some time since, but which I feel are of value for all believers desiring so to walk as to please God, not only individually, but in corporate testimony: “By some an attempt is being made to pull down the barriers of truth and make us give up what we have. If the younger men among us, who are soon to take the lead, if the Lord tarry yet a while, are not true in practice to the truth, not only of the gospel but also of the Church of God, the truth itself will slip away from them. As I see the developments all around, I burn with jealousy for the truth we have. It makes us, in its practice, a people rejected by all, but who have the bread that all need. If we keep separated from every movement which leaves out what hurts in the truth; if we just live out in practice what the truth is, we will remain no doubt a small, unpopular people, but we will be to the end God’s vessel of truth to His whole Church on earth; and that will be ten thousand times better throughout eternity than to have been on popular lines for greater access to men.
“Our assemblies, if kept truly pure, are little fortresses for the defense and sallying out of truth. Let us build them up strong, solid and faithful…Principles of independency annul the constitution of the Church of God as laid down in Ephesians, and make it impossible for us therefore to carry out its by-laws, as I may call them, given us in Corinthians.”6
These are sound and seasonable words, and form a fitting introduction to the special lines of divine truth emphasized in this instructive portion of the word of God, the book of Nehemiah.
6 Extracted from a letter by P. J. Loizeaux.