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by Joseph Parker
Almighty God, prepare us to take part in the anthem that is to be sung in the upper and better world. Prepare us as thou wilt for that high music: by impoverishment, trial, fire, disappointment, as thou wilt, not as we will, but may the outcome of the whole process and endurance be the anthem, the music of heaven. We bless thee that sometimes we have sung and cried both at once: we know what it is to be joyful even with tears, and we know that thy purpose concerning us is that we should all be parts of thy great household no wanderer lost, no poor soul outside at last, but everyone, great and small, within the enclosure so vast, so strong, even thine own heaven. May thy word come to us now and then, to-day and tomorrow, as a persuasion and a welcome, a cry calling us home, a promise of forgiveness, a pledge and covenant of sonship. What we are, thou knowest how far we are real or unreal, true or false, sincere or hypocritical thou knowest the outside and the inside, the conduct and the motive. Search us and try us, and see if there be any wicked way in us, and lead us in the way everlasting. There is not a thought in our heart, there is not a word on our tongue, but lo! O Lord, it is known unto thee altogether. May we live in this temperament; may we work under the inspiration and the holy awe of this sacred feeling; may we thus render unto thee our lives a daily sacrifice, a continual oblation, and may our worthiness be found not in ourselves but in the infinite merits of the Son of God. Amen.
The following material appeared at the end of Nehemiah in the printed edition:
All that we know certainly concerning this eminent man is contained in the book which bears his name. His autobiography first finds him at Shushan [Ecbatana was the summer, Babylon the spring, and Persepolis the autumn residence of the kings of Persia. Susa was the principal palace], the winter residence of the kings of Persia, in high office as the cupbearer of King Artaxerxes Longimanus. The following note, summing up the achievements of this great and good governor, is from Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, from which work we have selected the notes on pages 227 and 235.
Nehemiah firmly repressed the exactions of the nobles and the usury of the rich, and rescued the poor Jews from spoliation and slavery. He refused to receive his lawful allowance as governor from the people, in consideration of their poverty, during the whole twelve years that he was in office, but kept at his own charge a table for one hundred and fifty Jews, at which any who returned from captivity were welcome. He made most careful provision for the maintenance of the ministering priests and Levites, and for the due and constant celebration of Divine worship. He insisted upon the sanctity of the precincts of the Temple being preserved inviolable, and peremptorily ejected the powerful Tobias from one of the chambers which Eliashib had assigned to him. He then replaced the stores and vessels which had been removed to make room for him, and appointed proper Levitical officers to superintend and distribute them. With no less firmness and impartiality he expelled from all sacred functions those of the high priest's family who had contracted heathen marriages, and rebuked and punished those of the common people who had likewise intermarried with foreigners; and lastly, he provided for keeping holy the Sabbath day, which was shamefully profaned by many, both Jews and foreign merchants, and by his resolute conduct succeeded in repressing the lawless traffic on the day of rest.
Beyond the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes, to which Nehemiah's own narrative leads us, we have no account of him whatever. Neither had Josephus. For when he tells us that "when Nehemiah had done many other excellent things... he came to a great age and then died," he sufficiently indicates that he knew nothing more about him. The most probable inference from the close of his own memoir, and the absence of any further tradition concerning him is, that he returned to Persia and died there.
the First Week of Advent