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The wall and the gates were not erected to give the few who live within the wall the exclusive right to the house of God. That would mean sectarianism. It is not the intention to forbid those who live outside the wall access to the house of God. Then the wall would serve for their own glory, they would exclude many of the people of God and deny the rights of the LORD.
This is what the people in Ezekiel 11 are doing (Eze 11:15). There we see that as a result the glory of the LORD disappears from the house (Eze 11:23). They lose what they claim. God does not connect His glory with spiritual pride and human posturing. But we also see there that the LORD is a sanctuary for those who are excluded (Eze 11:16).
The wall is not built to separate those who live in Jerusalem from the other members of God’s people, but to maintain the holiness of God’s house. The wall is necessary because without separation it is impossible to maintain the holiness of God’s house. But we must also see clearly the danger that the truth of separation can be abused to form a ‘better’ group that excludes many who belong to the people of God. In this way the rights of God are denied and, finally, the very truth of the house of God that would be maintained through true seclusion is lost.
Those Who Lived in the Jerusalem
This verse is a continuation of Nehemiah 7:4. The intervening chapters have informed us of the religious condition of the people. Surprisingly, it turns out that people are not eager to go and live in Jerusalem, even though the wall has been completed. The cities in the countryside are more popular. Jerusalem is the ‘undesirable’ city, or rather the ‘abandoned’ one. The city is spacious enough, but the number of inhabitants is small (Neh 7:4). This will be different in the future (Isa 49:14-21; Zec 8:4).
In 1 Chronicles 9 there is also a list of those who have repopulated Jerusalem (1Chr 9:2-21). Many of the names mentioned there can be found here. Their names are joyfully mentioned by God (Psa 112:6b).
The leaders of the people go voluntarily. They feel responsible for good government and good defense of the city of God. Do we want to be as close to the Lord as possible? The place where the sanctuary stands and where God dwells is attractive only for faith, not for the flesh.
Jerusalem is called “the holy city” here (Neh 11:18; Isa 48:2; Isa 52:1; Dan 9:24; Mt 4:5; Mt 27:53; Rev 11:2), because God has chosen this city as His city and the temple as His dwelling place is there. This is the reason for the God-fearing to want to live there. To live in that city, so close to God, requires looking carefully at our walk. Also, those who live there are special objects of the enemy’s attacks.
These two aspects may be the cause of the lack of enthusiasm to live there. What is forgotten is that just as Jerusalem is particularly hated and threatened by its enemies, it is also protected with special care by its God and made a “safe dwelling place” (Isa 33:20; Psa 46:5-6).
Not wanting to live in that city, but preferring to live in the country, can also have to do with considerations of a business nature. More ‘profit’ can be made outside Jerusalem. The application for us is to seek our own interests, to think of earthly things, rather than to seek and think of the interests and things of the Lord Jesus (Phil 2:21).
For those who allow themselves to be guided not by faith but by sight, the city has lost its attractiveness. The cloud of glory is no longer there, there is no ruler from the house of Judah, but a foreigner reigns there, the city is deserted and most of the houses are in ruins. Because of the sins of the people, all glory is gone. But faith keeps it in remembrance (Hag 2:4) and cherishes the sure hope of its return, never to leave again.
What spiritually determines the place where we want to live? Do we want to be where there are many people and much action is found or among the two or three who come together in the Name of the Lord Jesus?
In order to recruit residents for Jerusalem, they are going to “tithe” themselves, just as they used to tithe their goods (Neh 10:37-38). This is done by lot, of which they know that its guidance is done by the LORD (Pro 16:33). This will prevent quarrel, for in this way the LORD Himself makes clear who will dwell there. In this way the LORD also takes the tithes for Himself. Those ‘tithes’ represent before God the whole assembly.
Those who will voluntarily dwell there, reap the appreciation of their fellow people, as if it were a great undertaking, a great achievement, to do so. Those who do it, leave everything behind, give it up. But the choice for the holy city, the city of God, is a blessed one, for the choice that is made is also God’s choice. He has chosen that city to live there. The city is still in ruins. It can only be attractive if it is looked at with the eyes of God and with the eye of faith that sees the future glory of that city.
Moses also once set up a tent for the LORD where he went, while the people watched him, but did not go with him (Exo 33:7-11). Only those who sought the LORD went to that tent where the glory of the LORD rested. There were not many of them. All who remained in their own tent did bow down at the sight of the pillar of cloud, but only Moses and Joshua enjoyed fellowship with the LORD in that tent.
Sometimes there is respect for those who go their way in faith and therefore often in solitude, while there is no faith in others to go the same way. One holds on to visible, tangible things in the opinion that they offer more hold. They do know God, but are a bit anxious to entrust themselves to Him excluding everything else. If others can do that, take your hat off. But going that way themselves, no way.
Those Who Went to Live in Jerusalem
Those who settle in the city are remembered by God. Psalm 87 shows what God thinks of Jerusalem. That should be enough. Most of the names are forgotten by us as soon as we have read them. But for God this list is valuable, as are the other lists of names in the post-exile books. Before the judgment seat of Christ, their names will be mentioned again. Then these volunteers of heart will notice how good their choice was to accept the loss in this world in order to be able to take better care of the city of God’s choice.
Some details in this section:
The work outside the house of God – Neh 11:16
Those “who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God” are engaged in things that are not done directly in the house of God, but which are necessary for the orderly progress of the activities in the house of God. The activities that take place in the house of God are directly related to approaching God to honor Him. There are also activities that do not have that direct purpose, but that contribute to that purpose.
Perhaps we can apply this to “serve the tables” – that is, administering and distributing collected money from the believers – in addition to devoting “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2-4). Believers who are supported by this will honor God in His house. One can also think of sexton service. A sexton ensures that the outer circumstances are such that the service is possible.
It can also relate to the spiritual repair of defects on the outside of the house of God. We can think of the behavior of believers in the world who need correction. It is a blessing if such believers are reminded of this. In a sense this can be understood as a “work outside the house of God”. In the same way, evangelization takes place in the world, outside the church, but is connected with it.
Beginning the thanksgiving at prayer – Neh 11:17
Prayer begins with praise. If we want to make our needs known to God – and He invites us sincerely to do so – it is important that we first thank Him for all the benefits He has already given us.
Living in the cities – Neh 11:20
Living in the cities is not of a lesser order, but of a different order, than living in Jerusalem. Everything has its place under the rule of God. Motives come to light, but God can direct everything so that it corresponds to His purpose. All those who do not dwell in Jerusalem go to their own inheritance.
Concern for the singers – Neh 11:23
The pagan authority, the king of Persia, is even mentioned in connection with the house of God. Those who are to be maintained by the people who give the tithes are now dependent on the rulers. Probably the people have failed in bringing the tithes, or the people are too few in number, so that few tithes are brought. God has made the pagan ruler’s heart favorable, in order to provide for the possible negligence of his people.
This concerns the care of the singers who may have been forgotten by the people, but not by God. He cares for them through the head of the nations. If all the people forget the singers, God knows other ways to achieve that the singers can do their work.
The temple service is not only a sacrificial service, but also a singing service. Because of the sacrifice it is possible to sing. Only those who know the sacrifice and live from the sacrifice can sing. Accompanying the worship service by means of hymns of praise and spiritual songs is the privilege of every member of God’s people today. If there is little praise, because the people of God do not give substance to it, there are always other reasons to sing praise to God.
The king’s representative – Neh 11:24
Pethahiah, from the lineage of Judah, is a royal agent who brings the Jewish affairs before the king of Persia and informs the Jews about the king’s wishes and orders. In this he is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the Advocate for His own with the Father and the Apostle on behalf of God with His own.
Residents of Other Villages and Cities
What at first sight does not seem to us to be of much importance will be examined with special interest by the Jews in the last days. It is an equally faithful service for some to cultivate the land and live in the restored villages and thus preserve the land for God, as it is for others to live in the city of God. God values everything according to the intentions of the heart, which will become apparent in the coming day.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Nehemiah 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13