EXPLANATORY NOTES.] "This chapter is intimately connected with Neh, showing Nehemiah's plan of increasing the population of the city. The genealogies and then the confession and covenant come in parenthetically—the former as part of the process in the plan, and the latter as chronologically happening while Nehemiah was maturing the plan."—Crosby.
1.] "The first sentence, Neh, ‘And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem,' cannot be so closely connected with the next, ‘And the rest of the people cast lots,' &c., as to place the rulers in direct contrast to the rest of the people, but must be understood by its retrospect to Neh 7:4, which gives the following contrast: The rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem, but few of the people dwelt there; to this is joined the next sentence: ‘And the rest of the people cast lots.' The ‘rest of the people' does not mean the assembled people with the exception of the rulers, but the people with the exception of the few who dwelt at Jerusalem. These cast lots to bring one of ten to dwell in Jerusalem."—Keil. The holy city] "The predicate, the holy city, occurs here and Neh 11:18 for the first time. Jerusalem is so called, on the ground of the prophecies (Joe 3:17 and Isa 48:2), because the sanctuary of God, the temple, was there."—Keil.
Neh . The chief of the province] i. e. Judea. "Nehemiah speaks of it as it then was, a small appendix of the present empire"—Jamieson. Israel] "This general name, which designated the descendants of Jacob, before the unhappy division of the two kingdoms under Rehoboam, was restored after the captivity, the Israelites being then united with the Jews, and all traces of their former separation being obliterated. Although the majority of the returned exiles belonged to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, they are here called Israel; because a large number out of all the tribes were now intermingled, and these were principally the occupiers of the rural villages, while none but those of Judah and Benjamin resided in Jerusalem."—Jamieson.
Neh . The ruler of the house of God] "Assistant of the high priest (Num 3:32; 1Ch 9:11; 2Ch 19:11)."—Jamieson.
Neh . The oversight of the outward business of the house of God] Building, furniture, and things necessary for temple worship.
Neh . The principal to begin the thanksgiving in prayer] The precentor.
Neh . It was the king's commandment] The king is not David, but the Persian king Artaxerxes (Ezr 7:12, seq.).
Neh . Pethahiah … was at the king's hand in all matters concerning the people] "This can scarcely be understood of a royal commissioner at Jerusalem, but certainly designates an official transacting the affairs of the Jewish community at the hand of the king, at his court."—Keil.
Neh .] "The heads, who with their houses inhabited country districts, are here no longer enumerated, but only the towns, with their adjacent neighbourhoods, which were inhabited by Jews and Benjamites; and even these are but summarily mentioned."—Keil.
Neh . Of the Levites, &c.]—"Rather for the Levites, i. e. those who were not resident in Jerusalem were distributed in settlements throughout the provinces of Judah and Benjamin."—Jamieson.
HOMILETICAL CONTENTS OF CHAPTER 11
Neh . The Holy City Replenished.
Neh . The Holy City.
Neh . The Secular in Sacred Service.
Neh . The Service of Song in the House of the Lord.
THE HOLY CITY REPLENISHED
Neh . 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, &c.
JERUSALEM is called here the holy city, because there the temple was, and that was the place God had chosen to put his name there. Upon this account one would think the holy seed should all have chosen to dwell there. They declined, however. Either—
1. Because a greater strictness of conversation was expected from the inhabitants of Jerusalem than from others, which they were not willing to come up to. Those who care not for being holy themselves are shy of dwelling in a holy city. They would not dwell in the New Jerusalem itself for that reason, but would wish to have a continuing city here on earth. Or—
2. Because Jerusalem, of all places, was most hated by the heathen, their neighbours, and against it their malicious designs were levelled, which made that the post of danger, as the post of honour uses to be, and therefore they were not willing to expose themselves there. Fear of persecution and reproach, and running themselves into trouble, keeps many out of the holy city, and makes them backward to appear for God and religion; not considering that as Jerusalem is with a special malice threatened and insulted by its enemies, so it is with special care protected by its God, and made a quiet habitation. Or—
3. Because it was more for their worldly advantage to dwell in the country. Jerusalem was no trading city, and therefore there was no money to be got there by merchandises, as there was in the country by corn and cattle. "All seek their own, not the things that are Jesus Christ's." It is a general and just complaint, that most people prefer their own wealth, credit, pleasure, ease, and safety before the glory of God and the public good. People being thus backward to dwell at Jerusalem now it was poor, we are here told—
I. By what means it was replenished.
1. The rulers dwelt there. That was the proper place for them to reside in, because there were set the thrones of judgment, and thither in all difficult matters the people resorted with their last appeals. And if it were an instance of eminent affection to the house of God, zeal for the public good, and of faith, and holy courage, and self-denial, to dwell there at this time, the rulers would be examples of these to their inferiors. Their dwelling there would invite and encourage others to dwell there too: "the mighty are magnetic." When great men would choose the holy city for their habitation, it brings holiness into reputation, and their zeal will provoke very many.
2. There were some that "willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem," bravely postponing their own secular interest to the public welfare. It is upon record, to their honour, that when others were shy of venturing upon difficulty, loss, and danger, they sought the good of Jerusalem, because of the house of the Lord their God: they shall prosper that thus love Zion. It is said the people blessed them. They praised them, they prayed for them, they praised God for them. Many that do not appear forward themselves for the public good will yet give a good word to those that do. God and man will bless those that are public blessings, which should encourage us to be zealous in doing good.
3. They, finding that yet there was room, concluded, upon a review of their whole body, to bring one in ten to dwell in Jerusalem; and who they should be was determined by lot, the disposal whereof all knew was of the Lord. 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 habitations. The proportion they observed of one in ten, as we may suppose it to bring the balance between the city and country to a just and equal poise, so it seems to refer to the ancient rule of giving the tenth to God. And what is given to the holy city he reckons given to himself.
II. By what persons it was replenished. A general account is here given of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, because the governors of Judah looked upon them as their strength in the Lord of Hosts their God, and valued them accordingly (Zec ).
1. Many of the children of Judah and Benjamin dwelt there. Originally part of the city lay in the lot of one of those tribes and part in that of the other; but the greater part was in the lot of Benjamin; hence more families of that tribe abode in the city. Those of Judah all descended from Perez or Pharez, that son of Judah "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came." The men of Judah were valiant men, fit for service, and able to defend the city in case of an attack. Judah has not lost its ancient character of a lion's whelp—bold and daring. Of the Benjamites that dwell in Jerusalem we are here told who was overseer and who his second (Neh ); for it is as necessary for a people to have good order kept up among themselves as to be fortified against the attacks of their enemies from abroad,—to have good magistrates as to have good soldiers.
2. The priests and Levites did many of them settle at Jerusalem. Where else should men that were holy to God dwell but in the holy city? Most of the priests we may suppose dwelt there; for their business lay where the temple was. It is well those labourers were not few (Neh ). It was said of some of them that they were mighty men of valour (Neh 11:14); and so they had need, for the priesthood was not only a work which required might, but a warfare which required valour especially now. Of one of these priests it is said he was "the son of one of the great men," and it was no disparagement to the greatest man they had to have his son in the priesthood; he might magnify his office, for his office did not in the least diminish him. Some of the Levites also came and dwelt at Jerusalem; yet but few in comparison. Much of their work was to teach the good knowledge of God up and down the country, for which purpose they were to be scattered in Israel. As many as there was occasion for attended at Jerusalem; the rest were doing good elsewhere.—Matthew Henry.
THE HOLY CITY
Neh . Jerusalem the holy city
A sacred temple and a holy city—aids to faith in history of chosen people. Consecrated worshippers befit consecrated place.
I. The sacred city. Names.—Jerusalem, "the foundation of peace;" Ariel, "the unconquerable;" or, as others, "the hearth of God," i, e. the sacred hearth on which the unquenched fire burnt. "The Holy City." As here. In later Arabic names. In Matthew's Gospel. Central position.—"I have set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations and countries round about her" (Eze ). In Hereford Cathedral there is a map of the world with Jerusalem as literal centre. "The world is like to an eye; the white of the eye is the ocean surrounding the world; the black is the world itself; the pupil is Jerusalem, and the image in the pupil, the temple."—Rabbins. Central to the people of the country. The mother-city. The seat of government. The home of the priests. "Thither the tribes go up." Its "elevation," says Dean Stanley, "is remarkable; occasioned not from its being on the summit of one of the numerous hills of Judea, like most of the towns and villages, but because it is on the edge of one of the highest table lands of the country. To the traveller approaching the city from the east or west it must always have presented the appearance beyond any other capital of the then known world—we may say beyond any important city that has ever existed on the earth—of a mountain city; breathing, as compared with the sultry plains of Jordan, a mountain air; enthroned, as compared with Jericho or Damascus, Gaza or Tyre, on a mountain fastness." An impregnable city. Ravines and mountains. Natural position accounts for compactness. Hence Scripture references to the Mount of God; the kings are higher than the kings of the earth; the mountains are round about Jerusalem; Zion stands for ever.
Illustrations: "I have set Jerusalem in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her." "In later times this passage was taken in the literal sense that Palestine, and Jerusalem especially, was actually the centre of the earth; a belief of which the memorial is yet preserved in the large round stones still kissed devoutly by Greek pilgrims, in their portion of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is one of the many instances in which the innocent fancy of an earlier faith has been set aside by the discoveries of later science. In the East probably there are still many points of this kind which have been long surrendered in the more stirring West. But there was a real truth in it at the time that the prophet wrote, which the subsequent course of history makes it now difficult for us to realize. Palestine, though now at the very outskirts of that tide of civilization, which has swept far into the remotest West, was then the vanguard of the Eastern, and therefore, of the civilized world; and, moreover, stood midway between the two great seats of ancient empire, Babylon and Egypt. It was on the high road from one to the other of these mighty powers, the prize for which they contended, the battlefield on which they fought, the lofty bridge over which they ascended and descended respectively into the deep basins of the Nile and Euphrates."—Stanley.
"Upon the broad and elevated promontory within the fork of the valleys of Jehoshaphat and Hinnom, lies the Holy City. All around are higher hills; on the east, the Mount of Olives; on the south, the Hill of Evil Counsel, so called, rising directly from the vale of Hinnom; on the west, the ground rises gently, to the borders of the Great Wady; while on the north, a bend of the ridge connected with the Mount of Olives bounds the prospect at the distance of more than a mile. Towards the S. W. the view is somewhat more open; for here lies the plain of Rephaim, commencing just at the southern brink of the valley of Hinnom, and stretching off S. W., where it runs to the western sea. In the N. W. too the eye reaches up along the upper part of the valley of Jehoshaphat, and from many points can discern the mosque of Neby Samwil, situated on a lofty ridge beyond the great Wady, at the distance of two hours."—Robinson.
The Mount of Olives overtops even the highest part of the city by rather more than 100 feet, and the Temple Hill by no less than 300. Its northern and southern outliers—the Viri Galilæi, Scopus, and Mount of Offence—bend round slightly towards the City, and give the effect of standing round about Jerusalem. Especially would this be the case to a worshipper in the temple."—Grove.
II. The sacred city a sacred symbol. "The Holy City." "The City of our God." What is the all-time significance? A consecrated commonwealth. City and temple sacred. Festivals and fast-days, working-days and worshipping-days—all God's. "Her merchandise shall be holiness to the Lord." "There shall not a hoof be left behind." On all things look for the image and superscription of God. Will the City of Vision descend? Or shall we ascend to it? The city lieth four square. Its twelve gates are open continually. It has no temple. There is no sacred spot because the city is the Lord's; and all it contains. Bernard sings of "Jerusalem the golden."
Illustrations: "Narrow as are its boundaries, we have all a share in the possession. What a church is to a city "Palestine is to the world."—‘Crescent and the Cross.'
"Not only has the long course of ages invested the prospects and scenes of the Holy Land with poetical and moral associations, but these scenes accommodate themselves to such parabolical adaptation with singular facility.… The passage of the Red Sea—the murmurings at the ‘waters of strife'—the ‘wilderness' of life—the ‘Rock of Ages, Mount Sinai and its terrors—the view from Pisgah—the passage of the Jordan—the rock of Zion, the fountain of Siloa, and the shades of Gehenna—the lake of Gennesareth, with its storms, its waves, and its fishermen—are well-known instances in which thelocal features of the Holy Lands have naturally become the household imagery of Christendom."—Stanley.
"The Gospel Church is called Jerusalem: in her is the peculiar presence of God; in her the tribes of holy men meet and serve him. O how beautiful and compact her form!—how firm her foundation!—how strongly fortified and protected, by the laws, perfections, and providences of God!—how rich, wealthy, and free her true members!—how readily they welcome others to reside with them! The heavenly state of glory is called Jerusalem, or the new Jerusalem"—Wood.
THE SECULAR IN SACRED SERVICE
Neh . The outward business of the house of God
Outward and inward—a law of life as of temple service. In the temple of this world some of us must have the oversight of the outward business of the house of God. "The priests were chief managers of the business within the temple gates, but this Levite was intrusted with the secular concerns of God's house, that were ‘subservient to its spiritual concerns;' the collecting of the contributions, the providing of materials for the temple service, and the like, which it was necessary to oversee, else the inward business would have been starved and stood still. Those that take care of ‘the outward concerns' of the Church, the serving of its tables, are as necessary in their place as those that take care of ‘its inward concerns,' who give themselves to the word and prayer."—Matthew Henry.
I. It is possible to secularise the sacred. When sacred service is entered upon from secular motives; when it is performed in a perfunctory manner; when any object less than God is regarded in its performance, we must needs pray for the forgiveness of the iniquity of our holy things. Eli's sons were in the tabernacle. Priests of all religions have worshipped at an altar desecrated by their presence. An unhallowed hand may not bear up an ark. The grimmest pages of history are associated with holy service marred by unholy ambitions—by envy, hatred, malice, and all uncharitableness. A cowl does not make a monk. High office cannot elevate a base man.
"The churl in spirit howe'er he veil
His want in forms for fashion's sake,
Will let his coltish nature break
At seasons through the gilded pale:
For who can always act? but he,
To whom a thousand memories call,
Not being less but more than all
The gentleness he seemed to be."
"As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
II. It is necessary to make the secular sacred. "He can who thinks he can." Paul's application of the old fable in 1Co, "I had rather be a doorkeeper," &c. The Christian members of one of our religious communities annually covenant with God thus—"Make me what thou wilt, Lord, and set me where thou wilt; let me be a vessel of silver or gold, or a vessel of wood or stone, so I be a vessel of honour; of whatsoever form or metal, whether higher or lower, finer or coarser, I am content. If I be not the head, or the eye, or the ear, one of the nobler and more honourable instruments thou wilt employ; let me be the hand or the foot, one of the most laborious, and lowest, and most contemptible, of all the servants of my Lord." Application.
1. The secret of contentment. "Self-humiliation is full of truth and reality." The hidden life more secure than the outer life. Circumstances change, character is permanent. Look within. "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound," &c.
2. The law of growth. Develope thyself. "To be," differs from "to have." Be thy ambition to become pure in thought and feeling, strong in resolve and deed. Serve. Care not how, mind not where. "Inasmuch as ye have done unto one of the least of these, my brethren," &c. And we may add—and inasmuch as ye have rendered the least service to the least of these, my brethren, ye have rendered it unto me. But, like the angels, let us serve our brethren "all for love, and nothing for reward."
THE SERVICE OF SONG IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
Neh . Of the sons of Asaph, the singers were over the business of the house of God. For it was the king's commandment concerning them, that a certain portion should be for the singers, due for every day.
Music is the hand-maid of religion. Were we treating of music in general, and not of it in relation to religious life, we must treat of the science of music as developed in the East and West, as it has been affected in Catholic countries, and influenced by the Reformation. But our text-book is the Bible. The theme is the service of song in the house of the Lord. Music in the sanctuary is the music of the Hebrews, as it has come down to, and been developed in, the Christian Church.
Those who have deeply studied this subject inform us that the science of music amongst the Hebrews is only conjectural. But the practice of music meets us on almost every page of Hebrew history. In Genesis 4. we have an account of the first poet; the first dweller in tents; the first forger of metals; and the first musician—all descendants of Cain. "Jubal was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ"—the harp standing as the representative of all stringed, and the organ of all wind, instruments. Attempts have been made to explain how this discovery of Jubal's was handed down till after the Flood. But, as Mr. Aldis Wright, to whose article on music in Smith's ‘Bible Dictionary,' I am indebted for these historic facts, says, "Conjectures are worse than an honest confession of ignorance. The Flood did not wash away every musical instrument, and for ever deprive the world of the solace which music gives. The shepherds of the uplands of Syria knew how to chase away care with songs, and thrill the emotions with tabret and harp. ‘Wherefore didst thou fly away secretly?' said Laban to Jacob, ‘and didst not tell me, that I might have sent thee away with mirth, and with songs, with tabret and harp.' On the banks of the Red Sea, Moses and the children of Israel sang their song of triumphal deliverance, and Miriam led a procession of women chanting in chorus: ‘Sing ye to Jehovah, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.' The song was accompanied by timbrels and dances; probably Miriam sang the solos, and the women took up the chorus; for it is said, ‘Miriam answered them.'"
Music was early employed in the service of idolatry. You will recall the musical instruments when the image of gold was set up in the plains of Dura. An earlier instance is in connection with the golden calf which Aaron made. As Moses and Joshua came down from the mountain on which they had received the two tables of the law, a strange sound saluted their ears. To Joshua it seemed like a war-shout, but Moses said, "It is not the voice of them that shout for the mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry being overcome, but the noise of them that sing do I hear." Rude and uncultivated must such music have been. Could much variation have been played on those silver trumpets which were used to intimate the striking of the tents and resuming of the wilderness journeys? Would those rams' horns with which the priests brought down the walls of Jericho, or those trumpets which Gideon's three hundred men blew, have been like the sound of one that had a pleasant voice and could play well on an instrument? The song of Deborah and Barak is metrical, and was probably intended to be sung with musical accompaniment as one of the people's songs, like that with which Jephthah's daughter and her companions met Jephthah on his victorious return. The song with which the women of Israel hailed David after the slaughter of the Philistine was perhaps struck off on the excitement of the moment. "They came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul with tabrets, with joy, and instruments of music. And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands."
So far there appears, to have been no systematic cultivation of music. When, however, the schools of the prophets were instituted music was taught. Professional musicians were attached to the king's person. David played before Saul. And when David became king he had about him singing men and singing women. Solomon says, "I gat me men singers and women singers." He composed songs. When the ark was brought from the house of Obed-edom there must have been many skilled musicians in the country. With Chenaniah, the master of the song, at their head, David and the Levites brought up the ark with shouting, and with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, making a noise with psalteries and harps. Probably the Levites had all along practised music. Living a peaceful life they would be attracted to this peaceful art. It is likely that some SERVICE OF SONG was used in the tabernacle. But be this as it may, David was the patron, and the temple was the school, of music. The three divisions of the tribe of Levi had a representative family in the temple choir. David composed and taught them a chant. For ages it was used as David's, and was sung on three great occasions—before the army of Jehoshaphat; on laying the foundation of the second temple; and by the army of the Maccabees. The chant is Psalms 136. Women were in the temple choir. We read of Heman's three daughters. Among those who returned from the captivity with Zerubbabel were two hundred singing men and singing women. Amongst the instruments played before the ark were trumpets, which appear to have been reserved for the priests. Being also employed in royal proclamations they set forth by way of symbol, the royalty of Jehovah, and sounded the alarm against his enemies. At the dedication of Solomon's temple one hundred and twenty priests blew the trumpets, while the Levites with their instruments made one sound to be heard in praising the Lord. And in the restoration of worship by Hezekiah, when the burnt offering began the song of Jehovah began also, with the trumpets, and with the instruments of David, King of Israel. And all the congregation worshipped, and the singers sang, and the trumpeters sounded all until the burnt offering was finished. The altar was, in Scripture phraseology, the table of Jehovah, and the sacrifices were his feasts. And as at kings' tables the musicians play, so at the table of the King of kings was this service rendered. The temple was God's palace, and as the Levite sentries guarded the gates they sang, "Bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, which by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord." Many of the psalms we know were temple-songs. Of David's influence on Hebrew song let an English poet speak—
"The harp the monarch-minstrel swept,
The king of men, the loved of Heaven,
Which music hallowed while she wept,
O'er tones her heart of hearts had given,
Redoubled be her tears, its chords are riven!
"It softened men of iron mould,
It gave them virtues not their own;
No ear so dull, no soul so cold,
That felt not, fired not to the tone,
Till David's lyre grew mightier than his throne!
"It told the triumphs of our king,
It wafted glory to our God;
It made our gladdened valleys ring,
The cedars bow, the mountains nod;
Its sound aspired to heaven, and there abode!
"Since then, though beard on earth no more,
Devotion, and her daughter Love,
Still bid the bursting spirit soar,
To sounds that seem as from above,
In dreams that day's broad light cannot remove."
Solomon provided for the singers with the same munificence with which he adorned the temple.
But although music was consecrated in the temple it was not confined to the temple. Whatever adorns God's service reacts on the homes and haunts of men. Music was enthroned in the temple, but it made its familiar abode in the homes of the Hebrew people. Kings had court musicians. And in the degenerate days of the later monarchs, the prophet tells us of the effeminate gallants of Israel stretched on beds of ivory, covered with perfumes; and as Nero fiddled whilst Rome was in flames, so they amid their nation's wreck chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David. But because music may minister to vice that is no reason for deriding it. What may not? Many a Hebrew home was made joyous after a day of sultry heat, spent among the vines or in the sheep-folds, by family songs. Only when national sin had brought God's curse upon the land could it be said—"All the merry-hearted do sigh. The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth. They shall not drink wine with a song." It was when heavy hearts sat by the waters of Babylon that joy-inspiring harps hung on the willows, and cunning hands no longer discoursed sweet music. Their bridal processions were accompanied with music and song. Love had its songs to embody its passion. Sorrow had its funereal chants. The grape-gatherers sang as they gathered in the vintage, and the wine-presses were trodden to the march of music. Women sang as they toiled at the mill. And as long as God smiled approval on the land of the Hebrew people, they were a people of song. Their land was a field which the Lord had blessed.
Music passed into the early Christian Church. Our Lord is found with his disciples singing a hymn. The Man of Sorrows was acquainted with song. "Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," is the burden of more than one New Testament passage. Changes it has undergone. By the inroads of barbarians; by the upgrowth of the Reformation; by modern revolutions; by persecutions; and by the misguided opposition of conscientious men, the service of song in the house of the Lord has been affected. It has been "chastened, but not killed;" "cast down, but not destroyed."
Bring song into the sanctuary. The temple choir were Levites. The priests were of the same tribe. Pulpit and choir-gallery both have place. When the preacher fails with the Bible, the choir may succeed with the Hymn Book.
When we pass through the gate into the city we shall sing in. John looked, and lo! a Lamb stood on the Mount Zion, and with him an hundred and forty and four thousand redeemed from the earth. And he heard a voice as of the voice of many waters, as the voice of a great thunder, and as the voice of harpers, harping with their harps. Let us honour every faculty. Let us cultivate and consecrate our gifts. Let us all use the service of song to praise the Lord, whose mercy—according to David's chant—endureth for ever.
ADDENDA TO CHAPTER 11
PRIESTS AND THE CONGREGATION
"It is very worthy of notice that in the numbering of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, not the priests but the tribes of Judah and Benjamin take the lead, and only then follow the priests and Levites; so much the more worthy of notice, because in the new congregation, following the captivity, according to the entire direction which its development took, and according to everything which was considered as of the greatest moment, the high priests, and the priesthood in general, had a particularly high significance. It is as if the consciousness were indicated, that the priest and Levites, in spite of their distinction, which the Lord hath appointed to them in the affairs of Israel, had been nevertheless nothing at all if they had not had a congregation near and around them, and if they had not succeeded in obtaining satisfactory fruit for their activity, namely, a genuine and true piety, which should substantially prove they were not there in vain. Would also that Christian priests, that is, preachers of the gospel, might preserve a lively consciousness that it is not enough for them to have fellowship with their brethren in office, that they are nothing, and can profit and signify nothing, if not some, if only a small congregation stand by them, in whom the seed which they sow springs up, grows, and bears fruit."
HOLY PEOPLE ON SACRED SOIL
"When one looks at the space which the Jewish congregation inhabited round Jerusalem, how very small was the territory occupied by the people of God, the only race which possessed a clear knowledge of the only true and holy God! A few miles, from three to six, north and south, east and west, comprised the entire district. Compared with our countries; yes, even with our provinces; this district appears to us almost as a vanishing nothing. And nevertheless what powers for the subjugation of entire humanity, for the transformation of all its relations, and for the subduing of all circumstances, has God the Lord been able to put in the people of this oasis, in the, at the same time, insignificant, and in many respects miserable race, which cultivated the ground there, or raised cattle! If anywhere, surely here arises a testimony for Paul's word, ‘God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty' (1Co ). A consoling promise also for Christendom in those times, in which it appears as though it were being compressed on all sides, and when it is in truth losing position after position. Let it lose in length and breadth in order afterwards to gain so much the more in height. Even the gates of hell cannot swallow up the Church of the Lord."—Dr. Schultz, in Lange.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Nehemiah 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany