the Second Week of Lent
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Day by Day Devotional - Year 2 of 5
Nehemiah has set his heart on carrying out a census of the people. He has used the family register established at the time of the first return to Jerusalem. Hence vv. 6-73 repeat more or less Ezra 2. We find in them for example the descendants of that man who "took one of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite to wife, and was called after their name" (v. 63). Barzillai was that rich, respected old man who supplied David and his followers at Mahanaim (2 Samuel 19:32). Here we learn that his son-in-law, in spite of being a priest, had earlier given up his own name. He had chosen to be called by the name of his father-in-law because this gave him greater status. What were the unfortunate consequences? His descendants are excluded from the service of the priesthood on the grounds of uncleanness! Let us beware, out of concern for prominence, of abandoning our privileges as Christians! Is there any greater dignity and nobility than belonging to the family of God, to the "royal priesthood"?
This registration of the people underlines the contrast with the days of David! The tribe of Judah alone at that time numbered 470,000 men capable of drawing a sword; ten times more than now. But what matters is not numbers but faithfulness!