Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday, December 22nd Nehemiah 11

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Haggai 1-2, Revelation 16
Today's scripture focus is Nehemiah 11

Nehemiah 11 English Standard Version (ESV)

The Leaders in Jerusalem

11 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.
These are the chiefs of the province who lived in Jerusalem; but in the towns of Judah everyone lived on his property in their towns: Israel, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants, and the descendants of Solomon's servants. And in Jerusalem lived certain of the sons of Judah and of the sons of Benjamin. Of the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, son of Zechariah, son of Amariah, son of Shephatiah, son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, son of Col-hozeh, son of Hazaiah, son of Adaiah, son of Joiarib, son of Zechariah, son of the Shilonite. All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 valiant men.
And these are the sons of Benjamin: Sallu the son of Meshullam, son of Joed, son of Pedaiah, son of Kolaiah, son of Maaseiah, son of Ithiel, son of Jeshaiah, and his brothers, men of valor, 928. Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer; and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second over the city.
10 Of the priests: Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, son of Meshullam, son of Zadok, son of Meraioth, son of Ahitub, ruler of the house of God, 12 and their brothers who did the work of the house, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, son of Pelaliah, son of Amzi, son of Zechariah, son of Pashhur, son of Malchijah, 13 and his brothers, heads of fathers' houses, 242; and Amashsai, the son of Azarel, son of Ahzai, son of Meshillemoth, son of Immer, 14 and their brothers, mighty men of valor, 128; their overseer was Zabdiel the son of Haggedolim.
15 And of the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, son of Azrikam, son of Hashabiah, son of Bunni; 16 and Shabbethai and Jozabad, of the chiefs of the Levites, who were overthe outside work of the house of God; 17 and Mattaniah the son of Mica, son of Zabdi, son of Asaph, who was the leader of the praise, who gave thanks, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brothers; and Abda the son of Shammua, son of Galal, son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were 284.
19 The gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brothers, who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20 And the rest of Israel, and of the priests and the Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, every one in his inheritance. 21 But the temple servants lived on Ophel; and Ziha and Gishpa were over the temple servants.
22 The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, son of Hashabiah, son of Mattaniah, son of Mica, of the sons of Asaph, the singers, over the work of the house of God. 23 For there was a command from the king concerning them, and a fixed provision for the singers, as every day required. 24 And Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was at the king's side in all matters concerning the people.

Villages Outside Jerusalem

25 And as for the villages, with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath-arba and its villages, and in Dibon and its villages, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 and in Jeshua and in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27 in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its villages,28 in Ziklag, in Meconah and its villages, 29 in En-rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, and Azekah and its villages. So they encamped from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom. 31 The people of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash, Aija, Bethel and its villages, 32 Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah,33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod, and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36 And certain divisions of the Levites in Judah were assigned to Benjamin.

Accompanying Ray Stedman sermon: The Ways God Works

I have found in the past that whenever there is an apparently dry, uninteresting list of names in Scripture, God always includes certain clues which, if you follow them up, make the section glow with light. These genealogies and lists of names look about as interesting as a telephone directory, but if you look at the clues -- and they are always there -- you will find some things of great interest.
The more I worked on this the more I found! I now conclude that this is one of the most fascinating and profitable sections in Nehemiah. I hope you will agree with me when we complete this study.
Chapter 11 is the account of Nehemiah's actions in repopulating Jerusalem. Although the city wall has been rebuilt at this point, Nehemiah discovered that he had a problem. He had a fine, well-defended city -- but without people! His solution was to draft families to move there, for a capital must be inhabited, since it is the heart of the nation....
Nehemiah wants to move people into the city because Jerusalem is the center of the nation. You cannot have a capital city that is uninhabited (unless it is Carson City, Nevada). As the governor, he simply issued an edict: "One out of every ten people living in the suburbs must move to Jerusalem." He went through the towns and numbered the people, counting them off by tens, and then they threw a dice (actually the word is die), with ten numbers on it and whatever number came up the man with that number was expected to move his family into Jerusalem.
But there is something very interesting here. If you read this carefully, it is apparent that when a man was chosen to move into Jerusalem he was permitted to decline if he wanted to. That is because God wanted volunteers for this. So a man could be chosen, but could decide against moving. Then the lot would be cast again and another name chosen. Sooner or later someone would be found who consented freely to go. According to the account, those who chose to go were commended by the people. They honored them because they volunteered to do what God called them to do.
The application for us is obvious. The same principle applies in the church today. According to the New Testament, we are all called into the ministry -- all of us! The ministry belongs to the saints! The minute you become a Christian you are moved into God's new Jerusalem. You are asked to take up labor there, to do work according to the spiritual gift God has given you. But you must also volunteer to do it. God does not force his people to do what they are asked to do. He gave us all spiritual gifts, but he does not force us to use them. Yet if you want to be respected or honored and commended at last by the Lord himself and by all his people, then the wise thing is to volunteer to perform the realm of ministry he has opened up for you...
Beginning with the latter part of Verse 4, our text contains two lists of names, some from Judah and some from Benjamin, the two tribes that made up the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

The list of descendants from Judah focus on Perez (conceived through Judah and his daughter-in-law).  In the book of Judges we see the sordid descent of the tribe of Benjamin, but two important men come from this tribe - King Saul (who turns out to be a disappointment in the end) and the Apostle Saul/Paul.

What is all this teaching us? I think it illustrates what the New Testament often tells us, that God is no respecter of persons. He does not care how you started out in life. You do not wreck your chances for success in his eyes by beginning at a very low level. God can cleanse people and use them in mighty and wonderful ways. He chooses, we are told, the obscure, the once tainted, the rejects of life. He loves to pick up those kinds of people and do wonderful things with them....

Verses 10-24 is a rather lengthy section with many names. It is a picture of God's provision for ministry within the city of Jerusalem. If you have a capital city filled with people, then you need a ministry within it to maintain the spiritual strength of those people. This is what we read here.

This ministry consisted of a group of priests who ministered to the spiritual needs of the people, a group of priests who had a ministry of counselling families, and a group of priests who were warriors.

When we carry this over to the parallel of the church today, we find that God has also provided a "ministry within the ministry," a group of men and women who are gifted in helping people to understand the meaning of the great sacrifice of Jesus. They teach the doctrines of redemption and forgiveness of sin and help people to understand how to become and what it is to be, a new creature in Christ. Then there are others among us who are especially gifted in helping families understand the difficulties they are passing through and what answers there may be. Finally, there are some who especially serve as warriors -- prayer warriors -- and in guarding the flock from the invasion of wrong doctrines, or wrong practices that infiltrate the church from outside. So God still works the same way among us today. The whole congregation are priests, but there are some set aside to the spiritual strengthening of the others.

The Levites were divided into groups as well.  One group was in charge of the outside work of the house of God - similar to deacons today.  Another group was musicians (note that Asaph and Jeduthun wrote many of the Psalms) - obviously correlating to our church musicians today.   Another group was gatekeepers - similar to ushers today.

There are more ministries listed in the last part of our passage - including temple servants, chief officers, singers, and "troubleshooters".

Then there are many cities listed - all of whom were to be a support to Jerusalem, just like we, as different churches or different bodies of believers, should be a support to each other.

Love learning interesting things from apparently "dry" chapters!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Nehemiah 12
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Zechariah 1-2, Revelation 17

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