Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
In keeping with their commitments to tithing, the Israelites decide to increase the number of residents in Jerusalem, which is currently on the low side. While the leaders have settled in the city, Jerusalem needs a sufficient number of residents in order to be viable economically and to be secure.
It is understandable that many prefer to live on their own farms and lands. That way, they can provide for their own needs, without the problems associated with earning a living in an urban setting. In addition, it may have been considered safer to live outside a city with a long history of being attacked by invaders.
Whatever the reason, it is determined that one out of every ten residents outside Jerusalem will be brought into the city to live. This is decided by casting lots (Nehemiah 11:1). Apparently there is also a sense of voluntarism in all of this, as “the people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem” (v. 2); it could be that those selected did not complain and went willingly to live in Jerusalem, and were thus appreciated for their sacrifice and commitment.
The rest of chapter 11 records (with Nehemiah’s typical administrative efficiency) the names of the heads of families of priests, Levites, and other Jews who live in Jerusalem. The gatekeepers are also mentioned (v. 19), as are those living in the surrounding villages and other towns (vv. 25–35). Chapter 12 contains a list of priests and Levites who came with the earlier groups. Nehemiah keeps these records not just for reasons of proper administration and order, but also as a record for posterity. He is both an excellent administrator and archivist.
This part of the book ends on a happy note. Everybody is settled in their home, worship in the house of the Lord is adequately provided for, and Jerusalem is secure from enemies. The implications for us today are twofold. First, we need many people to serve in church and para-church organisations. Second, Jerusalem was underpopulated then, but today, God’s kingdom is found all over the world, and more workers are needed in God’s great vineyard, the mission fields. Will more Christians volunteer sacrificially to go, live, and serve in these places? Each of us must seek to serve in some way in church (there are always things to do if we ask those in charge) and participate in mission work by going, praying, or supporting missionaries.
If your church were to challenge her members for full-time service, how many workers would be mobilised? Is God calling you to be one of them?
All Christians are called to serve the Lord in their “secular” jobs and activities. How can you apply this to your own life and work?