The Holy City

Nehemiah 11:1-36

Wide open spaces are wonderful – enjoy the freedom, fresh air, distant horizon, expanse of sky and stars, slower pace of life. Cities have a different character – skyline unique to the particular city, distinctive aromas, stars in neon rather than a night sky, hustle and bustle of various kinds, homes and shops and churches. But what is it that really makes the city different from wide open spaces? People. No people, no skyline, no aromas, no lights, no hustle and bustle, no homes and shops and churches – all things that require the activity and labor of people.

We’re told in Neh. 7:4 Jerusalem was a large and spacious city but with few people. Yet for God’s plan to work out, his promises to be kept, Jerusalem needed to become the center of Jewish social and religious life once again. Zech 9:9 – future King’s triumphal entry; Hag 2:9 – glory of present temple greater than Solomon’s. Twice in text Jerusalem referred to as “the holy city” – v.1 & v.18 – further indication of it’s future position in God’s plan. If that was going to happen, Wow! some huge changes must be in store for Jerusalem.

God had put the next step in Nehemiah’s heart – bring people in to repopulate the city, to continue the process of restoration begun a century before during the time of Cyrus. The physical elements were in place – streets, buildings to repair, a finished wall with gates for security, the temple rebuilt with its furnishings. Here we have God’s plan executed through the ministry of Nehemiah to satisfy the missing element – people to fill up the holy city once again.

A. a respected remnant – 10% v.1-2

only a remnant of the remnant: 4000-8000 people in city

chosen by lot – relying on God, not chance, to determine outcome

trusting God to use this means to make his will plain

expecting God would help them make good choices, select those who could make it in the city

for purposes of count – heads of homes representing family units, not individuals

would not require breaking up families

still largely agrarian society

needed laborers to work the fields, maintain family inheritances, provide food to feed those living in Jerusalem

volunteers respected

90% who got to stay home – huge sigh of relief

huge thank you card to volunteers

meant fewer had to be chosen by lot

recognized & gave acknowledgment to level of sacrifice, significance for family and livelihood

understood volunteers had put good of others above their own

B. diversity and unity v.4-20

diverse backgrounds

from at least 3 different tribes

Judah, Benjamin and Levi

Jerusalem very near the boundary between land inheritance of Judah and Benjamin

Levites had natural place within city because of Temple and their duties

evidence of God’s continuing purpose of restoration

diverse function within community

community leaders v.3, 9

temple leaders v.11

church workers v.12

skilled marksmen v.14

worship leaders v.17

gatekeepers v.19

unity of purpose

“the holy city” – required holy people

devoted to worship and service of Yahweh

God, his will and his ways central to all of life

C. concealed strength v.11, 16, 22

the house of God

failure to properly honor God and his house led to weakened society, then ultimately exile

under-valued by those on the outside

may give grudging, token acknowledgment to those whose faith regulates their lives – “I respect what you do, but it’s not for me”

fail to fully comprehend its significance

that which unified people and was true source of strength

served in that way so long as true worship was central to city life

find a place where things of God are focal point of community life and you’ll find a strong city/neighborhood

D. the new Holy City

parallels between holy city of Jerusalem and new Holy City, the church of Christ – the one anticipates the other

re-populated by God’s action of saving grace (Psa. 87:6)

once had two perfect members, then came the Fall

Adam and Eve restored by grace purchased by Christ on cross, millions more added since then in the same way

diversely spans the global community (Rev. 5:9)

all diversity of humanity represented in the Church

sin caused dispersion of people across face of globe, grace causes re-gathering of people into the Church “from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth” (Mark 13:27)

Christ declared that when he was crucified, lifted up, he would “draw all peoples to himself” (John 12:32)

strength in the inner man (Eph. 3:16)

concealed source of strength, visible outworking

indwelling Holy Spirit enables believer to handle adversity

comes from knowing, experiencing the love of Christ and comprehending its greatness

being filled with all the fulness of God

May we recognize the treasure we have in Christ, the blessings given to us through the Church; may we more fully understand the measure of God’s grace to us and respond to it in ways that please Him – obeying him more joyfully, serving him more faithfully, seeking him and his kingdom more diligently.

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