The Biblical Illustrator
And the rulers of the people dwelt at Jerusalem.
The holy city replenished
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; 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; or--
3. Because it was more for their worldly advantage to dwell in the country. We are here told--
I. By what means it was replenished.
1. The rulers dwelt there. 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. 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.
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 they all knew was of the Lord. The proportion of one in ten 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.
1. Many of the children of Judah and Benjamin dwelt there. Originally part of the city lay in the lot 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.
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? (Matthew Henry.)
Repeopling the capital
This was altogether worthy of Nehemiah’s practical sagacity. The restored walls of Jerusalem could not do much to promote its security and welfare so long as it was inhabited by a mere handful of people. It would be well if some Of our modern statesmen were to grasp the principle of this policy, and open their eyes to the fact that the chief wealth and strength of any nation must ever lie, not in massive fortifications or colossal armies, but in the numbers, the character, the patriotism, and the prosperity of its people. (T. Campbell Finlayson.)
The holy city
The two leading thoughts connected with the holy city in this phase of her history are singularly applicable to the Christian community.
I. Enclosed within walls, the city gained a peculiar character and performed a distinctive mission of her own. Our Lord was not satisfied to rescue stray sheep on the mountains only to brand them with His mark and then turn them out again to graze in solitude. He drew them as a flock after Himself, and His disciples gathered them into the fold of Christian fellowship. This is of as vital importance to the cause of Christianity as the civic organisation of Jerusalem was to that of Judaism. The Christian City of God stands out before the world on her lofty foundation, the Rock of Ages--a beacon of separation from Sin, a testimony to the grace of God, a centre for the confession of faith, a home for social worship, a rallying-point for the forces of holy warfare, a sanctuary for the helpless and oppressed.
II. The public duty of citizenship. The reluctance of Christians to accept the responsibilities of Church membership may be compared to the backwardness of the Jews to dwell in Jerusalem. (W. F. Adeney, M. A.)
Had the oversight of the outward business of the house of God.
The secular in sacred service
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. An unhallowed hand may not bear up an ark. A cowl does not make a monk. High office cannot elevate a base man.
II. It is neccessary to make the secular sacred. “He can who thinks he can.” Application:
1. The secret of contentment. “Self-humiliation is full of truth and reality.”
2. The law of growth. Be thy ambition to become pure in thought and feeling, strong in resolve and deed. Serve. Care not how, mind not where. (Homiletic Commentary.)
We have prayed about that house, we have thanked God that the crumbling walls of our little houses lean against the foundations and the walls of God’s dwelling-place. Do we catch the music, do we see the vision of the house of God? Do the words balance well? “House” is a familiar word, “God” is the most awful of all words; yet here we find them together in sublime unity and relation. What is the house of God? “A church.” “A chapel, a sanctuary, a tabernacle, a temple.” Not necessarily. You may have a cathedral without a house of God, and you may find in some little thatched cottage or chapel on the hillside all the cathedrals out of heaven. Hence it is that we must not look at magnitudes, sizes, revenues, apparatus, but at the ideal. “I never go to the house of God.” How do you know that? Have you ever been really out of it? Let us go to Jacob for an answer. What said he when he awoke after the delight and yet the torment of the dream? He said, “This is none other than the house of God.” There are those who only know houses by architecture, by wails, stones, bricks. Well, now, what was Jacob’s environment at that time? Churches, chapels, institutions? Not one. Yet he was in a walled place, walled in with light, and ministered to by ascending and descending angels. We must get the house of God and many other things back from little definitions and narrow and petty locelisations, and regard the universe as God’s house. Of course Jacob, having seen all these things, could have said, “Nightmare!” That is all the answer some men can return to the universe. Let us so live as to make the house, even though a little one, grand, tender in all its ministries, a nest in the heart of God. Let us be careful how we divide things into outward and inward. The time will come when we shell get rid of even Scriptural uses of outward, alien, strange, foreign. All these words are doomed to go. “I saw no temple therein,” said John. Why did he not see a temple in heaven? Because heaven was all temple. He who lives in light does not even see the sun; he who lives in God has no moon, for he has no night. But men are crafty and expert almost at making little definitions, parties, separations, and the like. Some men divide music into sacred and profane. I never heard any profane music; I do not believe there is any. I have heard sacred music, and I have heard music profaned, perverted, taken away to bad uses, made a seduction on the road to hell. But we must get back to real definitions and proper qualities, and see things as God meant them to be seen. I have also heard of profane history and sacred history. There is no profane history. History truly written, and true to human experience, is an aspect of Providence, an elucidation of that marvellous mystery which penetrates all life, and that whispers to us in many a moment of unexpectedness, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Who is it that rises up amongst us and splits up history into sacred and profane? What right has such a man to define and separate and classify? I would follow the historian who sees God m everything, in the defeat as well as in the success of the battle. And there are persons who have carried their defining powers, if powers they be, into what are called ecclesiastical matters, so that now we have “the temporalities” and “the spiritualities.” What man devised so insane a distinction? There is a sense, but a very poor, narrow sense not worth considering, in which the work of the Church may be divided into the temporal and the spiritual, but, properly regarded, in the spirit of Christ and in the spirit of the Cross, the gift of the poor man’s penny may be as true an act of worship as the singing of the anthem. There is nothing secular, or if there is anything that we call secular it is only for momentary convenience. He that made ell things is God; He built the wall of the Church, and He will take care of the roof; it is His place. (J. Parker, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Nehemiah 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25