by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
After the wall had been built and the covenant renewed, it was necessary to determine who would need to dwell within the holy city of Jerusalem. It was not that there were too many Israelites vying for the opportunity to live within the walled city but, rather, too few. Just as only a remnant of Israelites chose to return to the Promised Land after the decree of Cyrus, so an even smaller remnant chose to live within the promised city after its reconstruction. Why was there such a reluctance to abide in the very presence of God? Ultimately it came down to two factors: prosperity and security.
Most of the Israelites were either farmers or shepherds and had already spread out across the land to plant bountiful gardens and to take advantage of extensive pasturelands. So those who moved into the walled city would obviously have to make some sacrifices for the sake of the kingdom of God. They either would have to be content with smaller gardens and smaller flocks or else pay someone else to tend to their gardens and their flocks outside of the city proper. So this would naturally discourage many who had their minds set on earthly things.
Additionally, although walled cities were usually safer than unguarded villages, the city of Jerusalem had become a hotbed of contention after some of the locals were rebuffed by the Israelites from participating in the rebuilding program. A number of wicked men had turned against Israel and had devised numerous schemes to thwart their work and to undermine their plans. And now that the work was completed, these unsavory men were determined to tear it all down. So any Israelite who chose to live within the city would need to be continually vigilant and prepared to take up arms at any moment to defend the city from these assailants.
To ensure that there were enough men to populate the city, they cast lots to pick men from various tribes and stations. But there were also a number of “valiant” men who volunteered to live within the city and it is these names that are recorded for us here in Nehemiah chapter eleven. These men sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. They sought to build up the ancient ruins, to seek the glory of Israel, and to do good unto Zion, loving the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob.
The application for the Church today should be obvious. There will always be some who call themselves Christians but yet do not associate themselves with God’s Church. And then there will be some who are in association with a local congregation but who sacrifice very little of their time and talent to help her grow. But then there will be some who truly love God’s Church and give her their very heart and soul. Anyone who has the mind of Christ will naturally grow in their service unto God in the Church, for Christ laid down his life for the sake of the Church. How could his followers do otherwise?