Summary: #12 in the Nehemiah Series. Though we may be safe within the walls of salvation, we should make sure that our souls are secure and never let our guard down. We must fill the void left by sin that is removed with God and His Word.
Book of Nehemiah Series #13
Securing & Dedicating the Completed Work
By Pastor Jim May
Nehemiah’s manual labor in building the walls of Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple was nearly done. Now there remained the task of securing and protecting the work that they had accomplished and the task of repopulating the nation, and especially the city of Jerusalem itself. Nehemiah understood what would happen if the city were left undefended and under-populated, so measures were taken to ensure that this would be done.
The picture that comes to my mind here is the same picture that we find in Matthew 12:43-45, where Jesus tells us that an empty, cleansed and garnished heart, that has been set free from the bondages of sin, and left empty after the enemy has been cast out, must be filled with something, or the enemy will come back with a vengeance.
"When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation."
Nehemiah knew that people would have to inhabit Jerusalem and that there would have to be sufficient numbers for carrying on the business of daily life as well as sufficient number to defend the city against any renewed attacks from Sanballat and Tobiah, or any of the other enemies in the land. Without sufficient defenders, the city would be destroyed once again because there were many who did not want it to be there.
In order for the city to be populated, there were two steps taken. First, anyone who wanted to volunteer to move into the city would be welcomed. These folks were counted as heroes and had a special praise given to them for their commitment to the city and to Israel.
Why were these people given special recognition? Well the answer is simple. Jerusalem is the key for the nation of Israel and its freedom. As long as Jerusalem stands, and the temple is in operation, Israel is a nation and they can worship God as they should. If Jerusalem would fall into the hands of their enemies, and the temple worship should cease, then Israel would fall apart as a nation and go back into slavery.
Therefore, the city of Jerusalem was always, and still is to this day, the central focus and the first objective of any outside invasion of an enemy army. Those who lived in the city would always bear the brunt of every invasion. They would always be the first to fight, the first to die, and the first to be taken away as slaves if they were defeated and captured. They would also be the ones who suffer greatly should any invading army decide to lay siege to the city and try to starve them out. Those who did not live in the city would live in relative peace as their homes would never be the main focus of any attack and they would always have the opportunity to run and hide, escaping the slavery that the city dwellers would face. Nearly all of those Jews who had escaped being carried off into Babylon were those who lived outside of the city. They were left alone to till the land and pay the tribute taxes to their conquerors. They lived under the control of their enemy but they weren’t nearly treated as badly as the slaves who were led away captive.
Because of this fact, there weren’t enough of the heroic volunteers to live in the city and face the task of defending it. So the second step had to be taken, and that step was a kind of ancient “draft”.
Nehemiah called for a “draft” by casting lots. In other words, everyone’s names, that had not volunteered to move into Jerusalem was placed into a large container and then names were drawn at random. Those whose names were drawn by lot were then to move into the city and join those who had volunteered.
I know what that stigma is like. In 1969, during the height of the Vietnam War, I was drafted to serve in the U S Army. There were a lot of people during that time who were running to Canada to avoid the draft, but I couldn’t do that. I had too much pride for that. But the pride that I had for my country and my self-respect wasn’t quite enough to override my fear and I was just too “chicken” to volunteer to join the military.