God’s True Community – Nehemiah 11. RBT Notes, 13th December

It’s all well and good building a city wall, and building the city, but it’s in vain unless people live there. Don’t picture Nehemiah’s Jerusalem as a hub of commerce and leisure. This city is just getting on its feet again. Life there is hard. Community, business, leisure, all will need to be started over. You could say, it would be easier to be a farmer living in one of the towns outside of the city, with your land and the opportunity to make money from it all close at hand, than a man working out how to survive in Jerusalem. This explains why it is that they had to call for volunteers to live in the city (v.1), and why those who did were commended by the people (v.2).
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Reflect on this a little. These men and their families who are listed throughout the chapter are putting people over profit. They are putting the needs of building God’s kingdom above their natural desire for personal comfort and their own ambitions. They are saying no to the natural and entirely justifiable desire to earn a better living from the land, and are opting for the hard life of building a community according to the purposes of God.
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Challenging? It should be to us as Christians. The parallels are clear with our discipleship, aren’t they? The kingdom depends on the sacrificial living of its servants. We can choose to live lives focused on personal gain or convenience – the Spirit will allow us to do that, but that is not His will, nor is it the work He delights to fill with His guidance and power. And on the last day, what will be giving account for? A life lived for others, or a life jealously guarded for ourselves, even for ourselves and our family? Heaven help us to trace the beauty of the servant life of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to beg for his Spirit to empower us for living for Him and His kingdom.
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One man stands out in particular in this list: Mattaniah is the director who led the people in thanksgiving and prayer (v.17). His job, you might say, was joy, and urging others to find and sing out their joy in God’s covenant grace. As priests of the new covenant, we have the same commission: joy is there in Christ. Joy is discovered in serving Him, putting ourselves at a stretch for Him, and seeking to enrich others through our self emptying. This is the upside-down kingdom we are privileged to belong to. Make sure that you long to find grace in Christ, so that you may share  the riches of that grace with others.
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A prayer to Pray
Lord, You were rich beyond all splendour, all of love’s  sake became so poor. And Your Word says that You left me an example, so that I may walk in Your footsteps. Fill me with a desire to bring lost people to Yourself, and to help to build a people into one body. Give me a driving ambition to serve Your people. Empower me to make that sacrifice. Amen.

Lewis Allen

Pastor, Hope Church Huddersfield, Director of Gospel Yorkshire, husband, father of five, football follower and dreaming fly-fisherman, Daily Reading the Bible Together blogger.

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