Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.These are the provincial leaders who settled in Jerusalem (now some Israelites, priests, Levites, temple servants and descendants of Solomon’s servants lived in the towns of Judah, each on their own property in the various towns, while other people from both Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem):From the descendants of Judah:Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, a descendant of Perez;“NIV

‘’ Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt’’ (Nehemiah 7:4).

Tom Hale explains: ‘Therefore, Nehemiah and the other leaders made a plan to increase Jerusalem’s population; their plan was to choose by lot one out of every ten Jewish families living in the towns of Judah and Benjamin and have them move to Jerusalem. In addition to the people chosen by lot, many others volunteered to live in Jerusalem, and they were commended for it. One purpose in increasing Jerusalem’s population was to provide additional defenders in the event of an attack. A second purpose was to increase the number of priests and Levites available to serve in the temple…

Jerusalem had suffered the greatest loss of life during the Babylonian attacks; thus among the returning exiles, there were relatively few who had originally come from the city. Most exiles settled in their former towns outside Jerusalem, thereby leaving the city underpopulated.’ ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.764.

Matthew Henry comes at this from a slightly different angle. He suggests 3 reasons why some people may have been reluctant to live in Jerusalem:

  1. It was the ‘holy’ city, and therefore a stricter holiness was required of its residents;
  2. It was a place of greater danger, being such a focus of special attention from Israel’s enemies. (‘Fear of persecution and reproach, keep many out of the holy city, and makes them backward to appear for God and religion…’);
  3. There was more opportunity for trading and making money in the countryside than in this city.

Whether we agree with all Henry’s points or not, I would certainly accede that:

  • There are some believers who don’t particularly want all God has for them. They would identify with the ironic prayer, ‘Lord make me holy, but not yet!’
  • There are certainly those in the ranks of the professing church who are more concerned for self-preservation and self-advantage than they are to display Kingdom boldness and sacrifice.

PRAYER: Lord, you know we are not yet perfect, and we thank you that you don’t write us off because we are flawed. Self rears its ugly head in our lives more often than we want to admit. But we do confess our self-centredness and lack of godliness. Teach us Lord to ‘’hunger and thirst’’ for righteousness, knowing you will ‘fill’ us.

THOUGHT: We are at this moment as close to God as we choose to be (J.O.Sanders)