Nehemiah
Introduction 1-8 Names of Nehemiah and the Priests 9-13 Names of the Levites 14-27 Names of the Leaders of the People 28 The Rest of the People 29-31 The Self-Imposed Obligations 32 One Third of a Shekel for the House of God 33 Provisions for the House of God 34 Supply of Wood for the House of God 35-37 The First Fruits for the House of God 38-39 The Tithes for the House of God
Introduction

In verses 1-271Now on the sealed document [were the names of]: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah,2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,3Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah,4Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,5Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,6Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,7Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,8Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah. These [were] the priests.9And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel;10also their brothers Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,11Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah,12Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,13Hodiah, Bani, Beninu.14The leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,15Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,16Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,17Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,18Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,19Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,20Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,21Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,22Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,23Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,24Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,25Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,26Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,27Malluch, Harim, Baanah. are the names of those who put their seals under the agreement. After having stopped doing evil, they now want to learn to do good (Isa 1:16-1716“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Remove the evil of your deeds from My sight.
Cease to do evil,
17Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Reprove the ruthless,
Defend the orphan,
Plead for the widow.
).

Making an agreement or covenant, no matter how well intentioned, is a negation of man’s inability to fulfill his obligations. This is evident at Sinai, where they have committed themselves to do everything God says (Exo 24:3,73Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!”7Then he took the book of the covenant and read [it] in the hearing of the people; and they said, “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!”; Acts 7:5353you who received the law as ordained by angels, and [yet] did not keep it.”), and under Josiah (2Kgs 23:33The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the LORD, to walk after the LORD, and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes with all [his] heart and all [his] soul, to carry out the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people entered into the covenant.; Jer 3:1010Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the LORD.).

Making a covenant gives the impression that things will improve in the future. But in man there is no guarantee for that. On the contrary. Every promise made by a person not to fall into a certain mistake shows a lack of self-knowledge. Yet in those days the law is the foundation of God’s dealings with man. That is why it is not to blame these Israelites for imposing this obligation on themselves. It indicates their sincere desire to comply with God’s will.

It is only with the coming and rejection of Christ that the foundation of God’s dealings with man changes. The cross is the great turning point. At the cross, the utter hopelessness of expecting anything good from man has become fully apparent. Anyone who still places himself on the foundation of the law has not yet grasped the meaning of the cross. But until then man has been under self-imposed responsibility to obey God’s statutes. That is why it is the right path for those who join the covenant here.


Names of Nehemiah and the Priests

1Now on the sealed document [were the names of]: Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah, and Zedekiah, 2Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah, 3Pashhur, Amariah, Malchijah, 4Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch, 5Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah, 6Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch, 7Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin, 8Maaziah, Bilgai, Shemaiah. These [were] the priests.

Nehemiah is the first to put his signature. Then twenty-two priests put their signatures. Remarkably, Ezra’s name is missing. Would he understand that a signature is not a guarantee? What’s good for one person, another doesn’t need to have any part in it. Ezra probably understands, through more insight into who God is and who man is, that God does not call him to sign. This kind of distinction between believers can be found in the church in Rome. There we find weak and strong believers. They must learn to interact and tolerate one another in matters relating to conscience (Romans 14-15).


Names of the Levites

9And the Levites: Jeshua the son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel; 10also their brothers Shebaniah, Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan, 11Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah, 12Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah, 13Hodiah, Bani, Beninu.

After the priests seventeen Levites sign the covenant. Among them many have been the mouths of the assembly in prayer (Neh 9:2,52The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.5Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah [and] Pethahiah, said, “Arise, bless the LORD your God forever and ever!
O may Your glorious name be blessed
And exalted above all blessing and praise!
). This shows that they themselves are impressed by what they have said, and that they do not want to impose burdens on others that they themselves refuse to touch. Those who lead in prayer should also lead in any other good work.


Names of the Leaders of the People

14The leaders of the people: Parosh, Pahath-moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani, 15Bunni, Azgad, Bebai, 16Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin, 17Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur, 18Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai, 19Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai, 20Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir, 21Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua, 22Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah, 23Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub, 24Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek, 25Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah, 26Ahiah, Hanan, Anan, 27Malluch, Harim, Baanah.

After the Levites forty-four of the heads of the people have signed that they want to keep God’s commandments. As heads of the people they do the same for all those they represent and over whom they have influence by their position. Their names are mentioned here for their honor as men working diligently to revive and maintain the service of God in their land. The memory of such men will be a blessing.

It is noteworthy that most of those previously mentioned as heads of houses (Nehemiah 7) are mentioned here among the first of the heads of people who have signed the covenant. It is also remarkable that many who are heads today bear the same name as those who are heads at the exodus from Babylon (Ezra 2:3-353the sons of Parosh, 2,172;4the sons of Shephatiah, 372;5the sons of Arah, 775;6the sons of Pahath-moab of the sons of Jeshua [and] Joab, 2,812;7the sons of Elam, 1,254;8the sons of Zattu, 945;9the sons of Zaccai, 760;10the sons of Bani, 642;11the sons of Bebai, 623;12the sons of Azgad, 1,222;13the sons of Adonikam, 666;14the sons of Bigvai, 2,056;15the sons of Adin, 454;16the sons of Ater of Hezekiah, 98;17the sons of Bezai, 323;18the sons of Jorah, 112;19the sons of Hashum, 223;20the sons of Gibbar, 95;21the men of Bethlehem, 123;22the men of Netophah, 56;23the men of Anathoth, 128;24the sons of Azmaveth, 42;25the sons of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth, 743;26the sons of Ramah and Geba, 621;27the men of Michmas, 122;28the men of Bethel and Ai, 223;29the sons of Nebo, 52;30the sons of Magbish, 156;31the sons of the other Elam, 1,254;32the sons of Harim, 320;33the sons of Lod, Hadid and Ono, 725;34the men of Jericho, 345;35the sons of Senaah, 3,630.).


The Rest of the People

28Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding,

The children are also involved in the covenant. They are part of the people of God and share in their privileges and responsibilities. They are sanctified in the parents, who have the obligation to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:44Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.). There are also proselytes who sign. These are “all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands”.


The Self-Imposed Obligations

29are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; 30and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons. 31As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego [the crops] the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.

All those who have entered into the agreement are called “kinsmen”. They all take the same place before God. Even the “nobles” among them are “kinsmen”. Faithfulness to God humbles the high and increases the low. They are connected not only by family ties, but also by a common desire. They all want to obey the law of God.

The nobles join the covenant . The people affirm with a curse and an oath that they will obey the law. They solemnly declare their sincerity before God, invoking His righteous wrath when they act unfaithfully.

As an application to us who are not under the law, we can say that the commitment they make to obey the law is for us a renewal of the desire to obey. Obedience is a fundamental principle in the Christian’s life in every area of his life: family, society and church. For us the admonition of Barnabas, who encourages the church in Antioch to remain to the Lord with the purpose of their hearts (Acts 11:2323Then when he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and [began] to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain [true] to the Lord;), applies to all the areas mentioned.

Verses 29-3129are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes;30and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.31As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego [the crops] the seventh year and the exaction of every debt. describe the obligations to which the people submit themselves and their families. The covenant covers
1. their personal walk (verse 2929are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law, which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes;),
2. their children in view of the matrimonial obligations they enter into (verse 3030and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons.), and
3. the keeping of the sabbath and the sabbath year (verse 3131As for the peoples of the land who bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we will not buy from them on the sabbath or a holy day; and we will forego [the crops] the seventh year and the exaction of every debt.).

So the first obligation is for each one personally, the second for the children. If there is no obedience in personal or family life, God cannot possibly be honored. Obedience brings about separation from the world. Friendship with the world is given up and instead there is dedication to God. They want to walk in God’s law, that is, in submission to Holy Scripture. Personal obedience to God’s Word is the starting point.

Secondly, they want to maintain the separation of the nations of the land, and therefore they do not want to allow their children to enter into an unequal yoke. Separation from evil and dedication to God is the first consequence of obedience.

Thirdly, they want to honor God by keeping the sabbath and not give in to greed in response to what the nations offer on that holy day. The sabbath is the peace of God in which His people may share.

They fourthly pledge to leave the land fallow in the seventh year, for because they did not, they were transported to Babylon at that time (Exo 23:1111but [on] the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, so that the needy of your people may eat; and whatever they leave the beast of the field may eat. You are to do the same with your vineyard [and] your olive grove.; Lev 26:33-3533You, however, I will scatter among the nations and will draw out a sword after you, as your land becomes desolate and your cities become waste.34‘Then the land will enjoy its sabbaths all the days of the desolation, while you are in your enemies’ land; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths.35All the days of [its] desolation it will observe the rest which it did not observe on your sabbaths, while you were living on it.). It also means that they will not claim the debts their brethren owe them, and therefore will not give in to the spirit of domination. The sabbath year is the year of release and remission (Deu 15:1-21“At the end of [every] seven years you shall grant a remission [of debts].2This is the manner of remission: every creditor shall release what he has loaned to his neighbor; he shall not exact it of his neighbor and his brother, because the LORD’s remission has been proclaimed.).

In that spirit God wants us to treat our brothers and sisters. These are all lessons for us if we want to give Christ His place as Head and act according to the unity of His body, the church, and preserve the unity of the Spirit. Have we not been unfaithful to the Word of God? We have boasted on our position in Christ, but we have not personally submitted to God’s Word. The voice of people in the church sounds louder than the voice of God through the Word. Tradition has more authority than Scripture.

Haven’t we also lacked true separation? We may be separated from church systems, but in our dealings and walks we resemble people of the world. Hasn’t the spirit of the world come into our homes and into the churches? What does church separation say when we are connected to the world in other ways?

Are we not cool in our dealings with God-fearing believers from whom we sometimes differ in a slight way, while we deal with worldly people in a warm-hearted manner? All these questions are better answered now than before Christ’s judgment seat.

The sabbath speaks of the peace that Christ has given us through His work. But do we not fall short of that rest when we believe that we can gain a certain merit, a certain profit, on the basis of something in ourselves, is it not with God than surely it is with our fellow Christians?

And what about life in faith? Leaving the land fallow in the seventh year represents the confidence that God will provide even if it seems to us that things are going wrong. It is an acknowledgment of God’s right to the land. That acknowledgment determines us with God Himself. Is it really only about Him in our lives? We can ‘come together on a Godly foundation’, ‘break bread in a Scriptural way’, ‘maintain the testimony’, and do all kinds of other things that are only perceptible and verifiable externally, while our appreciation of the eternal and unseen decreases further and further, and we only live for the here-and-now.

The fifth obligation, that of not claiming debts, is related to the previous one. Are we not often demanding of our fellow believers the more we lose sight of eternal things and live for the present? “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (Jam 5:9b9Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.). The end of this dispensation is in sight. It is high time that we stop demanding of each other, and start living in the awareness of all that has been forgiven us by God. A demanding attitude prevents fellowship. If we judge it, we will together be able to uphold and honor God and His truth.


One Third of a Shekel for the House of God

32We also placed ourselves under obligation to contribute yearly one third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:

Now follow obligations concerning the house of God. Caring for the house of God – which is mentioned nine times in verses 32-3932We also placed ourselves under obligation to contribute yearly one third of a shekel for the service of the house of our God:33for the showbread, for the continual grain offering, for the continual burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moon, for the appointed times, for the holy things and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.34Likewise we cast lots for the supply of wood [among] the priests, the Levites and the people so that they might bring it to the house of our God, according to our fathers’ households, at fixed times annually, to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law;35and that they might bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house of the LORD annually,36and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of our God.37We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns.38The priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes, and the Levites shall bring up the tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse.39For the sons of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine and the oil to the chambers; there are the utensils of the sanctuary, the priests who are ministering, the gatekeepers and the singers. Thus we will not neglect the house of our God., once in each verse and twice in verse 3636and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of our God. – occupies a great place in the agreement. There is no mention of the wall, although it is the main subject of this book. The great touchstone of faithfulness to God is the maintenance of His house, the temple, the maintenance of those who serve in it, and the obeying of the statutes that govern order in the house.

If in the individual lives of the members of God’s people everything is directed toward God and lives are arranged according to His will, the common interest will also develop in prosperity. This is expressed in the care for the house of God, which is now the church of God. There will be a desire to arrange everything in the church as God prescribes in His Word (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.). There will be sufficient means to maintain the visible testimony. If there is no spirituality, hearts and purses will remain closed. If there is such a mind, both will open.

The original amount to be paid per head is half a sickle (Exo 30:1313This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD.). It is possible that because of the poverty of the people this cannot be paid. But then we see that the poverty of the people is not a barrier. If the consciences are exercised, the possible will be given and sometimes more than the possible (2Cor 8:1-51Now, brethren, we [wish to] make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia,2that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality.3For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, [they gave] of their own accord,4begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints,5and [this], not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.). God will then make sure that the lesser leads to the same result as the greater. This makes His greatness shine all the more, as is always the case where man relies more on God’s goodness.


Provisions for the House of God

33for the showbread, for the continual grain offering, for the continual burnt offering, the sabbaths, the new moon, for the appointed times, for the holy things and for the sin offerings to make atonement for Israel, and all the work of the house of our God.

Through the contribution of one third of a sickle a year, the following provisions can be made, through which the work in the house of God and the feasts connected with it can progress:
1. The showbread.
2. The continual grain offering.
3. The continual burnt offering.
4. The sacrifice for the sabbaths.
5. The sacrifice for the new moon.
6. The appointed times (Passover, Pentecost and Feast of Booths).
7. The holy things (peace offerings).
8. The sin offerings to make atonement for Israel.
9. All the work in God’s house.

“The showbread” – these are the twelve showbreads – represents the whole people. The unity of the people can no longer be seen through the scattering, but for God that unity is there. The remnant may think of it in their worship. This is the first thing that is brought to God’s attention by the contribution and is therefore also the first thing that is placed in front of our attention.

The “continual grain offering”, that is the daily grain offering, speaks of the Lord Jesus in His life on earth as perfectly devoted to God. The “continual burnt offering”, that is the daily burnt offering, speaks of the Lord Jesus in His full surrender to God in His death on the cross. The sacrifice for the “sabbaths” shows the work of the Lord Jesus in His result: rest for God and rest for the believer. The sacrifice for “the new moons” sees the work of Christ as the basis for the restoration of Israel.

The “appointed times”, i.e. the three great feasts, indicate the great results of Christ’s work, namely the deliverance of a people from the power of sin (Passover), the coming into being of the church (Pentecost), and the establishment of the kingdom of peace (Feast of Booths). “The holy things”, that is the peace offering, indicate the fellowship of believers among themselves and of the believers with God and the Lord Jesus. “The sin offerings” are “to make atonement for Israel.” Christ works atonement between the holy God and sinful man, an atonement on the basis of which once all things – not: all men! – to be reconciled with God (Col 1:20-2220and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say,] whether things on earth or things in heaven.21And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, [engaged] in evil deeds,22yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—). All work that takes place in God’s house takes place on the basis of the atonement.


Supply of Wood for the House of God

34Likewise we cast lots for the supply of wood [among] the priests, the Levites and the people so that they might bring it to the house of our God, according to our fathers’ households, at fixed times annually, to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the law;

To know the will of God often the lot is cast, that is to say, in the time of the Old Testament. The last time we read about throwing lot is at the beginning of Acts (Acts 1:2626And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.). It happens
1. when dividing the land among the tribes (Num 26:5555But the land shall be divided by lot. They shall receive their inheritance according to the names of the tribes of their fathers.; Jos 14:22by the lot of their inheritance, as the LORD commanded through Moses, for the nine tribes and the half-tribe.; 18:1010And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions.);
2. to discover a guilty one (Jos 7:1414In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes [by lot] shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man.; 1Sam 14:4242Saul said, “Cast [lots] between me and Jonathan my son.” And Jonathan was taken.; Jona 1:77Each man said to his mate, “Come, let us cast lots so we may learn on whose account this calamity [has struck] us.” So they cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.);
3. to appoint the first king, Saul (1Sam 10:19-2119But you have today rejected your God, who delivers you from all your calamities and your distresses; yet you have said, ‘No, but set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes and by your clans.”20Thus Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken by lot.21Then he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by its families, and the Matrite family was taken. And Saul the son of Kish was taken; but when they looked for him, he could not be found.);
4. to resolve disputes (Pro 18:1818The [cast] lot puts an end to strife
And decides between the mighty ones.
);
5. in the division of various Levite orders (1Chr 24:55Thus they were divided by lot, the one as the other; for they were officers of the sanctuary and officers of God, both from the descendants of Eleazar and the descendants of Ithamar.; 25:88They cast lots for their duties, all alike, the small as well as the great, the teacher [as well] as the pupil.; 26:1313They cast lots, the small and the great alike, according to their fathers’ households, for every gate.; Lk 1:99according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.);
6. appointing who would dwell in Jerusalem (Neh 11:11Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine-tenths [remained] in the [other] cities.) and
7. to appoint Judas Iscariot’s substitute (Acts 1:2626And they drew lots for them, and the lot fell to Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles.).

Occasionally there is the casting of the lot, without learning the will of God. We see that the lot is cast superstitiously by Haman in order to know the time that would be most suitable for exterminating the Jews (Est 3:77In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Pur, that is the lot, was cast before Haman from day to day and from month [to month], until the twelfth month, that is the month Adar.; 9:2424For Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the adversary of all the Jews, had schemed against the Jews to destroy them and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to disturb them and destroy them.). The soldiers cast the lot for the clothing of the Lord Jesus (Mt 27:3535And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots.; Mk 15:2424And they *crucified Him, and *divided up His garments among themselves, casting lots for them [to decide] what each man should take.; Lk 23:3434But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.; Jn 19:2424So they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it, [to decide] whose it shall be”; [this was] to fulfill the Scripture: “THEY DIVIDED MY OUTER GARMENTS AMONG THEM, AND FOR MY CLOTHING THEY CAST LOTS.”).

After the Holy Spirit has come to earth, there is no more casting the lot in order to learn the will of God. The New Testament believer is not guided by the lot, but by the Word of God and the Spirit of God.

For “the supply of wood” we find nowhere a special commandment of God. Yet what happens here is according to God’s thoughts, for without wood there can be no sacrifice. It is an important supply, so important, that Nehemiah mentions this supply again at the end of his book (Neh 13:3131and [I arranged] for the supply of wood at appointed times and for the first fruits. Remember me, O my God, for good.). When hearts are set on God and His interests, they also think about what is not explicitly mentioned in God’s Word, but what is important for the service in God’s house.

Wood grows out of the earth and is a picture of man as born on earth. If every believer offers something so that the sacrifice becomes possible, it means that he himself comes into God’s house. After all, if the believers do not come, no sacrifices will be made.

The wood is brought to the families at the appointed times. In turn, a family makes sure that the necessary wood is present at the right time, so that the sacrifices can be made. The church has its regular meetings. There the whole family of God comes together to make offerings at the Table of the Lord in accordance with God’s Word and God’s desire. The wood burns. In it we can see that what we ourselves are disappears. It is about the sacrifice. What ascends is the aroma of the sacrifice, that is what the church offers to God of the Lord Jesus.


The First Fruits for the House of God

35and that they might bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all the fruit of every tree to the house of the LORD annually, 36and bring to the house of our God the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, and the firstborn of our herds and our flocks as it is written in the law, for the priests who are ministering in the house of our God. 37We will also bring the first of our dough, our contributions, the fruit of every tree, the new wine and the oil to the priests at the chambers of the house of our God, and the tithe of our ground to the Levites, for the Levites are they who receive the tithes in all the rural towns.

The willing people continue their consecration to the LORD. They are not content with partial surrender. They want to obey the law in everything. Therefore they also want to offer to the LORD the first fruits of the land (Exo 23:1919“You shall bring the choice first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. “You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.; 34:2626“You shall bring the very first of the first fruits of your soil into the house of the LORD your God. “You shall not boil a young goat in its mother’s milk.”; Lev 19:23-2423‘When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; [it] shall not be eaten.24But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD.). The land belongs to the LORD and they may enjoy the fruit of it. But they do not want to enjoy it without Him.

Enjoying all God’s good gifts, whether they are blessings from the earth or blessings in heaven, is only real enjoyment if we involve Him from Whom we have received everything. That is what He wants as well. He has a right to it. The bringing of the first fruits is the acknowledgment that everything belongs to the LORD.

After the first fruits are offered to the LORD in His house, they are given to the priests and Levites for their sustenance (Num 18:1313The first ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to the LORD, shall be yours; everyone of your household who is clean may eat it.; Deu 26:1-111“Then it shall be, when you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it and live in it,2that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground which you bring in from your land that the LORD your God gives you, and you shall put [it] in a basket and go to the place where the LORD your God chooses to establish His name.3You shall go to the priest who is in office at that time and say to him, ‘I declare this day to the LORD my God that I have entered the land which the LORD swore to our fathers to give us.’4Then the priest shall take the basket from your hand and set it down before the altar of the LORD your God.5You shall answer and say before the LORD your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number; but there he became a great, mighty and populous nation.6And the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, and imposed hard labor on us.7Then we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our affliction and our toil and our oppression;8and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with great terror and with signs and wonders;9and He has brought us to this place and has given us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey.10Now behold, I have brought the first of the produce of the ground which You, O LORD have given me.’ And you shall set it down before the LORD your God, and worship before the LORD your God;11and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.). Thus the LORD deals with all that He gives us. If we give it to Him, He gives it back to us as food to perform our priestly service and to be able to perform our task as Levites (our gift).

After the first proceeds of the land, the first-born are brought to the priests in the house of God (Exo 13:11-1511“Now when the LORD brings you to the land of the Canaanite, as He swore to you and to your fathers, and gives it to you,12you shall devote to the LORD the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the LORD.13But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb, but if you do not redeem [it], then you shall break its neck; and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.14And it shall be when your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is this?’ then you shall say to him, ‘With a powerful hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.15It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.’). These are both the first-born of the people and the first-born of the cattle. They are brought to the priest. Priests bring offerings. That is why we see here in the picture that new life is consecrated and sacrificed to God. He is the Giver of new life and is entitled to it. Whoever has learned the mercies of God and thereby received new life, will want to make his body available to God “for a living and holy sacrifice” (Rom 12:11Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.).

Further sacrifices are brought. These sacrifices are brought to the priests, not so that they may sacrifice them or that they may serve for their sustenance, but to bring them into the rooms of God’s house. This emphasizes the enduring nature of these sacrifices before God. They are constantly in God’s presence, before His attention. Then the tithes are brought to support the Levites. If God gets His share, there will also be care for His servants.


The Tithes for the House of God

38The priest, the son of Aaron, shall be with the Levites when the Levites receive tithes, and the Levites shall bring up the tenth of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers of the storehouse. 39For the sons of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of the grain, the new wine and the oil to the chambers; there are the utensils of the sanctuary, the priests who are ministering, the gatekeepers and the singers. Thus we will not neglect the house of our God.

The charging of the tithes by the Levites is done under the supervision of a priest. What is to be given for the maintenance of God’s servants is to be given in a priestly manner. What is offered spiritually to God and what is given materially to His servants are both called “sacrifices” (Heb 13:15-1615Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.16And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.).

The Levites, in turn, will give the tenth of the tithes they have received. The tithes of the Levites are taken to the chambers of the storehouse in God’s house. There it lies in God’s presence. He watches over it and disposes of it. At the right time He will give it to those who need it. Everything we entrust to the Lord is managed in the best possible way. There is no thought of speculation. Whoever invests in faith in the house of God gets the highest return.

He who does not abandon the house of God to its fate (cf. Hag 1:4-94“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house [lies] desolate?”5Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!6You have sown much, but harvest little; [you] eat, but [there is] not [enough] to be satisfied; [you] drink, but [there is] not [enough] to become drunk; [you] put on clothing, but no one is warm [enough]; and he who earns, earns wages [to put] into a purse with holes.”7Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Consider your ways!8Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the LORD.9“[You] look for much, but behold, [it comes] to little; when you bring [it] home, I blow it [away]. Why?” declares the LORD of hosts, “Because of My house which [lies] desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.) will give. In spite of the heavy taxation by the king of Persia (Neh 5:44Also there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax [on] our fields and our vineyards.), Nehemiah reminds us that the LORD is entitled to the first fruits. We must “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:2121They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He *said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”). Faithfulness in giving is a great part of a revival. In addition to faithfulness in giving, there will also be faithfulness in attending the meetings of the church. Also in that respect the care for the house of God becomes visible.

Wherever the love of Christ reigns, there will be love for the house of God. In spite of the fact that the glory that descended upon it in the days of Solomon is no longer there, the heart of the people goes out to that house, because it is the house of God. This also applies to us who are being built up “into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:2222in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.). The Spirit is the Spirit of truth Who will always be with us and in us (Jn 16:16-1716“A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”17[Some] of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?”).

The concern for the house of God summarizes all previous commitments. Under the guidance of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people have been led to give priority to spiritual things and thereby also to provide the restored temple with what is needed for the service. The main elements are grain ( a picture of Christ), new wine (represents joy, fellowship) and oil (a picture of the Holy Spirit).

The people of God conclude their agreement with the impressive wish: “We will not neglect the house of our God”. Is that also our desire in view of what is now the house of our God: “The church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth” (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.)?


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