Neh. 11:1 ¶ Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem; and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in the holy city Jerusalem, while nine-tenths remained in the other towns.
Neh. 11:2 And the people blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.
The walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt on the old foundations. The city was large but mostly unpopulated and now an invitation was made for citizens to come and fill the city. Not enough people responded to the challenge to come to the city. It was much more pleasant to live outside the walls of the city; a person had more freedom. If one were to live in Jerusalem there would be a higher expectation of living the spiritual life -- the place of worship was there within the walls. The trade routes didn't go through the city of Jerusalem and it made it much more difficult to make a good living. The houses within Jerusalem had been destroyed, rundown or neglected. Who would want to live there? No wonder there wasn't much of a response.
Nehemiah challenged the people to provide a tithe of the people themselves to be given as an offering to live in the city. Therefore lots were cast and one tenth of the people living in other towns were sent to Jerusalem to populate the city. Knowing that this was a great sacrifice to those individuals they were blessed by the other people.
Just imagine that Jerusalem looked a bit like downtown Detroit these days. This was no prize to be invited back into the city -- and yet it was a mission to which God was calling his people.
|Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel photo by Marchand & Mefree|
|United Artists Theater photo by Marchand & Mefree|
|Abandoned Packard Plant|
What if God were calling his people back into cities like Detroit these days? Would we be willing to go? Many of our cities around the world are becoming more and more crowded with humanity -- a humanity in desperate need of Jesus Christ. What better way to bring the light of Christ into the communities than bringing in people who are willing to be a tithe -- an offering -- so that they can be a reflection of Jesus Christ to that part of the world.
St. Basil the Great in the 4th century moved his monasteries to the cities for this very reason. He determined that it was not good for the religious people to live outside the cities in isolation from those who needed the touch of Jesus the most. He wanted the people to experience the touch of Jesus on their lives and therefore he moved his ministry to the cities and lived there among the people -- ministering to their daily needs. He opened the first soup kitchens in history during a time of terrible famine. His influence continues to be felt to this day as he believed that he and his monks were to be icons of Jesus Christ living in the city.
What if God were calling an entire new generation of individuals to be a tithe to the cities of the world? Could it be that we have come to believe that serving God should not require such sacrifice? Maybe we're a bit like the people of Nehemiah's day -- we want to have the comforts of where we currently live. We want to have the good business opportunities of the suburbs. And then -- if we chose to live this lifestyle people might expect a level of spirituality from us that we really don't want to live!
In that day they referred to this as the New Jerusalem. Today we are awaiting another New Jerusalem -- but there is a cost involved in living in that city as well. To live in the New Jerusalem requires a real commitment on our part. It requires leaving the things of this world that may seem precious to us and giving all in service to God. It requires giving up the "success" of the world -- for the "success" of the kingdom. It means that we have a kingdom mentality -- rather than a concern for individual prosperity. The people who moved to Jerusalem moved there as their commitment to the kingdom. We must be willing to move to the place where God desires for the good of the kingdom as well. It may be a physical move to the city -- or anyplace else he desires -- or it may be a move away from personal independence and into sacrificial service for the kingdom. Either way -- would you be willing to live in the city?
Lord, please help me to be willing to serve you in any place and/or way you desire. Amen.