Be WILLING to SACRIFICE for the SAKE of GOD’s KINGDOM: "Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem." (Neh. 11:1-2)
The above account returns to Nehemiah’s central leadership role and the re-population program that he undertook for Jerusalem shortly after rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The fact of the matter was that Nehemiah became concerned about the sparse population in Jerusalem since only the leaders of the people were living there (v. 1). With the city walls rebuilt, it now had to be settled for defense purposes. There should have been more people living in Jerusalem to defend the city in case of an attack from outside, but many Jews had taken up residence in the countryside due to fear of such an attack upon Jerusalem. This was not a new problem, and Nehemiah had already desired to expand the population of Jerusalem earlier (see 7:4–5).
In order to revitalize the sparse population of Jerusalem, Nehemiah came up with a novel solution. He required ten percent of the people to move from their villages into the city of Jerusalem. In fact, the districts surrounding Jerusalem were tithing their population for the purpose of community redevelopment. For the good of the whole community, Nehemiah required some people to sacrifice willingly. The process involved in recruiting people for the re-population program involved casting lots to determine who would relocate (see Josh. 18:8–10). Those who were selected through lots and those families who volunteered were “blessed” to be relocated by their neighbors and friends (v. 2), which suggest a formal commissioning of these families to carry out the redevelopment of Jerusalem.
We should note that Nehemiah cast lots to repopulate Jerusalem. Here the casting of lots was to determine God’s will. Solomon wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). Beyond those who were chosen by lot to dwell at Jerusalem, some people volunteered to dwell in the city. The list of people who relocated to the city of Jerusalem included heads of the province (nobles, vv. 3–9), priests (vv. 10–14), Levites (vv. 15–18), and temple guards (v. 19). This was truly an act of sacrifice on the part of this select group of people and was also a step of faith on their part!
In the Old Testament, Abraham stands as a towering example of a person who had to sacrificially leave his father’s home and family in order to obey God’s call and venture out into the unknown (see Gen. 12:1-4). His example was followed by Moses who also left the comforts of Pharaoh’s palace and choose to suffer affliction with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:24-26). In the New Testament, Apostle Paul chose to leave his elite position in order to suffer for the sake of Christ (see 2 Cor. 1:3-11). However, the greatest example is that of our Lord Jesus Christ who left His heavenly abode and came down to this earth in order to live among us, suffer and die the lowly death on the cross (see Phil. 2:5-8).
The act of sacrifice of this diverse population group during Nehemiah’s time and the four excellent examples mentioned above speak to us that we should also be willing to sacrifice for the sake of God’s kingdom. It is one thing to attend a worship service, sing praises to God, and hear the Bible read and explained, and quite something else to commit ourselves to obey the will of God, and be willing to sacrifice our comforts in order to obey God and for the sake of His kingdom. Today, let us offer our bodies as a living sacrifice to God that He will transform us to do His perfect will in our lives!