Who They Are – The Jews

In Nehemiah 6 the wall is finished. The labor of a building project can be immense and burdensome. I have built buildings and had to repair old ones. Too often after the work is finished there is a lull or better yet a “downtime.” This makes sense for depending on the project the building efforts can be very taxing and affective to the congregation and people involved. There is a great sense of accomplishment, but many times people are just glad to get done with all the dirt and dust of building. One of the aspects that often gets overlooked after a major building project is why they built it in the first place. Sometimes it can be because the old building was in need of attention because of lack of attention over the years. Other times the building project was to facilitate new ministry. The goal always has to be kept in front of people, lest they forget why the endeavor was important to take on in the first place. CAUTION: a lull in physical activity can result in a lull of spiritual progress as well. With a sense of accomplishment, there can be an attitude creep in that says “Take it easy for a while – you deserve it.” The caution is our adversary would like us to put our guard down, and adopt a “period of comfort” and take it easy. There is still working to be done, in our spiritual and physical lives. In Nehemiah chapter 7 we find that there was significant work that needed to be done. The question now with the Temple/altar of worship restored and the walls rebuilt for a physical sense of security. The question for the returning exiles is “who are they?” We must remember that there are only two tribes of Israel remaining, the larger tribe Judah and the much smaller Benjamin. The Lost ten tribes of Israel are no more. When the exiles return from 70 years of captivity, they are identified as “Jews.” Not Israel, for Israel is the greater name of all the people, and carries with it a nation/state connotation. Like in 1948 as a result of the Belfour Agreement, that established Israel as a nation/state.

It was time for the people to figure out who was who of the returning exiles. Obviously there are the priest, Levites, singers  and gatekeepers, but what about the rest of the people? Who are they and do they have legitimate right to the Homeland? A great census was done. There were some that were excluded for “Unclean” purposes and not allowed to live inside the walls. The point of building the wall and the Temple is to become the people of God/Yahweh again. This means more than being a blood Jew for inheritance of the Land, for Us it is being a Jew for our heart is one with God. {See Romans 4}

Being the people of God means we worship and observe the Law. Ezra reads from the Law in chapter 8. We find that he uses a wooden podium, what we would call a pulpit. The people stood when the Word was read. This is a practice that I observed when I pastored churches. Today though it seems people stand for singing and sit for the Word. I have never quite figured that one out. In chapter 8, both the Governor [Nehemiah] and the Priest [Ezra] come together to honor and worship. The festivals are restored, the one mentioned in the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles [usually observed in October]; I observed this festival when I went to Israel in 1993. Interesting is the verse 8:17, it says Israel hadn’t observed the festivals since the days of Joshua; that’s a long time to just forget the “why of worship.”

As reading of the Word normally results in, the people began to make confession. Not only for their own sins, but for the sins of their fathers. The 9th chapter of Nehemiah is a history lesson of how God had literally taken care of Israel from Birth until then. The failure of Israel from the time they left Egypt until they were taken into captivity is addressed. Confession results in REPENTENCE and repentance results in COMMITMENT. The people meant business. They took an oath together and made a COVENANT with each other and Yahweh.

Finally, the Jews were getting to the point of “returning” to the Promised Land. The returning exiles meant business. I think for the first time Israel actually felt that they could lose everything. The Return began a great project of “transcribing the Law and the Prophets.” The capturing of the Word of God became an obsession for the scribes and priests. The LAW dominated life; and as we understand set the condition of the Pharisees and Sadducees in the New Testament, but that is another story.

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Filed under 2018 Poetry

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