11 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. 2 The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
3 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, 4 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; 5 and Maaseiah son of Baruch, the son of Kol-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, a descendant of Shelah. 6 The descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem totaled 468 men of standing.
7 From the descendants of Benjamin:
Sallu son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah,8 and his followers, Gabbai and Sallai—928 men. 9 Joel son of Zikri was their chief officer, and Judah son of Hassenuah was over the New Quarter of the city.
10 From the priests:
Jedaiah; the son of Joiarib; Jakin; 11 Seraiah son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub,the official in charge of the house of God, 12 and their associates, who carried on work for the temple—822 men; Adaiah son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malkijah, 13 and his associates, who were heads of families—242 men; Amashsai son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14 and his associates, who were men of standing—128. Their chief officer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.
15 From the Levites:
Shemaiah son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16 Shabbethai and Jozabad, two of the heads of the Levites, who had charge of the outside work of the house of God;17 Mattaniah son of Mika, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the director who led in thanksgiving and prayer; Bakbukiah, second among his associates; and Abda son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18 The Levites in the holy city totaled 284.
19 The gatekeepers:
Akkub, Talmon and their associates, who kept watch at the gates—172 men.
20 The rest of the Israelites, with the priests and Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, each on their ancestral property.
21 The temple servants lived on the hill of Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them.
22 The chief officer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Uzzi was one of Asaph’s descendants, who were the musicians responsible for the service of the house of God. 23 The musicians were under the king’s orders, which regulated their daily activity.
24 Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, one of the descendants of Zerah son of Judah, was the king’s agent in all affairs relating to the people.
25 As for the villages with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath Arba and its surrounding settlements, in Dibon and its settlements, in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 in Jeshua, in Moladah, in Beth Pelet, 27 in Hazar Shual, in Beersheba and its settlements, 28 in Ziklag, in Mekonah and its settlements, 29 in En Rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam and their villages, in Lachish and its fields, and in Azekah and its settlements. So they were living all the way from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom.
31 The descendants of the Benjamites from Geba lived in Mikmash, Aija, Bethel and its settlements, 32 in Anathoth, Nob and Ananiah, 33 in Hazor,Ramah and Gittaim, 34 in Hadid, Zeboim and Neballat, 35 in Lod and Ono, and in Ge Harashim.
36 Some of the divisions of the Levites of Judah settled in Benjamin.
(Nehemiah 11:1-36 NIV)
The Jewish people held a national day of revival, with fasting, Scripture reading, confession of sin, and prayer. The leaders also wrote and signed a document outlining a list of things they promised to do in obedience to God’s Word. These promises were not to appease God or earn salvation or other right standing before the Lord. Rather, these promises were to show their humble appreciation for all that God had done for them.
In today’s text, we see the Jewish people living out their faith. Remember Nehemiah 7:4, where Nehemiah commented, “Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt.“? Today’s text addresses that issue.
Verse 1 outlines the plan to repopulate Jerusalem. One in ten families were to move to Jerusalem from their surrounding towns and villages. How did they determine who stayed and who moved? They put the decision in the Lord’s hands by “casting lots”. The process was simple: they would pray, then flip a coin, draw straws, roll dice, pull numbers out of a hat, etc. Solomon wisely acknowledged many centuries before that “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:33 NIV).
Once the selection process was complete, the nine-tenths of the people in the communities then gathered around the one-tenth who volunteered to move and prayed over them and blessed them (v. 2).
The rest of the chapter is a list of the families who moved:
- The tribes of Judah and Benjamin (vv. 4b-9)
- The priests (vv. 10-14)
- The Levites (vv. 15-18)
- Others (vv. 19-36)
This was not an easy move for any of the families involved. Jerusalem was still a dangerous place, even with the walls and gates rebuilt. There was still a tremendous hatred of the city and the Jewish people from the surrounding regions. This move would be akin to moving into an inner city environment where the buildings were run down or non-existent, and threats of violence were all around.
This was also a move away from family, starting over by finding new friends, rebuilding a house, etc. There were no financial incentives for this move, just obedience to the Lord.
What are we willing to do in our adventure with God?
First of all, are we even willing to consider what the Lord might do in and through us, or do we pull our name out of consideration altogether?
If we are willing to see where God will move in and through us, what might that look like? What might that adventure manifest into?
God works uniquely and individually in each person’s life; here are a few examples of what God has done in the lives of others:
- Learning a new skill or relational attribute to minister to a family member
- Making a new friend that the Lord brought into their life
- Stepping into a new role in their church, to build or rebuild) a ministry or role
- Moving to a new community to plant a new church, not as a pastor or church staff, but as a member
- Moving to a new place as a missionary
Change is no fun – it’s messy, hard, painful, and it forces us to confront our illusion of control over our lives. Change forces us to depend on the Lord instead of ourselves.
But with change comes growth in the Lord and in relationships with others.
May we not fear the change, but rather, embrace the adventure that awaits as we love the Lord and love others that cross our paths.