We read in Revelation that nothing will defy the city of God, the new Jerusalem; there will be no lies, no false pretences. ‘But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.’ (Revelation 21:27).
Immigration is a hot topic in our news today. Immigrants come into the country – someone from a Libyan family bombed Manchester. People ask how terrorists of Italian-Morrocan descent were allowed into the country. Questions are asked – who should be and belong in this nation? Emotions arise. There is an undercurrent.
Try and imagine what it must have been like for Nehemiah. The people had come back from Babylon, married and inter-married. As Jerusalem was being rebuilt, who should belong to the city? In chapters 1-6 Nehemiah describes the work of building the walls of Jerusalem. Next he deals with ones who have a rightful place in the city.
If there is one thing we desire, we want God’s house to be filled. However, before this happens, positions need to be filled before God will fill His house.
In Nehemiah 7:1-3 we read that Nehemiah appointed the gatekeepers, singers and the Levites, ‘Now when the wall had been built and I had set up the doors, and the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, I gave my brother Hanani and Hananiah the governor of the castle charge over Jerusalem, for he was a more faithful and God-fearing man than many. And I said to them, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot. And while they are still standing guard, let them shut and bar the doors. Appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, some at their guard posts and some in front of their own homes.”’ (Nehemiah 7:1-3). The book tells us of what God has done. God put into the heart of the Nehemiah to make a register of the people. Nehemiah appoints gatekeepers, singers and faithful leaders. It’s a truth of scripture – before you see God fill a place, things needs to be done in order, put in place. Positions need to be filled. God will never fill a place unless He knows the place will be a place of safety and security. God wants you to have safety and security in your life.
God took faithful people, people who can be relied upon. When Nehemiah comes he appoints faithful men who had the fear of God – not fear as in being scared, but a reverence. The gates needed to be shut, things needed to be guarded. When God calls His lost sheep home, when attacks come, the door needs to be shut. God will not save people into a fellowship where there will be falseness of practice. God will not add to a church until things are in place.
Who are the people who are to be in this city?
‘The city was wide and large, but the people within it were few, and no houses had been rebuilt. Then my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy. And I found the book of the genealogy of those who came up at the first’ (Nehemiah 7:4-5). The city is large and spacious. There is room. So few enter there. Perhaps we feel that in our country, as Christians, we are few? Places of worship are not bursting at the seams. There is room for people to come and know. There is room with God for all people, no matter what you’ve done. It’s a fantastic, wonderful truth. ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms.’ (John 14:2). With God, there’s room! You may have no room for God; you may be taken up by the concerns of this world, but there’s plenty of room with God.
Who is in this city?
Those who enter this city need to be registered. God put it into the heart of Nehemiah to register people. If your name wasn’t in this book you would be in trouble. You have to be registered in God’s book. You have to be registered as part of the family of God, born in that heavenly city. Psalm 87 speaks of the glorious city of Zion. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself said to His disciples, ‘Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’ (Luke 10:20). One day the great book will be opened and your name needs to be there. In the book of life is each and every one who has been born of the Spirit, born in heaven.
People filled the city. Lots were cast. ‘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 Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns.’ (Nehemiah 11:1) Casting lots. It’s a way to fill a church! When they had to have a new apostle, they cast lots. ‘And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven disciples.’ (Acts 1:26).
‘For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (2 Peter 1:11). God has chosen, out of His loving heart, a chosen people. It’s His house, His home. You have been born from above to enter.
When we look at the culture of the city Nehemiah speaks of, there is a wonderful picture of people giving to the work, ‘Now some of the heads of fathers’ houses gave to the work.’ (Nehemiah 7:70). The city was filled with activity. The people who came knew the love of God and were filled with great ingenuity and work. It was buzzing. We need to work. We are a people of God. ‘Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.’ (Matthew 6:10). Come to this wonderful city, full of giving, full of safety. The chapter begins and ends with the Levites, the gatekeepers and singers. The priests and the Levites – if it doesn’t go right here, it won’t go right in the community. We have a great responsibility. If you’re a follower of Christ, the enemy can’t come in. It’s a place full of song, full of singing, a city of service and security. There is plenty of room! Make your way to the heavenly city, to the glorious Jerusalem.