Read His Words Before Ours!
In the first eight years of our marriage, my husband and I moved five times. Our moves were always long-distance, always for a different reason, and always into a drastically changed environment.
Once, we lived and worked in an inn. Another time, we lived with family. We spent a year in a stereotypical apartment complex without neighborly sentiment. Three years passed in a house in a mostly senior neighborhood. Now, we live in a townhouse and count the neighbors with whom we share our walls as friends.
Every place we’ve lived, God has been faithful to us, often by providing unexpected relationships. But transplanting is still hard, and often, finding new fellowship takes time.
In Nehemiah 11, many people faced the challenge of being transplanted. Some had returned to Israel from exile in Babylon, already uprooting their lives from a big city to resettle in a land ravaged by years of war and neglect. Others had been left behind in Israel during the exile, pouring themselves into maintaining life in an exposed, broken place.
With Jerusalem’s temple and wall rebuilt,
it was time for her citizens to move in and embody
what those physical structures represented.
Some families needed to relocate within the walls to fulfill God’s call to be God’s people, in God’s city, living God’s way, praising Him night and day together.
Of all the catalysts motivating my husband and I to move, never once was it because someone cast a lot. For the people in Nehemiah 11, however, it was exactly this. The ancient practice of casting lots in most cultures was somewhat akin to flipping a coin to make a decision. The idea was to make an impartial, unbiased decision about who would have to transplant to form this community. The unspoken emphasis in a biblical context was the heart motivation to surrender decisions to the Lord.
Can you imagine having the location of your home decided for you by mere chance? This is the place you’d return every day after work, make your own, and maybe even raise your family. You’d have no say over the neighborhood, your neighbors, or how far you were from the marketplace.
For Israel, casting lots wasn’t a game of chance, left to “fate”.
Rather, being selected to transplant was viewed as a decision from the Lord.
God had formed Israel as a people.
God had provided the Promised Land,
brought them out of it as punishment for longstanding sin,
and preserved a remnant for Himself.
These Israelites were that remnant.
Although being transplanted wasn’t easy and not many volunteered for it, it was actually quite an honor to be part of the new community forming in Jerusalem. Being a resident there meant having a front-row seat to watching God’s promises being kept and participating in the work and worship He’d called Israel to participate in long ago.
Israel’s leadership, including Nehemiah, fundamentally recognized that bringing residents home to Jerusalem absolutely must be accomplished God’s way.
While casting lots may have appeared to be the “deciding factor”
in choosing which families were transplanted,
but God was sovereign over each “flip” of the proverbial “coin”.
A variety of people may have been selected, but they were purposefully picked from each of the tribes God preserved: Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites.
These new residents of Jerusalem were also called to perform specific tasks in specific ways. They were assigned jobs according to their heritage. For instance, “Mattaniah—he and his relatives were in charge of the songs of praise.” (Nehemiah 12:8) This was in line with God’s previous design for Jerusalem and Israel, outlined several times in the Old Testament, such as 1 Chronicles 23:24-32, where the duties of the Levites are described.
In the long list of names found in Nehemiah 11-12:26, we discover a group of individuals willing to trust God and surrender their plans or preferences in order to relocate, take on particular jobs, and participate in a community organized around worship. Theirs is an example of what we’re all challenged to do in James 4:15 as followers of Jesus, “You should say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.‘”
We see modern examples of this in missionaries and church planters who are willing to relocate to fulfill God’s calling. Any Christ-follower who chooses to actively trust God and honor Him wherever they live demonstrates this willing, humble, active obedience, even when unexpected circumstances lead them to move, or limit their choices of neighborhood.
If you’ve transplanted recently, or you know someone who has, be encouraged. It is hard, but you’re not where you are, or engaged in the work you are, by mere chance!
God has placed you for a purpose.
Don’t miss Friday’s Journey Study to see how God is working
to build a new community through us!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!