"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. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem." - Nehemiah 11:1-2
The Jews had returned to the land of Judah, and the temple and walls of Jerusalem had been rebuilt. Now it was time for a greater number of people to begin living in Jerusalem again. But there was a reluctance of many to do that. Arable land in the city was probably scarce, and most of the people reasonably preferred to remain on their own inherited farmland scattered around the hills and plains of Judah and Benjamin. They had to cast lots to determine who would be required to live in the city. But there were some who volunteered to live there. This was probably at great cost to themselves and their families. But they did it for the good of the people as a whole and because it was necessary for the nation's wellbeing. Some had to live in Jerusalem, and they volunteered. The others recognised their selfless sacrifice by blessing them. God was very likely pleased with those who made this sacrifice. Their actions remind me of the U.S. Air Force core value, "Service before self."
Two life lessons come to mind: (1) we need to be prepared to make personal sacrifices as individuals and families for the good of the Church and the gospel, including sacrifices of our money, time, and convenience; and (2) we need to publicly recognise and bless those who make such sacrifices, knowing God is pleased with such sacrifices. A church planter choosing to live among the poor as he plants a church is a good example of this principle.
Father, in faith we are to make sacrifices of our convenience for the sake of the gospel and our people, the Church. Show me how I can put our local church above my own convenience. One project that comes to mind is our church's health and safety plan, which no one really wants to touch, including myself. But I feel you want me to be the one to complete that necessary project for our church. This is a way I can choose to "live in Jerusalem." So, Father, give me the discipline and self-sacrifice to get it done, by your grace. In Jesus' name, amen.
- Jeff Coleman