Text: Nehemiah 11:1-12:26, Philippians 2:21, Romans 12:1
At first glance, the exhaustive list of names in chapters 11 and 12 makes for a rather dry read. But pull up a chair, dig in a bit more, and see that in between these listings is the story of great importance to Jerusalem.
You would think as Jerusalem was being finished that people fought over who would live within the walls of the great city they’d built. It would seem obvious that living there would be a privilege. Instead we see that lots were cast over who had to go, and that the people who did volunteer were commended (Nehemiah 11:1-2).
Why is this? First, Israelites were a hated people. Anyone living within the walls could probably expect to be attacked and live on edge. Also, because it was a holy city and contained the temple, the inhabitants would need to follow God’s commandments closely and be examples.
Simply put, living within Jerusalem was more of a bother than a gift to most.
“For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”
(Philippians 2:21, ESV)
As I read through these chapters, my heart is struck by how often in my life I am the Israelite unwilling to live in God’s city. I’d rather be outside the walls, no burdens of how to act or expectations to sacrifice comfort. Yet, what God wants from us isn’t a begrudging acceptance of “lot casting.” He wants our hearts, our ability to look at the unknown (and often terrifying) and still say, “Yes Lord. Not my will, but yours.”
Our Lord wants us to accept making our lives a living sacrifice for His kingdom because He knows that what lies ahead for us in eternity is better than anything here on earth.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
(Romans 12:1, ESV)
We can be lot casters. We can enter into His holy city kicking and screaming, pouting for years and wondering, “Why me?” But we can also choose to go willingly, to be the volunteers that love the Lord so much we’d sacrifice the earthly “good” life for the glory of God.
Lord, make our lives a (willing) living sacrifice for your greater purpose. Amen.