And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work…
Nehemiah must have been shocked indeed to find on his return to Jerusalem (ver. 7) what a sad relapse had taken place during his absence from the city. Most painful of all must it have been to him to find that the service of Jehovah in his own house had been so scandalously neglected. He found not only that chambers of the temple were in the occupation of the enemy of the people of God (ver. 7), but that, the Levites being scattered abroad, because their portion had been withheld (ver. 10), the house of God was forsaken (ver 11). We gather from the whole incident recorded in vers. 10-14 -
I. THAT MATERIAL SUPPLIES AND SPIRITUAL PROSPERITY ARE IMPORTANTLY CONNECTED (ver. 10). "The portions of the Levites had not been given them," and, consequently, they had "fled every one to his field" (ver. 10). It may be open to question whether these Levites - singers and other officials - had shown as much disinterestedness and devotion as could have been wished. It might be argued that as servants of God they might have stood at their posts and starved rather than desert the field of sacred duty. Perhaps if they had been some degrees more heroic than they were they would have risked and suffered all privations rather than forsake their work. But however this may have been, it is certain that the people had no right whatever to reckon on such heroism; they ought to have acted on the supposition that these were men of average piety, and that men of ordinary goodness will not continue to serve if they are not sustained in their service. The human nature which there is in every good man - and which will certainly be shown in every class and order of good men - is a factor which must not be disregarded. It is a feature that must be taken into account; a want that must be provided for. If it be left out of account, then, whatever the system or society may be, there will be found, as here, negligence, desertion, duty undone, God's house forsaken, a fleeing from the temple to the field. Material resources have their place in the prosperity of the best of causes.
II. THAT GOOD MEN AS WELL AS GOOD METHODS ARE NECESSARY FOR LASTING SUCCESS. Judging from the four concluding verses of the preceding chapter (Nehemiah 12:44-47), we gather that a very satisfactory system for receiving and storing the offerings, and also for distributing them, had been devised and brought into action. Yet, in Nehemiah's absence, it failed to effect its purpose. When he returned and witnessed the failure, he immediately
(1) set to work to reorganise: he "set in their place" (ver. 11) the Levites, who, at his instance, returned to Jerusalem, and he "made treasurers over the treasuries "(ver. 12); but besides this, he
(2) appointed "faithful men" (ver. 12), on whom reliance could be placed, to do the work they undertook, infusing his own spirit into all the officers. He impressed on them all his own fervent and faithful genius. How long things went well we know not, but Nehemiah did the best he could do to provide for permanent prosperity: he associated good men with a good method. We should trust neither to one nor to the other. Again and again organisations have broken clown in the Church (whether tithe-taking, money-getting institutions, or others) because, though the machinery was excellent, there was no steam to work the wheels; again and again there has been an excellent spirit, but all has failed for want of a wise method. We must
(a) use our best judgment to perfect our system, and
(b) pray for, and look out for, the wise and earnest-minded men to work it.
III. THAT INDIVIDUAL FIDELITY WILL SURELY MEET WITH ITS APPROPRIATE RECOMPENSE (vers. 13, 14).
1. Usually from man. "I made treasurers... Shelemiah," etc. ... "for they were counted faithful." Integrity, diligence, conscientiousness will generally be seen of man and receive its reward. It may indeed pass unnoticed, but as a rule it is recognised and rewarded. Be faithful, and you will be "counted faithful."
2. Certainly from God. "Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and wipe not out my good deeds," etc. (ver. 14). There are many motives, all good, but some higher than others, which should prompt us to diligent and faithful labour for our Lord and our race. We may work in the vineyard of the Great Husbandman because
(1) be calls us, and it is our bounden duty to respond; or because
(2) our zeal is called forth by the apparent and urgent necessity for our help; or because
(3) we delight in holy activity, and are never so happy as when the weapon of usefulness is in our hand; or we may do so because
(4) we have "respect unto the recompense of the our God for good;" we would that he should "not wipe out our good deeds" (ver. 14), but record them in his "book of remembrance;" and, not being "unrighteous to forget our work and labor of love" (Hebrews 6:10), reward every one according to his work. The truest humility (Luke 17:10) may characterise the same disciple that has the most earnest aspiration to receive his Master's commendation, and to have rule given him over many things." We may turn this prayer into a prediction. God will remember us, and will suffer nothing to blot out our pure endeavours from his book. We shall surely meet them again. Our "works follow us," and will find us in his presence. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them: for the Levites and the singers, that did the work, were fled every one to his field.