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"The Covenant Confirmed"

(Nehemiah 11 to 13).

In chapter 6.15 we read that the wall was completed, the last stone had been put in its place, and Jerusalem was again a walled city, having a within and a without.

Now we read that " at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites out of all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem, to keep the dedication with gladness, both with thanksgivings, and with singing," ... and the priests" offered great sacrifices that day, and rejoiced; for God had made them rejoice with great joy; and the women also and the children rejoiced: so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off" (12.27, 48).

The work had been hard and dangerous; the enemies many and strong; but His remnant people that had come back to rebuild on the old foundations of Zion had proved again this precious truth, that, "if God is for us, who is against us? " (Romans 8.31).

Theirs was a great joy that day, the joy of a people who had worked for God and His house with divinely-given strength and blessing.

No wonder then that "the joy of Jerusalem was heard even afar off."

Away in the far off land of their captivity, amidst splendours and allurements, idolatry and sin, they had preferred Jerusalem above their chief joy, even though it was a ruined and deserted Jerusalem.

Now their cup of joy was full and running over as they stood within the city, with the wall of separation completed around them, and the service of God's house set in order again.

As then, so today! There is a present-day remnant of the people of God, who, at great cost, have rebuilt the wall of separation from the sects and systems of men: and "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the Chief Corner Stone; in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2.20-21).

And theirs also is a great joy, to be associated with the house of God today.

We wonder if all who read these pages know this joy?

It may be the reader knows only the joy of salvation, and this is a deep joy indeed. But there is also the joy of approach to God in worship as a holy priesthood, the happiness of the man whom He chooses, and causes to approach unto Him, that he may dwell in His courts (Psalm 65.4).

And this approach can only be known collectively by the people of God in the house of God.

The apostle John, when he wrote "Greater joy have I none than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth," expressed what was true also of God in regard to His own children (3 John 4).

In our contemplation of the great work of Nehemiah and the people of God to re-establish the Law and the Place of the Testimony we come now to the fundamental necessity of walking in the truth. We mean walking habitually in it. It must always be that precept and practice are blended together.

Here in Nehemiah's day, the restoration of the temple was not enough; the reading of the law to the people was not enough. The temple arrangements and the people's lives must correspond to what had been read in the Law-the covenant that had been sealed, as we read in chapter 10. In the sealing of that covenant they had solemnly bound themselves to certain things. "And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites ... they clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and into an oath, to walk in God's law

and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His judgements and His statutes; and that we would not give our daughters unto the peoples of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons; and that we would not buy of them on the sabbath . Also we made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God" (10.28-32).

Alas! Alas! their solemn obligations were soon forgotten; and their condition did not long keep in line with their divine position. Many had actually married the sons or daughters of the peoples of the land and the sabbath day was being profaned by merchandising. To their great shame, not only was the upkeep of the House of God being neglected, but also a great chamber in the courts of the House was taken from its sacred use and given to an Ammonite, accursed by the Law. What a state of affairs amongst the people of God! What defilement! These things had to be put right and in chapter 13 we read again of that great man Nehemiah, burning with zeal for the House of God, cleansing away that which would defile it. Tobiah the Aminonite was put out: the sabbath was sanctified, and the evil of wrongful marriage was stopped. God's people must be clean!

This is a great lesson for us today. God has said: "Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate ... and touch no unclean thing; and I will receive you."

"Having therefore these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 6.17; 7.1).