The Signs of the Times, vol. 28- Contents
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May 28, 1902
“Restoration from Babylon. The Wall Finished, and the Full Temple Service Restored” The Signs of the Times 28, 22, pp. 3, 4.
AT last the wall of Jerusalem was finished. So diligently had the work been pursued, that the wall was finished in fifty-two days from the day that Nehemiah began the work. However, the gates were not yet set up. But even tho the wall was finished, the “troublous times” did not cease; for says Nehemiah:—SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.1
“When Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and the rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; ... Sanballat and Geshem sent unto me, saying, Come, let us meet together in some on of the villages in the plan of Ono.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.2
This was a part of a plan of theirs and of the master adversary, to get Nehemiah into their power, and to slay him, and then cause to cease the work of building the city. But Nehemiah knew that the work in which he was engaged was one in which those men could have no part nor lot, nor any true interest, and to the extent of a parley; therefore he “sent messengers unto then, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I can not come down; why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.3
Yet they were so persistent that they sent to Nehemiah “four times after this sort,” and every time he “answered them after the same manner.” And even yet they did not cease. In encouragements to the people in the work of that restoration of the city and people of God, Nehemiah, with his faithful fellow laborers, constantly cited the promises of God that the Messiah, the Son of David, the official King of Judah, would come. He assured them that the work which was then being done, and the time upon which they were engaged, would end only in the coming of the Messiah, the rightful King. Rumors of this constantly reached the adversaries, the Samaritans. Their dull minds could frame only the conception of an earthly king; only Nehemiah himself could be such king; this could mean only rebellion as soon as the city should be finished, therefore Nehemiah could be working so diligently only for his own aggrandizement.SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.4
“It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words. And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.6
The Worst Trouble of All.
Nehemiah answered truly, “There are no such things done as thou sayest, but thou feignest them out of thine own heart.” And of them he says, “For they all made us afraid, saying, Their hands shall be weakened from the work, that it be not done.” And against all he appealed to God, “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.7
Yet the worst feature of the situation was not the scheming of Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem; it was the traitorous fellowship; of Jews in Jerusalem who in heart were united with Sanballat, and Tobiah, amnd Geshem, and constantly played into their hands and aided their schemes. When the trick of Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem to get Nehemiah into their power, outside the city, had failed, these false brethren attempted to make that scheme effective inside the city. So as Nehemiah came one day to the house of Shemaiah, the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up, Shemaiah said to him, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple; for they wilt come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.” But, said noble Nehemiah, “Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.8
“And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me. My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.... Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters unto Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came unto them. For there were many in Judah sworn unto him, because he [Tobiah] was the son in law of Shechaniah the son of Arah; and his [Tobiah’s] son Johanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Also they reported his good deeds before me, and uttered my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to put me in fear.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.10
Yet, for all this, there was no halt in the work. The gates were set up, and thus the wall was finished in all its parts completely round the city. And “when all our enemies heard thereof, and all the heathen that were about us saw these things, they were much cast down in their own eyes: for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God.” As the danger from the enemies was still great, Nehemiah commanded, “Let not the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun be hot; and while they stand by, let them shut the doors, and bar them: and appoint watches of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, every one in his watch, and every one to be over against his house. Now the city was large and great: but the people were few therein, and the houses were not builded.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.11
Restoring the Worship.
Being able thus to dwell in comparative safety, the restoration of the worship of God according to the Scriptures was systematically entered upon. On the first day of the seventh month “all the people gathered themselves together as one man, into the street that was before the water gate,” and the people spake unto “Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord commanded to Israel.” Ezra brought forth the book, and stood upon a pulpit of wood which they had made for the purpose, and “opened the book in the sight of all the people (for he was above all the people;) and when he opened it, all the people stood up: and Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.12
Certain chosen ones “caused the people to understand the law; and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” This was so especially necessary, because,—owing to the scattered condition of the people in the captivity, and especially owing to the mixed marriages in which the people had indulged since their return—the language of the people had so changed that many of them could not well understand the pure Hebrew in which the Scriptures were written, and now read by Ezra. And when they did understand the reading, as now distinctly presented to them in its plain sense, it presented before them a manner of life so distinct from that which they had been living, so much purer and more elevated and noble, that “all the people wept when they heard the words of the law.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.13
But Nehemiah and Ezra and the interpreters comforted all the people, saying, “This day is holy unto the Lord your God; mourn not, nor weep.... Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord. Neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.... Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.14
The Feast of Tabernacles.
On the second day, as they were all gathered to the reading, it was also the second day of the seventh month, in the portion that was read was what is now . In this they found that it was commanded “that the children of Israel should dwell in booths in the feast of the seventh month; and that they should publish and proclaim in all their cities, and in Jerusalem, saying, Go forth into the mount, and fetch olive branches, and pine branches, and myrtle branches, and palm branches, and branches of thick trees, to make booths, as it is written.” This had stood in the book all the ages since the children of Israel had been in the wilderness, after their coming out of Egypt; yet “since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.” Nevertheless as soon as it was now read, the people received it as it is the word of God, and promptly went forth, and brought the branches, “and made themselves booths, every one upon the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the street of the water gate, and in the street of the gate of Ephraim. And all the congregation of them that were come again out of the captivity made booths, and sat under the booths.... And there was very great gladness.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.15
When the booths were prepared, and the people dwelt in them, on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles the reading of the Scriptures was taken up again, and was continued day by day throughout the whole seven days of the feast. And on the eighth day, the twenty-third day of the seventh month, “was a solemn assembly according to the manner.” And on the twenty-fourth day of this same month the people “assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshiped the Lord their God.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 3.16
One of these blessed and thorough confessions is recorded in full in as an example for God’s people in all time. It is well worth a careful reading in detail by every one of God’s people to-day. there is not anywhere in it any suggestion that either they or their fathers had been infallibly right, and had done infallibly right, all the time, so that it should be accounted akin to sacrilege for anybody to think, and akin to blasphemy for anybody to say, that there was a better way. This confession was written out, and Nehemiah and eighty-three others of the princes, priests, and Levites signed it in behalf of themselves and all the people, who “clave to their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, and his judgments and his statutes; and that we would not give our daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for our sons: and if the people of the land bring ware or any victuals on the Sabbath day to sell, that we would not buy it of them on the Sabbath, or on the holy day: and that we would leave the seventh year, and the exaction of every debt.”SITI May 28, 1902, page 340.1