A Peculiar Treasure
Nehemiah 11:1-3; Malachi 3:16, 17
As we come to the last of this series of messages, it is necessary to have the whole background before us in order really to appreciate the setting of this final word. We have been led, as we have considered the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem by Nehemiah and those who were inspired by him, to see again that, as that was a movement of God at the end-time of the old dispensation (Nehemiah being the last historical book of the Old Testament), so there is a corresponding movement in our own time, as we move toward the end of this dispensation: that God would seek to complete, make full, the testimony of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. We have looked at that testimony, as to what it is; we have taken account of the work, and the workers related to it; and we have also given some consideration to the conflict, the warfare, in which the workers in such a work are involved.
Now for a brief and simple word arising out of the two passages which we have just read. More than once in the course of these messages we have reminded ourselves that Nehemiah and Malachi were contemporary, hat what we read of in the Book of Nehemiah should be placed alongside of that which we have in the prophecies of Malachi. Malachi tells of the conditions in the days of Nehemiah, and here we come to what maybe regarded as a final word in the matter. In this eleventh chapter of the Book of Nehemiah, there is mentioned a peculiar offering to the Lord, and in Malachi three a peculiar treasure of the Lord.
A Tithe of the People
The peculiar offering, as you notice, was now not a tithe of things. Tithing of things was dealt with, but here was a tithe of the people, a tithe of the whole people, a tenth part of those who had come back and who had engaged in this work of rebuilding the wall, and that tenth part became a peculiar freewill offering to the Lord: let us put a line under the tenth part for the moment: because, whether we like it or not, whether we are prepared to accept it or not, the fact remains that it always has been, and, so far as the forecast of the New Testament goes, it will be to the end, that there are only a certain few who go the full length with the Lord in His whole purpose. After all the sifting in Babylon when there came back a company, and then a second sifting when a few more came back - after the siftings, here we find ourselves at a kind of final sifting, when the number is still further reduced and it is only a tenth part who will voluntarily abide i Jerusalem by their own choice - just a tenth part. It seems that they correspond to Malachi 3:16 and 17, that company that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His Name: because you notice that it goes on to say: "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day that I do make, even a peculiar treasure," and He has made a record of them - "The Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him"; a record was kept.
The Lord's Book of Remembrance
Now in Nehemiah 11:4-24 you have the names, the record, of those who were a freewill offering. The Lord kept a record, the Lord composed a "book of remembrance," the Lord entered the names of these, and concerning them He says they are "a peculiar treasure," something He especially treasures. The Lord is looking for some who will be to Him "a kind of firstfruits," a kind who will be in the vanguard, following Him "whithersoever He goeth." He does look for a nucleus who will mean the satisfaction of His heart in the first place and in the essential way. As He looks out on a great multitude - and He has a great multitude who are His in the earth today - it cannot be said that all who bear His name, all who are the Lord's, are utterly following and wholly going on, or meaning to do so. No, it is not so. But He looks for this tithe of His people, this tenth part representation answering to His own heart desire. They to Him are peculiarly precious. "They shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day that I do make, even a peculiar treasure." That is the final issue of this matter of the whole testimony who will voluntarily go all the way with the Lord, no matter what it costs.
A Freewill Offering
Now it was a freewill offering, this tithe. Each one of the tenth made it voluntarily. They submitted themselves voluntarily to this casting of lots. You might object that if a lot was cast they had no option, they had to accept it whether they liked i or not, but the point is that they willingly committed themselves to that method. That was a willing, a freewill, offering unto the Lord. No compulsion here, no law here, no legality here - it was just willingness. Are you prepared, out of your own heart, to make a response and say, without any bribery, without any fear of the consequences if you do not? 'Yes, I am going all the way with the Lord, I am going to see that the Lord gets all that He wants so far as I am concerned?" That may mean a lot, that may involve a lot. But the Lord does not ask you to do it. He just waits for it - a freewill offering, a peculiar treasure to Him because it is freewill.
(continued with # 12)