Today: [1 Chronicles Nine] Are You a Nethinim? In this chapter we see a registry of returning exiles. They were returning to build the temple and the foundations of the city that had been destroyed. They identified as four groups of people including a group called the Nethinim. These were temple bond servants. They held a special place of service to the purposes of God. Their relationship or connection to the work was to serve over the walls, the gates and the vessels of the temple and the city. Are you a consumer of the ministry or a bond servant of the temple? This is a question each of us must answer before God.
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[1Ch 9:1-44 KJV] 1 So all Israel were reckoned by genealogies; and, behold, they [were] written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah, [who] were carried away to Babylon for their transgression. 2 Now the first inhabitants that [dwelt] in their possessions in their cities [were], the Israelites, the priests, Levites, and the Nethinims. 3 And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh; 4 Uthai the son of Ammihud, the son of Omri, the son of Imri, the son of Bani, of the children of Pharez the son of Judah. 5 And of the Shilonites; Asaiah the firstborn, and his sons. 6 And of the sons of Zerah; Jeuel, and their brethren, six hundred and ninety. 7 And of the sons of Benjamin; Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Hodaviah, the son of Hasenuah, 8 And Ibneiah the son of Jeroham, and Elah the son of Uzzi, the son of Michri, and Meshullam the son of Shephathiah, the son of Reuel, the son of Ibnijah; 9 And their brethren, according to their generations, nine hundred and fifty and six. All these men [were] chief of the fathers in the house of their fathers. 10 And of the priests; Jedaiah, and Jehoiarib, and Jachin, 11 And Azariah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the ruler of the house of God; 12 And Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pashur, the son of Malchijah, and Maasiai the son of Adiel, the son of Jahzerah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Meshillemith, the son of Immer; 13 And their brethren, heads of the house of their fathers, a thousand and seven hundred and threescore; very able men for the work of the service of the house of God.
This chapter begins with a synopsys of the first eight chapters of 1 Chronicles. It states that the source material was the book of the kings of Israel but it was not the same book we identify as 1st and 2nd Kings today. It is understood rather that the geneologies were taken from the surviving public records from various sources available to Ezra from exile. From the beginning of the time that the descendants of Jacob began to identify as a nation records had been kept as a public registry of every man, woman and child. Ezra’s information came from surviving copies of these registries that were preserved through the time of the exile and now are referred to by the writer. They included not only the records of the southern kingdom of Judah but of the northern kingdom as well which was taken captive years before. This also tells us that at some point during the invasion and defeat of Samaria that the records were delivered to Jerusalem by faithful scribes for safekeeping.
It is important also to understand that Ezra is writing not at the beginning of the exile but at the end of the exile when the people years later had actually returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. It was written when the rebuilding of the foundations of the city had begun. So while the previous eight chapters covered the generations before and during exile this chapter gives record of those present who have now returned from exile during histories we have yet to study in our chapter by chapter treatment of the bible. When verse 2 speaks of “first inhabitants” it is speaking of those who returned first to the southern kingdom and the city of Jerusalem after exile to Babylon. These were those particularly who first took possession or repossession of Jerusalem after the return from Babylon and began rebuilding the foundations of the city. They are referred to as “Israelites, priests, Levites and Nethinims.
Who were the Nethinims? Nethinim means “given ones”. They were understood to be slaves of assigned to the Levites and the priests to serve in the temple. They were given over to the service of the temple. Of course the temple was in ruins. Their proper description was “bondsmen of the temple”. This is very possibly what Paul was referring to when he repeated called himself (as in Rom. 1:1) a bondservant or “doulos” of the Lord Jesus Christ. It not only speaks of him serving God but specifying in what capacity he served – as a temple bondsmen. Remember that you as an individual are the temple of God. We together as the family of God are a corporate temple. The church is the temple of God. How do you see yourself in relationship to the temple or to the church?
Most people do not see themselves as servants to the church. They see church as something that exists to serve them. In fact the most prominent activity of most Christians that identifies them with their faith is to go on a regular basis and sit in a building and be served. Think about it – the ones seated are those being served. The ones standing are the servants. Isn’t that how it is when you go to a restaurant or when you invite guests to dinner? Of course the paradigm becomes even further twisted when the ones standing refuse to see themselves not as servants but rather as performers, standing on platforms and delivering performances. This is the fundamental flaw in the seeker sensitive philosphy of how church gets done. It is a great evil that Christians on the whole in our day see themselves as consumers of the ministry rather than producers of the ministry. God has called us to be bond servants of the temple – this is much more than being a greeter or cutting the grass at the church once in a while. We are called to serve the greater purposes of God. Therefore Paul exhorts us in Ephesians to live in accountability to God in this area:
[Eph 4:1 KJV] 1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
14 And of the Levites; Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, of the sons of Merari; 15 And Bakbakkar, Heresh, and Galal, and Mattaniah the son of Micah, the son of Zichri, the son of Asaph; 16 And Obadiah the son of Shemaiah, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun, and Berechiah the son of Asa, the son of Elkanah, that dwelt in the villages of the Netophathites. 17 And the porters [were], Shallum, and Akkub, and Talmon, and Ahiman, and their brethren: Shallum [was] the chief; 18 Who hitherto [waited] in the king’s gate eastward: they [were] porters in the companies of the children of Levi. 19 And Shallum the son of Kore, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, and his brethren, of the house of his father, the Korahites, [were] over the work of the service, keepers of the gates of the tabernacle: and their fathers, [being] over the host of the LORD, [were] keepers of the entry. 20 And Phinehas the son of Eleazar was the ruler over them in time past, [and] the LORD [was] with him. 21 [And] Zechariah the son of Meshelemiah [was] porter of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 22 All these [which were] chosen to be porters in the gates [were] two hundred and twelve. These were reckoned by their genealogy in their villages, whom David and Samuel the seer did ordain in their set office. 23 So they and their children [had] the oversight of the gates of the house of the LORD, [namely], the house of the tabernacle, by wards. 24 In four quarters were the porters, toward the east, west, north, and south. 25 And their brethren, [which were] in their villages, [were] to come after seven days from time to time with them. 26 For these Levites, the four chief porters, were in [their] set office, and were over the chambers and treasuries of the house of God. 27 And they lodged round about the house of God, because the charge [was] upon them, and the opening thereof every morning [pertained] to them. 28 And [certain] of them had the charge of the ministering vessels, that they should bring them in and out by tale.
There were also those that were generationally appointed by Samuel and David to be gate keepers in the house of God. The returning exiles were keen to restore things according to the pattern and example set by Samuel and David of old. Remember that when they came back to the city the walls and the gates did not exist – they had been destroyed. The temple did not exist – it was in ruins. They would have stood on a pile of rubble and said “this is where I am to serve as a gate keeper”. Are you a gate keeper in the things of God? When Paul asked for prayer in Eph. 6:14 that a “door of utterance” would be opened to him, he was calling on the gatekeepers in the body of Christ to pray for him. We can look at the struggles of ministers and make our critique but in truth we are called to be the gatekeepers that open the way in prayer for the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers around about us. If they fail, if their ministries are anemic and ineffective then we share in their failure because it is our prayers that open the gates of utterance to the city. In this way we see that we are called to be “doulos” or bond servants of the temple. Our lives are not our own. We are not consumers of the ministry. We are to be producers of the ministry and therein lies and accountability that Christians are on the whole completely unaware of. Can you imaging the church bill board that reads “come and be made accountable”? Unfortunately the “whoseverwill” message of the modern church panders to the self referral and myopea of a people who seldom look beyond their own needs and wants. Jesus said to go out and make “disciples” not consumers and recipients of ministry services. We must look in our hearts and in our lifestyles with respect to how we relate to the larger purposes of God and make those adjustments otherwise we are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
29 [Some] of them also [were] appointed to oversee the vessels, and all the instruments of the sanctuary, and the fine flour, and the wine, and the oil, and the frankincense, and the spices. 30 And [some] of the sons of the priests made the ointment of the spices. 31 And Mattithiah, [one] of the Levites, who [was] the firstborn of Shallum the Korahite, had the set office over the things that were made in the pans. 32 And [other] of their brethren, of the sons of the Kohathites, [were] over the shewbread, to prepare [it] every sabbath. 33 And these [are] the singers, chief of the fathers of the Levites, [who remaining] in the chambers [were] free: for they were employed in [that] work day and night. 34 These chief fathers of the Levites [were] chief throughout their generations; these dwelt at Jerusalem. 35 And in Gibeon dwelt the father of Gibeon, Jehiel, whose wife’s name [was] Maachah: 36 And his firstborn son Abdon, then Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Ner, and Nadab, 37 And Gedor, and Ahio, and Zechariah, and Mikloth. 38 And Mikloth begat Shimeam. And they also dwelt with their brethren at Jerusalem, over against their brethren. 39 And Ner begat Kish; and Kish begat Saul; and Saul begat Jonathan, and Malchishua, and Abinadab, and Eshbaal. 40 And the son of Jonathan [was] Meribbaal: and Meribbaal begat Micah. 41 And the sons of Micah [were], Pithon, and Melech, and Tahrea, [and Ahaz]. 42 And Ahaz begat Jarah; and Jarah begat Alemeth, and Azmaveth, and Zimri; and Zimri begat Moza; 43 And Moza begat Binea; and Rephaiah his son, Eleasah his son, Azel his son. 44 And Azel had six sons, whose names [are] these, Azrikam, Bocheru, and Ishmael, and Sheariah, and Obadiah, and Hanan: these [were] the sons of Azel.
There were those appointed to the foundations and those appointed to the walls. There were those appointed to the gates and lastly those appointed to the vessels of the sanctuary. What sanctuary? There wasn’t one. Where the sanctuary once stood there is a pile of ashes and rubble. They were rehearsing and reconstituting an infrastructure for a temple and a city that did not exist yet – it was nothing other than a pile of broken stones. You may feel like that at times. We hear powerful messages about the purposes of God in the earth and look around unable to find what is being talked about. The church at it’s best is merely holding its own. When it does find growth and influence it is often at the expense of uphold a standard of godliness and testimony. We were in a supposedly Full Gospel church recently that the pastor was reticent to teach on the gifts of the Spirit and the Baptism of the Holy Ghost for fear of offending the congregation and losing members. The Assemblies of God is one of the fastest growing denominations in the Western World but for all the swelling of their memberships, Pew Research points out that likewise the statistical curve indicating how many of those members beleive and practice speaking in tongues is likewise plunging. God is calling upon us to stand our watch – even when the religious culture we find ourselves in is unrecognizable compared to the church of the first century or even the last century for that matter.
Are you a bond servant of the temple? The last group spoken of were appointed to minister to the vessels of the temple. This speaks of the leaders of the spiritual temple of God and their personal lives. We have intercessors who not only pray for Father’s Heart Ministry but pray over our personal lives and things relating to us as individuals. Many people could not effectively minister in this way because of the culture of criticism that exists in the church. Ministers cower away from being transparent with their people, even those who would pray for them and minister to their needs – because of the viscious and spiteful criticisms and condmenation that is heaped upon leaders when they are seen as vulnerable or human in any way. Are you called to minister to the vessels of the temple? Many people who can look at a pastor or leader and know by the spirit what is going on in their personal life – need to pray for them and interceed instead of taking what God has shown them and adding it to the rumour mill.
When leaders fall and ministries crumble there are many people besides the leader who are accountable. What is your accountability? Are you a bond servant of the temple or are you looking to see what God is going to do for you as a consumer rather than a producer of the ministry. Are you standing as a servant or sitting and waiting on your portion of blessings to be handed out – and if not you will be moving on? These returning exiles returned to a heap of ruins but they were determined to be faithful. Let us follow their example.
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