Here is another grievance redressed by Nehemiah.
I. The Levites had been wronged. This was the grievance: their portions had not been given them, Neh. 13:10. Perhaps Tobiah, when he took possession of the store-chambers, seized the stores too, and, by the connivance of Eliashib, converted them to his own use. The complaint is not that they were not collected from the people, but that they were not given to the Levites, and the Levites were so modest as not to sue for them; for the Levites and singers fled every one to his field. This comes in as a reason either, (1.) Why their payments were withheld. The Levites were non-residents: when they should have been doing their work about the temple, they were at their farms in the country; and therefore the people were little inclined to give them their maintenance. If ministers have not the encouragement they should have, let them consider whether they themselves be not accessory to the contempt they are under, by the neglect of their business. Or rather, (2.) It is the reason why Nehemiah soon perceived that their dues had been denied them, because he missed them from their posts. “Where are the singers” (said Nehemiah); “why do not they attend according to their office, to praise God?” “Why, truly, they have gone every one to his country seat, to get a livelihood for themselves and their families out of their grounds; for their profession would not maintain them.” A scandalous maintenance makes a scandalous ministry. The work is neglected because the workmen are. It was not long since the payment of the salaries appointed for the singers was put into a very good method (Neh. 12:47); and yet how soon did it fail for want of being looked after!
II. Nehemiah laid the fault upon the rulers, who should have taken care that the Levites minded their business and had all due encouragement therein. This is required from Christian magistrates, that they use their power to oblige ministers to do their duty, and people to do theirs. Nehemiah began with the rulers, and called them to an account: “Why is the house of God forsaken? Neh. 13:11. Why are the Levites starved out of it? Why did not you take notice of this and prevent it?” The people forsook the Levites, which was expressly forbidden (Deut. 12:19; 14:27); and then the Levites forsook their post in the house of God. Both ministers and people who forsake religion and the services of it, and magistrates too who do not what they can to keep them to it, will have a great deal to answer for.
III. He delayed not to bring the dispersed Levites to their places again, and set them in their stations (as the word is), Neh. 13:11. A Levite in his field (clericus in foro—a minister keeping the market) is out of his station. God’s house is his place, and there let him be found. Many that are careless would do much better than they do if they were but called upon. Say to Archippus, Take heed to thy ministry.
IV. He obliged the people to bring in their tithes, Neh. 13:12. His zeal provoked theirs; and, when they saw the Levites at their work, they could not for shame withhold their wages any longer, but honestly and cheerfully brought them in. The better church-work is done the better will church-dues be paid.
V. He provided that just and prompt payment should be made of the Levites’ stipends. Commissioners were appointed to see to this (Neh. 13:13), and they were such as were accounted faithful, that is, had approved themselves so in other trusts committed to them, and so had purchased to themselves this good degree, 1 Tim. 3:13. Let men be tried first and then trusted, tried in the less and then trusted with more. Their office was to receive and pay, to distribute to their brethren in due season and due proportions.
VI. Having no recompence (it is a question whether he had thanks) from those for whom he did these good services, he looks up to God as his paymaster (Neh. 13:14): Remember me, O my God! concerning this. Nehemiah was a man much in pious ejaculations; on every occasion he looked up to God, and committed himself and his affairs to him. 1. He here reflects with comfort and much satisfaction upon what he had done for the house of God and the offices thereof; it pleased him to think that he had been any way instrumental to revive and support religion in his country and to reform what was amiss. What kindness any show to God’s ministers, thus shall it be returned into their own bosoms, in the secret joy they shall have there, not only in having done well, but in having done good, good to many, good to souls. 2. He here refers it to God to consider him for it, not in pride, or as boasting of what he had done, much less depending upon it as his righteousness, or as if he thought he had made God a debtor to him, but in a humble appeal to him concerning his integrity and honest intention in what he had done, and a believing expectation that he would not be unrighteous to forget his work and labour of love, Heb. 6:10. Observe how modest he is in his requests. He only prays, Remember me, not Reward me—Wipe not out my good deeds, not Publish them, Record them. Yet he was rewarded and his good deeds were recorded; for God does more than we are able to ask. Note, Deeds done for the house of God and the offices of it, for the support of religion and the encouragement of it, are good deeds. There is both righteousness and godliness in them, and God will certainly remember them, and not wipe them out; they shall in no wise lose their reward.
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