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Devotions by Ray Stedman for August 14 -The Need To Belong

Topic:The Need To Belong
READ THE SCRIPTURE: NEHEMIAH 7

So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families.
Nehemiah 7:5a

Ray Stedman devotion
Ray Stedman

It was necessary to ensure that only true Israelites lived within Jerusalem. There follows a list of names of all the families of those who came back from Persia to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra, some thirty years before the time of Nehemiah. These were among the ones who helped him build the wall. He is not only giving credit to them but is also recognizing that they will be responsible to carry on what he has begun. So having appointed leaders who would succeed him–men of integrity, courage, and faithfulness–he now sees to it that their followers are also true Israelites.

The spiritual application is that we need to know that we really belong to God. You will never be a successful servant of Christ nor ever faithfully work for Him and serve Him until you are assured that you know Him and belong to Him. This is not only necessary for leaders but for the common people as well. We all need to know our spiritual pedigree; otherwise, our service will be weak and largely ineffective.

Verse 61 lists some who could not prove their ancestry and were therefore not permitted to live in the city of Jerusalem. Certain ones among the priests were denied the right to minister because they could not prove their ancestry. Many try to minister in the church of God today who are uncertain that they belong to God. Sometimes pastors, seminary professors, and leaders in the Christian community do not themselves know that they are true Christians. These always wreak havoc in the churches they seek to serve.

The reference to the Urim and Thummim is interesting (Nehemiah 7:65). These were two stones (their names mean lights and perfections) that the high priest wore on his garment by which he could discern the mind of God. No one really knows how they worked. Nehemiah says these suspect priests were not allowed to minister until a high priest arrives who has the Urim and Thummim. I think this is a hidden reference to our Lord Jesus. In the book of Hebrews, Jesus is said to be a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20), meaning one who lives forever and who fully knows the mind of God. He can restore suspect priests to a place of assurance in their ministry and give them back their office. He can bring them the assurance that they belong.

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Father, thank You that I can rely on the promise of Your Word that I do belong. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

Life Application
How does truly knowing Jesus and why we belong to God make our good deeds fruitful and effective? Do our acts of service stem from a response to God?

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