You ever been called out for something?
Maybe it was in school for talking too much. Maybe it was for a job well done.
Called out ones stand out above the crowd for various reasons, some good, some not so good.
If I’m going to be called out, I want it to be for something exceptional and good!
Nehemiah Chapter 11 describes such a time as it gives the account of the re-population of the newly reestablished Jerusalem after the walls were rebuilt.
Verses 1-2 says, “Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.”
The rest of the chapter lists their names, some 3000 men, who were called out by God to repopulate the Holy City.
Some estimates placed a total of 10,000 people who moved into the city (when you add the men’s family members) which would mean there were approximately 100,000 people in the surrounding villages and countryside, given that they were to chose one out of every ten people (a tithe) to live there.
Imagine what these men and these families were experiencing. By lot families were chosen and asked to relocate from their comforts and security, their way of life and their friends and extended families, to move to a city that had no family or friends, no comforts of home, and was a target for attacks from enemies who weren’t happy it had been restored.
These people were asked to give up much to walk in obedience to their leader for the greater good of the kingdom of Israel.
And we as children of God in this generation are much the same way.
As the called out ones of God we have been asked to forsake much that this world has to offer for the cause of Christ and His kingdom.
As Believers, the “called out ones”, we are targets for attacks from the enemy of our souls.
We are called to a life of holiness that our flesh constantly resists.
We are called to always be on the stretch and crucify our comfort for the Gospel.
We are called to give up the security of what we’ve known and cling to the Cross of Calvary.
We are called to be careful with the choices we make in our social life as to not live in compromise.
We are called to live by faith.
We are called to walk in obedience.
We are called to work for God’s kingdom and not our own.
This world is not our home. The Bible describes us as “strangers in a foreign land”.
Philippians 3:20 says, “Our citizenship is in Heaven.”
This story in Nehemiah describes exactly what God has done for us. He has chosen us. We have been called out.
The Greek word used in the Bible is “Ekklesia”, which means “Called out ones” (literally EK “out of” ant KALEO “shall be called out” so “shall be called out of”). The called out ones are you and me, which makes up the assembly of God’s people, the congregation of the Bride of Christ, the Church.
We need to remember that we didn’t choose God, He chose us. He pursued us. He called us out. The Holy Spirit worked on us and worked on us some more until, one day, we yielded to Him and gave our hearts to Jesus Christ.
Jesus called out His followers from among the crowd. He looked out among the masses and selected a handful of them to be His disciples.
Mark 3:13 says, “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him.”
Peter gives a beautiful and powerful description of the called out ones this way.
1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.”
Jesus has chosen us to be built with Him as our foundation into this beautiful spiritual house known as His Church, His Bride, for the purposes of declaring His praises to all who would believe!
As wonderful as this is, this choosing and willingness to yield comes with a price. Just as Jesus paid the ultimate price with His life, by embracing being a “called out one”, we also are asked to pay a price.
This price is a daily dying of ourselves to be more like Christ. We allow His holiness to transform us into His image so that others might see Christ in us and be drawn to Him as well.
Let’s talk about that for a moment.
Jerusalem is the only city in Bible that’s called “the holy city”. It’s set apart, “called out”, I guess you could say, from any other city in the world.
And the Holy, called out City should be inhabited by holy, called out people. Psalm 15 talks about the requirements of these inhabitants.
Psalm 15 says, “O Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and who does what is righteous, and speaks truth in his heart. He who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur upon his fellow man, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his promises, even when it hurts, and who lends money without interest and doesn’t accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.”
These are standards of righteous, holy living that will qualify us to live in God’s Holy City.
Let’s think again on what the people in Nehemiah’s day were asked to do and see how it relates to us today –
To live in Jerusalem, you had to re-order your view of material things. You had to give up land in your previous region, and take up some kind of new business in Jerusalem.
As we learned last week in the grace of giving, when we give God our whole heart then everything else easily falls into place behind it. As the people then were willing to reorder their view of materials things and give up whatever they needed to for the cause of the kingdom of Israel, we need to ask ourselves as the called out ones, how are we doing in our willingness to give everything for our King and His Kingdom?
“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…”
Where is our heart in this matter?
To live in Jerusalem, you had to re-arrange your social priorities. This meant possibly leaving some friends and family behind in their old village. When you chose to serve Christ with your whole hearts, some of your family and friends may not understand you. They may treat you funny or call you names or shun you.
Rearranging your social priorities might mean saying no to some business outings and opportunities where compromising behavior takes place. This might mean declining offers to attend parties and other events with your friends from school because you know some things will be taking place there that are not pleasing to God or edifying to your spirit. This might mean breaking off some unhealthy relationships that are constantly tempting you to choose the wider road of destruction. This might mean saying no to activities that keep you away from your devotional time with the Lord, or church, or small groups or other opportunities to grow in the Lord.
Living a life of holiness is not easy. Saying yes to relocating to the Holy City will mean sacrifice and change. But the rewards it brings are wonderful in their peace and joy and purpose beyond yourself and your own goals. It helps you to live for the greater (and greatest) purpose of God and His kingdom.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:29, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sister or father or mother or children or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
So we ask ourselves, are we willing to rearrange our social priorities to make us qualified to live in God’s Holy City and place Christ and His Kingdom first?
To live in Jerusalem, you had to have a mind to endure the challenges in the city. It had been a ghost town for seventy years, and was now basically a slightly rebuilt, somewhat repopulated ghost town. The city didn’t look all that glorious, and needed work.
Being a Christian is hard work. It’s not for the faint of heart. There’s work to be done. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, he was referring to the work He needed to accomplish for our salvation. But the last thing He told His disciples before He ascended to Heaven was, “Go and preach the Gospel.” This means there’s work to be done.
We are in the age of reaching and reaping. This Church age between the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the Rapture must be marked by an ongoing, vigorous, intentional, passionate sharing of the Gospel.
This Holy City still has room for more residents. The gates aren’t closed yet. The vacancy sign is still lit. And the harvest is plenteous. Those who went into the city didn’t stay in the city. They went out and folks came in. The city’s population didn’t remain at 10,000. In fact, today the city has nearly 1 million residents.
There’s plenty of room in God’s Kingdom, and He will turn no one away. Jesus said in Luke 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.”
It doesn’t matter who you are today or what you’ve done. It doesn’t matter how unqualified or unworthy you feel, Jesus stands always with open arms accepting you saying, “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest for your weary souls.” And He loves you with an everlasting love.
Kingdom work is hard work. It’s not without its problems and challenges. But we’re not left to do it alone. Jesus has promised to never leave us of forsake us, so He’s with us always giving us the strength we need in every situation.
He’s given us His Holy Spirit to embolden us to witness, give us discernment, guide us, comfort us, and help us along our way.
And He will not let one effort we expend for Him go wasted. It all counts. It’s all being used and fruitful in working together for your good and His glory.
It’s work, but it’s worth it.
To live in Jerusalem, you had to live knowing you were a target for the enemy. There were strong walls to protect you, but since Jerusalem was now a notable city with rebuilt walls, the fear was more from whole armies than bands of robbers. The old village was not in much danger from great armies.
As Believers living in the Holy City, we have placed a bullseye on our chest. Satan doesn’t want us to live a holy life. He doesn’t want us to be successful in our witness. He doesn’t want us to be productive for God’s kingdom. He has many weapons in his arsenal – worry, doubt, fear, busy-ness, complacency, compromise, to name a few.
But we need to be reminded today that God in us is greater than he that is in the world.
I imagine the people chosen to live in the city battled distractions of worry and fear. The enemies of the children of Israel didn’t see them as a threat before the walls were rebuilt. But now, they were a target.
Same with satan. As long as you and I are coasting, or staying busy doing other things, or walking in doubt or fear, and really not committed to God’s Holy City and His purposes, he won’t bother you much. But if you determine to God Kingdom purposes and begin to make waves, count on the attack.
Keep in mind, the people in Nehemiah’s day didn’t move in to the city without leadership already in place. It says that along with the chosen ones the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem as well.
Know this – we have a leader who has already fought the battles for us, who is the captain of the armies of God, who has at His disposal the vast hosts of heavenly armies who, at a moment’s notice and with His word, move on our behalf. He will never leave us exposed. He will never be caught off guard. He will never be delayed in His response to our cries for help. And He will never be less than completely victorious!
One more thing about this spiritual aspect of moving into the Holy City – it required a closer walk with God.
When the folks were living in the country side and other villages they might be able to get away with things they otherwise wouldn’t by living in the Holy City. Why? Because the Temple of God was in the Holy City.
Living right next to the Temple placed a greater awareness on those living there of their need to walk a life that was holy and pure and righteous.
I think maybe that’s why some people don’t like to attend church. They don’t like to be told what the Bible says about their compromising lifestyle choices. “Out of sight, out of mind”. “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”. “Ignorance is bliss”. Or maybe more directly, “You can’t tell me what to do! Who made you God?”
Let me encourage you to make church a priority. Every Sunday and every Wednesday and every other opportunity given to you, come. It puts us in a much needed close proximity to God’s Word, God’s presence, and God’s people, all so very necessary to keep us walking a life of holiness and righteousness and purity before our Lord.
The Bible tells us there is a city coming down from heaven to earth, when God is done with this earth as we know it, and it calls that city the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:1-4 says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the Throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things had passed away.”
Just as the chosen ones in Nehemiah’s day were assigned to live in the Holy City of Jerusalem, so one day God will make a new Jerusalem, consisting of His Bride, the Church, you and me and the those God has pursued and chosen for His own.
To be a citizen of this Holy City you must yield to His will, walking in loving obedience, faith, and trust. What’s standing in your way materially? Socially? Physically? Spiritually?
People don’t want to be citizens of the New Jerusalem for the same reasons many didn’t want to be citizens of Nehemiah’s Jerusalem. It takes work. It takes sacrifice. It takes dying to ones self. But He has a chosen people who have been called to declare God’s praises to others of how He has called us out of darkness into His wonderful light.
We have been called and called out to a high calling of holiness because our God is holy. And we have been called to proclaim Him and invite others into this Holy City.
The lot has been caste. You have been chosen. You are one of the called out ones.
What will you do?