In my Bible reading yesterday, I read from Nehemiah 10 and Acts 20. Both emphasized the importance of an assembly of believers. In Nehemiah 10, the assembly covenants together. The covenant was made only by those who could willfully make this covenant (10:28). The covenant was to keep the law of God (10:29); concerning marriage (10:30), commerce (10:31), giving for the maintaining the operation of the house of God (10:32-34), and bringing their tithes and offerings (10:35-39b). This also included the care of those who ministered in the house of God, i.e. priests (10:36). So the covenant is encapsulated with the phrase: “we will not neglect the house of our God” (10:39c). We ought to share the perspective and priorities of God’s people in the OT concerning the house of God. Its care, advancement, and primacy were foremost to the people. Not only did they concern themselves with the maintenance of the house of God, but aesthetics mattered to them. We shouldn’t skimp on what we have in God’s house. All too often we are content to do the bare minimum by way of furnishings, functions, etc. This should not be. God’s people in the OT understood that the care of the building reflected their view of the God they worshipped. They also understood that those who ministered in the house of God were worthy of their wages.
In Acts 20, we have the well-known account of Paul’s meeting with the elders (touvV presbuvterouV) at Ephesus. Paul extends a sober reminder to the overseers (ejpivskopoV) that they should shepherd (poimaivnw), i.e. pastor, the flock of God (note that the words “elders,” “overseers,” and “to shepherd” are used interchangeably for the same man). The overriding emphasis is that those who serve as an elder/overseer/pastor are stewards not owners. It is the church of God (20:28), which was obtained with a most precious commodity, the blood of Christ (20:28). Paul tells them that their duty is to protect it from outside dangers (20:29) and to care for those within it (20:28).
Even though the house of God in Nehemiah’s day was not the church, it was to be cared for physically and to be central in the life of God’s people. It was God’s plan for His people. Similarly, the Christian Church of the NT ought to have a central place in the life of God’s people. It was, after all, obtained through the death of God’s own son. May the refrain of God’s people in the NT be that of the OT saints: “we will not neglect the house of our God.”