‘In Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling, place in Zion,’ Psalm lxxvi. 2.
‘Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem,’ Psalm cxxxv. 21.
So wrote the Psalmist, and he was right. God had chosen Jerusalem as His home on earth, His abiding-place, His dwelling; and so long as He remained there, Jerusalem and all its surroundings was holy. The mountain on which it stood was the Holy Mountain; the city itself was the Holy City; the courts of the temple were the Holy Place, the temple itself was the Most Holy Place, whilst the inner sanctuary, in which God’s glory appeared, was the Holy of Holies.
But at the time of the siege of Jerusalem, God was leaving the city, it was no longer to be His dwelling-place, and consequently it was no longer to be called the Holy City. And therefore it was that the holy angels cried aloud to one another, Let us depart, for it is a holy city no longer, God has deserted it; it is His no more.
But in Nehemiah’s day, Jerusalem, in spite of her sins, was still the Holy City. We find her twice called so in his book, Neh. xi. 1, 18, and inasmuch as it was the Holy City, God’s home on earth, His special property, His constant dwelling-place, Nehemiah felt it was only right that, as soon as the city was finished, as soon as all within its walls was set in order, the city and all it contained should be dedicated to the service of that God to whom it belonged.
Accordingly, as we visit Jerusalem in thought, we find the people busily preparing for a great and glorious day; they are going, by means of a grand and imposing ceremonial, to dedicate the city to God.
It is nearly thirteen years since the walls were finished and the gates set up. Why then did not Nehemiah hold the service of dedication before? Why did he allow so long a time to elapse before he summoned the people to put the finishing touch to their work by laying it at the feet of their King?
The Tirshatha had probably two good reasons for the delay. In the first place, there was much to do inside the city after the walls and gates were finished; the city itself had to be rebuilt, strengthened, and put into order. Then he probably dare not attempt such a grand celebration without special leave from Persia. If he made a great demonstration of any kind, it would be easy for the Samaritans to put their own construction upon it, and to write off at once to Persia to accuse him of setting up the standard of rebellion. It was, therefore, advisable to obtain direct permission for such a step from Artaxerxes himself. Now the city is in order, the necessary precautions have been taken, and Nehemiah feels that there is nothing to hinder the holding of the solemn ceremonial of the dedication of the Holy City to God.
Who are these men who are arriving by companies at all the different gates of Jerusalem? They are the Levites, coming up from all parts of the country to the service of dedication. They are carrying with them various musical instruments—cymbals, trumpets, psalteries and harps—old instruments used by King David, and some of them evidently invented by him and bearing his name, for we find them called, in xii. 36: