Nehemiah’s register of all those who returned to Israel updates the ones previously prepared by Zerubabbel and Ezra.  The land was resettled in three phases over a period of about 50+ years. The three phases are represented by the three groups who returned from Babylon. The group with Zerubabbel came to rebuild the temple. The group with Ezra came to rebuild the city. The group with Nehemiah came to rebuild the wall and the people. The people of all three returns along with those born in the process were few. Nehemiah says after his final census, “The whole assembly together was 42,360.” If you counted all the slaves and servants there were still less than 50,000.

This is out of millions of Jews who were exiled to Babylon and other spots around the known world. No wonder this is referred to as the “remnant.” Like the more recent resettlement of the Jewish people in their own land in 1948, the remnant in Nehemiah’s day were moved by piety, patriotism and passion to live as independent free people under the hand of their God. But the vast majorities of worldwide Jewish born individuals did not in Nehemiah’s time, nor in our time, share those three characteristics: piety, patriotism and passion.  These characteristics are absolutely essential because of the opposition that they would face. All the peoples of the land in Nehemiah’s day stood against the reformation of the Jewish state. So too was the case in the latest resettlement. Someone estimated that today Israel “is a country of 3.8 million in a sea of 100 million enemies.”

Whenever God brings judgment to a people, he never destroys the faithful with the wicked. He always leaves a “remnant.” The concept of a remnant stands for that part of a population who remained faithful even though most people rejected the ways of God. The existence of a remnant is always attributed to the goodness of God. You might say, by definition, the remnant are the real people of God. The New Testament calls the universal body of the Church the “remnant chosen by God’s grace” (Romans 11:5).

We too should be characterized by piety, patriotism and passion for our God.

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)