Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 11.1-2
Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.
Reflection: Moving Into the City
By John Tillman
In our urban-slanted view of culture, it is hard for us to imagine why the population of Jerusalem needed to be propped up by a lottery, choosing one-in-ten men to move into the city. “Who wouldn’t want to live in the city?”, we might think to ourselves.
But when we drill down, we find that in this situation, the city was literally being rebuilt from the ground up and there were armed forces threatening attack. Jerusalem wasn’t a glittering capital, even with its restored Temple and rebuilt wall. Being chosen to move there was more like being drafted into military service than getting to move to a midtown condo.
Cities of the world today need God’s people in them, just like Jerusalem did. Cities simultaneously hold some of the greatest potential for our planet and the greatest evils.
The urban population, 34% in 1960, has continued to grow over the past 60 years. Today 55% of the world’s population live in urban areas. By 2050, it may be 68%.
The growth isn’t happening primarily in Western mega-cities. Urban population growth is concentrated in less developed regions of the world where for the first time a majority of people are living in urban areas.
But this is not a situation in which people are trading horrible conditions and deprivation in the country for blissful, glittering, city-of-tomorrow dwellings that futurists expected humanity to be living in a fifth of the way through the 21st century. In fact, 40% of global urban population growth is happening in slums which exacerbates health risks and introduces new hazards.
Cities also produce 80% of the world’s GDP but this statistic is misleading. All the financial productivity of the cities is literally fed by the rural areas surrounding them. Also, very little of the financial benefits earned by cities ever manages to make its way to helping the workers who live in the slums or the rural residents who support the city’s elite.
As we wait for the day we will live in the New Jerusalem, let us not abandon the “Jerusalems” in our own nations.
May we, the church, pray earnestly for cities and ask the Holy Spirit to prompt us what we can do to help the most helpless, and confront the most powerful.
May we make our light shine through good deeds, showing God’s mercy and his grace to us, and turning slums and suburbs into cities on a hill.
*Statistics from World Health Organization.
Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 119.147
– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.
Read more about Christ: Temple, River, and City
Christ is our city. He is our refuge and rest—our strong tower and protected place—our park of peace in the midst of a frantic and fracturing world
Read more about Christ, the True Hero
It is Christ, not us, who is the hero of our cities and our world.