Our series, "Ordinary Man - Extraordinary Mission" is set to work through the book of Nehemiah. On our journey, we're looking how God used Nehemiah to accomplish a remarkable task, but this week is not so much about Nehemiah. While Chapter 3 of Nehemiah shows the organizational skills of a leader, it is really a chapter dedicated to the band of builders who laid hands to the work. It might look like a list of names, but it's really much more than that. It's about God's servant-hearted community.
The report starts with the gate to the north--the Sheep Gate--and works counterclockwise from gate to gate. Reports of who worked from one section of the wall to the next section give us a picture of how Nehemiah organized the project. He divided the work up into roughly 40 sections. But the list also shows us a great deal about the community of builders.
First, the list shows us the diverse nature of the community who participated in God's mission for the city. From the High Priest to various business guilds, to town communities, to families, to some with questionable genealogy. Even a family of daughters are mentioned having helped with a section. Yet this diverse group was unified around the mission God gave them, and they worked next to one another. The same should be true of God's people today and we should be unified around Jesus.
Peter gives us a good picture of how God is using each and every one of us in the building of the Kingdom. In 1 Peter 2:4-5 he wrote, "As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." In this temple, I suspect there are round stones, square one, big ones, and little ones. Some of strange angles and rough edges, yet God uses each of his people to build his house because they fit together around our common Creator.
We also see this diversity united around the gospel in Revelation 7:9-10. It reads, "After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"
Second, we see that not everybody did the same amount of work or even the same kind of work. Some build sections of the wall. Others built gates. Some did long sections. Another group did a gate and a very large section. I suspect some sections were more difficult. We have evidence that some sections only needed repaired while other parts were completely new. Each person seems to have done according to what his or her time, treasures, and talents warranted.
For example, the goldsmiths were credited with a section as a guild, but we don't see a baker's guild having collectively built a section. Why? It might be because nobody was in need of the services of the goldsmiths during the construction but they were likely very much in need of baked bread. So I suspect the bakers contributed to the wall by joining their families after the baking was done. Does this me they weren't contributing? By no means! I'm sure people appreciated food. Each man and woman did as God equipped and called.
Paul explains the nature of our varying contributions like a body in 1 Corinthians 12. We are one body with many parts and each part serves a different function. If we all did the same exact thing, we would greatly miss out. We each have a part to play. We are each called to give our time, treasure, and talents, but that will look different for each of us.
Third, there were some who would benefit from the wall but were unwilling to serve on the project. Look at Nehemiah 3:5. It says, "And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord." There will be those among the community who choose not the help, only reap the benefits of the work of others. I suspect the nobles offered plenty of criticism but no actual help.
Remember the thief on the cross next to Jesus? Not the one who said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Luke 23:42). The other one. He hung there and said to Jesus, "Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!" (Luke 23:39). He had no idea what Jesus was really doing yet he didn't hesitate to tell him how he was doing it wrong. Nothing has changed in our day has it?
We're going to be looking at Chapter 3 of Nehemiah this Sunday and I plan to show you a greater building project and the Perfect Builder. His name is Jesus and he's building his Church. I hope you'll join us this Sunday at the Northwest Community Center at 11am.
See you then. (In the meantime, grab your Bible and read Nehemiah 3.)