Bible Reading: Nehemiah 3:1-32
“Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” (Nehemiah 2:17-18)
If you read Nehemiah 3:1-32, you are currently probably thinking, what’s the point of a list of names? What can we learn from this?
Well, Nehemiah’s list of names paints a beautiful picture of God’s people working together to complete God’s work. People from all clans and social statuses rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty to build Jerusalem’s wall that had been ruined in the exile. The wall was vitally important for protecting the city from enemies, and the rebuilding of the wall was in preparation for the remnant’s return from exile to Jerusalem. It was the dawn of a new beginning; a flower sprung up from war-torn ruins.
The people’s unity and humility to get their hands dirty is the principle of how we should all be serving God together in the church for His glorious works. God moulded a united burden amongst the people in Jerusalem at that time. Although the people left in Jerusalem after the exile were feeble and poor, they trusted God to help them achieve the impossible. Leaders of surrounding cities mocked Nehemiah and the people of Jerusalem, but they trusted in God. Do we have a zeal and a unity to complete God’s work together as His church? Especially during this lockdown period, are our burdens still to serve God with His church or have we become self-centred in our pursuits?
How the church works is truly amazing. Different people from all different walks of life join together because Christ unites them for glorious works which He prepared. For example, take a look at all the Israelites who joined hands to build the wall.
Eliashib, the high priest, was the first to rebuild the Sheep Gate. Being the spiritual leader of the people, Eliashib rolled up his sleeves first. Despite his position, he was willing to get dirty, mix mud and stack stone upon stone. He was the high priest! He shouldn’t have to do manual labour. He deserved clean clothes. But, for God’s work, Eliashib stooped down and was the first to begin the work.
After Eliashib, people of different clans set to work. People of different occupations also did their part. There was Uzziel, the goldsmith, Hananiah, the perfumer, Rephaiah, who has the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, and Shallum’s daughters also took part. The list goes on, but you can see the beauty of different people working together. No matter who they were or where they were from, everyone contributed to God’s work according to their talents and abilities.
This is what the church should look like. God doesn’t call us to do mighty things beyond our capabilities. God calls us to do our part in His church according to the gifts He has given us. The wonderful thing is, above all our efforts, God’s people doing God’s work will not fail because God is the one who decreed and the one who will sustain.
Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab, officials from surrounding countries did not like the idea of the wall around Jerusalem. They laughed at Nehemiah, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” (Nehemiah 2:19). However, Nehemiah calmly replied, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20). And so, God is with His people, and God’s work will prosper. Are we willing to get our hands dirty?
Lord, please unite us and teach us what it means to serve You. You are the faithful God who has called Your church together to serve You. Thank You that You want to teach us what it means to live for You and with You. Please forgive our selfishness and little concern for Your church. Help us get our hands dirty, use our talents to do our part in the church, and serve You in the glorious works You have prepared for us. May Your Kingdom come. In Jesus’ name, amen.