Nehemiah and his friends, hard at work.

Nehemiah at Work, Chapter 3

When we first glance at this chapter, it seems to lack any sense of importance. At first glance, it seems like a detailed list of all the principles involved in the reconstruction work. But if we just stop at the first glance, we would miss so much, because there are several very important teachings contained in Nehemiah 3, which we will get to in due course.

The work had now begun, and one thing becomes abundantly clear throughout this chapter: God’s work is a highly individual thing. God’s work is always a massive undertaking—things like building a church, for example—and it is a corporate responsibility, all are to be involved in Kingdom work. But at the same, Christians are not like “worker bees,” indistinguishable from one another. They are more like highly skilled specialists, each one specially called to do a certain task for the Lord. Thanks to the thoughtfulness of the Holy Spirit, this chapter is overflowing with the names of those who took part in a great work. They worked because, just like Mary, they wanted to honor the Name of God. Work done in God’s Name stand like footprints in the sands of time.

This chapter reads like a page from God’s “big book of service,” and we hope our names will be found in it, along with the work we did for God, like the great men in Nehemiah 3.

1. A great need

The walls around Jerusalem were broken down, smashed to pieces. By faith, the walls around Jericho fell to the ground in pieces, but the walls around Jerusalem were not going to be built up by faith alone. According to James’ practical theology, there is clearly a sphere in which something more is needed, in addition to faith:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them? …faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”   Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. (James 2:14, 17—19)

Many Christians are familiar with verse 19, but they never make the connection between that verse and the preceding ones. According to James, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, simply having a belief in God in not nearly enough; work is essential in maintaining saving faith. We are not saved by works, but they are part of an our obligation to God. He saved us, we work for Him.

Those bricks and that mortar strewn all over the ground weren’t going to magically pile themselves up into the form of a great wall around God’s city no matter how much faith Nehemiah had! Somebody had to role his sleeves, grab some tools, and get to work. In the Kingdom of Heaven, nothing ever “just happens.” A soul doesn’t just “get saved!” Somebody had to witness to that soul or at the very least be praying for that soul. Work was involved in saving that soul—work done by Jesus on the Cross, work done by the Holy Spirit, and work done by God’s people.

There is such a need for workers in the Church of Jesus Christ today. Not a need for singers or musicians, not a need for more religious hacks, but a need for genuine, prayerful, compassionate believers with a love for lost souls and for God’s Church. We need believers like Jesus Christ:

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Ephesians 5:25)

2. Work for all to do

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with an assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. (Mark 13:34)

For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10)

What great “rules for living!” This teaching holds true with regard to spiritual things (Mark 13:34) and temporal things (2 Thessalonians 3:10). What right does anybody have to “feed of the profits” off another’s energy? What right has anybody to continually feast on God’s blessings without doing a thing to deserve them? God blesses His children so that they can in turn bless others, yet far too often, we hoard those blessings; we want to keep them all to ourselves because they “make us feel good” or they “make us feel loved.” However, those of us who are trying our best to work for the Lord have discovered that the love of God is often best found in working for Him; that real and lasting satisfaction in life comes from what we do for the Lord not from what we can get out of Him.

Now, it is true that not all believers can do the same work. We all have different talents and abilities. The daughters of Shallum, for example, probably couldn’t do the heavy lifting that the son of a goldsmith might have done or the son of an apothecary probably wasn’t as skilled in building as were the sons of Hassenaah. But all of Judah came out to do their part in building the walls, and they did it in the Name of God. The apostle Paul seemed to understand this, and he put in a humorous way in 1 Corinthians 12—

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 corinthians 12:17—20)

In other words, if you can’t handle a trowel, surely you can pray and offer encouragement. There is work for all do to in the Kingdom of Heaven!

3. God wants YOU, to volunteer

Back in Nehemiah 2:18, we read this:

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

Nobody was forced by Nehemiah to do anything. He set the need before the people, and they volunteered to work. That’s what God wants from His people: willing hearts; people that take a need to heart, make up their minds to do something about it, and then get to work, making sure that need gets met.

We feel sincerely sorry for Christians who loiter around the “ecclesiastical marketplace,” waiting to get hired. Nobody ever gets ahead just sitting around. This applies in the workplace, and it also applies in the Kingdom of Heaven. Solomon got it:

A wise man’s heart is at his right hand… (Ecclesiastes 10:2a, KJV)

Indeed, the wise man’s desire is to work. The wise believer’s love for God is manifested in action that produces results for the Kingdom. But, as important as working for God is, Jesus forces no one to do it. He has an expectation, however, that those who love Him and call Him “Savior,” will step up and volunteer:

Take my yoke upon you… (Matthew 11:29)

In case you are wondering what a “yoke” is, from the World English Dictionary:

a wooden frame, usually consisting of a bar with an oxbow or similar collar-like piece at either end, for attaching to the necks of a pair of draft animals, esp oxen, so that they can be worked as a team.

Jesus is looking for workers to put His yoke on.

4. They worked together

As we read Nehemiah 3, we notice how many times the phrase “next to him” appears. Every person working on that wall had their own particular job to do, yet their work joined with their neighbor’s work. And why wouldn’t it? They were united in faith, united in heart, so of course their efforts were united. These people named in Nehemiah were fired up and inspired, not by any kind of selfish ambition or desire for rewards, but by the glory of God’s Name and the sincere desire to do something tangible for Him.

We’re good at talking about God these days, but what have we done for Him that others can see? We should be like the hard-working Jews in the book of Nehemiah. They worked, they encouraged one another, and they got the wall built.

…let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… (Hebrews 10:24)

It’s not a bad thing to urge our brothers and sisters on in doing good works for the Kingdom of Heaven. The writer to the Hebrews says we should “consider” it! Imagine how much the Church of Jesus Christ could accomplish if we, led by the Holy Spirit, encouraged and spurred on each other, in love, to do good deeds. Instead of resembling a well-oiled machine, too many of our churches resemble the mob around the tower of Babel, each member babbling nonsensical things nobody wants to hear. We’re filled with the Holy Spirit! The Church ought to be the most encouraging place for you to be:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

5. The work was successful.

Nehemiah and his people “rebuilt” or “repaired” the broken walls. In the Greek, the word for “rebuilt” and “repaired” is seen over 30 times and refers to a “successfully completed work.” These people didn’t just attempt to repair the wall, the DID repair the wall. They were successful. Each person did the work assigned to him successfully.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, success is not punished! You don’t get taxed in the Kingdom of Heaven. Success in God’s good work is expected and it is rewarded. It’s not enough to “want” to work for the Lord. It’s not enough to talk about doing something for the Lord. Success in doing the work of the Lord is measurable.

The thing that made Nehemiah’s workers so successful was their determination and the fact they would not be discouraged no matter what. Verse 5 is a telling verse:

The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.

Even with terrible leadership that refused to work, the workers of Tekoa did their work anyway. The Church is full of “Tokoan nobles,” members who “would not put their shoulders to the work.” Those kind of lazy members, though, should not discourage YOU from doing the good work God wants you to do. Ultimately, you are answerable to God, not to any member the church.

Those whose hearts have been touched by God, allow Him to touch others through their good work. And those who diligently work for God , doing the work God has given them to do, He prospers.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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