Doing a Great Work for God
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord..
It is easy to read Nehemiah chapter 3 with a growing question of how useful the contents are to us. After all, it seems to basically be a record of who did what in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. However, if this is all we learn from this, we have really missed something. Consider the fact that for nearly 2400 years now the works of a small group of people have been recorded for a multitude of generations to follow. Consider also that it was not the human author of the book of Nehemiah who decided to record these events; it was God that moved upon the author to pen these words (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:20-21). It was God that chose to record for us who was involved in the great work of Nehemiah and who was not. It was God who chose to have the description of the rebuilding of the walls written down for the generations to come. God is keeping a record of everything that we do. Why? In this lesson, we shall consider the following two reasons:
Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Similarly, he writes to the Corinthians reminding them about the children of Israel, "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Corinthians 10:11). A great majority of the Old Testament consists of the good deeds, the faith, the mistakes, and the sins of those that have lived before us. So let us see what we may learn from this record of the rebuilding of the walls.
The first thing that we may notice can be found by examining those who did the work. There were people from a variety of occupations such as priests, goldsmiths, apothecaries (those who made ointments or perfume), rulers, and merchants. There were people from different social classes from rulers of towns to people who lived next to the wall (verse 10). There were people who obviously lived in Jerusalem and some who lived as far away as Jericho. From verse 12 we find that some women were involved in the work as well as men. The point is that there is no partiality with the work of God! The pastor is not the only one who has the job of soul winning, and the deacons are not the only church members who are to serve.
Why do you think the nobles of Tekoa did not take part in the work (verse 5)? Was their action described with a positive or negative feeling? Some Christians may think it beneath them to do certain tasks, as did the nobility of the city of Tekoa. In contrast, the high priest set a great example being mentioned first in the work. Also we may take notice of Malchiah the son of Rechab, the ruler of part of Bethhaccerem (verse 14), who is recorded as having repaired the "dung gate" - perhaps a less appealing job. Ushering is not restricted to the higher class church members, nor is cleaning the bathroom or picking up pieces of trash something to be left to the poor.
We may learn another thing from the rebuilding of the walls by considering the way the work was divided. No one person or group was responsible for the entire wall, but we find that each had a portion to take care of. Some had a gate to build, some a tower, and some a section of the wall. Eliashib was not responsible for the fish gate, his duty was to build the sheep gate. Likewise, we are not responsible for seeing that every work of God in the church gets done. God gives each one of us our portion of work according to the gifts that he has bestowed upon us (Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 10:13). Some had to build, some fortified, and others only had to repair. So, too, in the church some work is completely from scratch, other works are rebuilding, and still others involve fortifying what has already been built (1 Corinthians 3:6). We need to concentrate, then, on the job God has for us and not on the work for which others must be responsible (John 21:20-22; Romans 14:4).
Let us take comfort, too, in this: that we do not have to work alone. The thought of rebuilding the entire wall, every tower, and every gate by oneself could be overwhelming, but when we find that God has carved out only a portion of the work for us, that we may find easier to manage. There is comfort, too, in numbers. It was a team that rebuilt the walls, not an individual. It is so much easier to go soul winning when there are many others out as well, and so it is with many other tasks too.
Finally let us learn something from this record of the work by considering something that was unique about the work itself. There are some phrases that are repeated over and over in our text that we might easily overlook: "next unto" and "after". Remember, these Jews were building a wall and a number of gates. For the work to be truly useful, the whole wall and every gate would have to be completed. If just one gate was missing, the protection of the city would be incomplete. If one section of wall was left undone or not built properly, the safety of the entire city would be in jeopardy. There were no insignificant pieces to the work; everything was critical. We may feel that sometimes our job in the church is unimportant, but this is so far from the truth. When we fail to finish our work or we do it improperly, we risk a hole being exposed to the enemy. If you are supposed to be in the nursery - be there. If you are supposed to be an usher - be there. Many victories have been recorded in Scripture when every man stood in his place (Judges 7:21).
Paul wrote to the Corinthians saying, "Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Corinthians 3:13). He says later to them, "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10). The fact is that God is keeping a record of our works in order that they might be judged when we stand before the judgement seat of Christ. According to 1 Corinthians 3:14-15, if your works are good, you will receive a reward, and if not, you will suffer loss. So, let us return to the walls of Jerusalem one more time as we consider this weighty matter.
Notice the detail with which God recorded the work of rebuilding. Names, places, and details about each of them are mentioned. In fact, you will find that the longest chapters in the book of Nehemiah are those that record information about people. Let us learn quickly from this that no detail will be left out when we must stand and give an account to the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 4:5). There is nothing that God is going to overlook. We will have to give an account for every time we chose to do a work for self rather than doing the work of God. The Christian life is likened to a race (1 Corinthians 9:24, Hebrews 12:1), and in a race only those who win get the prize. Winners have to pay attention to every detail, because even a small mistake can cost them the race.
Though the fact that God records every detail can be rather frightening, there is also a measure of comfort mixed in as well. Consider Meshullam, the son of Berechiah (verse 30), whose name means "allied" or "devoted" and whose father's name means "Jehovah blesses". He lived in a humble, one bedroom apartment and only had a small portion of the wall to do. Yet God did not leave him out of the record of the work; he is mentioned just as those who did more. What a great comfort to realize that God pays attention to every detail even if we think it is insignificant (1 Corinthians 15:58). In God's account, he stands above the nobles of Tekoa who did not lift a finger in the work. Jehovah blesses those that are devoted! When we get to heaven we may find that his rewards are greater even than those rulers who took part in the work. For Jesus said, "unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required" (Luke 12:48). Meshullam may not have had a big house, but perhaps he was better off since he had little material possessions to hinder him from doing his part. Christian, you can take great comfort in knowing that God is aware of every sacrifice that you have made for His work. Your material goods now may seem small in comparison to others, but if you keep doing a great work for God your reward will be worth the sacrifice.
Imagine now that for the past 2400 years, the good deeds of those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem have been recorded for countless millions of people to read about. This is similar to the woman who anointed Jesus with the alabaster box of precious perfume of whom Jesus said, "Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her" (Mark 14:9). In contrast, for the past 2400 years the names of the nobles of Tekoa have been shown in disgrace to those same millions who have read about there unwillingness to take part in the great work for God. Now consider our works in light of eternity and not just 2400 years. How will it be to have on record for eternity what we did and did not do?
If we could ask just one of those nobles of Tekoa whether they are sorry they did not get involved, what do you think they would say? Do you think they still feel that whatever it was they did instead of rebuilding was really as important?
Christian, are there things in your life that are keeping you from the work of God? If
so, do you think that they are really more important than the things that last for
eternity? Will you be sorry after that first 1000 years with Christ that you did not do
more for Him? Would it not be better for God to respond to the record of your works with
"Well done, thou good and faithful servant", or would you rather be remembered
as those who "put not their necks to the work of their Lord"? Doing a great work
for God is a serious matter. Paul associates the phrase "the terror of the Lord"
with the judgement seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:11) where "every knee shall bow to
me (Jesus), and every tongue shall confess to God" (Romans 14:11).