Nehemiah 3:1-32. BUILDERS OF THE WALL- Devotional 11-26-19

Nehemiah 3:1-32. BUILDERS OF THE WALL- Devotional 11-26-19

Nehemiah 3:1-32                     Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 3:12,15                   11-26-19

Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.” (12)

And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David.” (15)

Dear Lord heavenly Father, thank you for fruits of the Gospel in our lives, families, communities and in this nation. We enjoy the life that we do because of Jesus and the Gospel. I thank you Lord. Please help the Gospel light shine forth across this troubled world. I pray that fill our hearts with joy and thanksgiving this Thanksgiving season. Please help me to accept one word into my heart through this passage. I thank you and I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

Part 1: Repairing The Gates, Beside and Next To Each Other (1-16)

Verses 1-16, Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. 3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. 6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters. 13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate. 14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men.“

Nehemiah was given a mission to accomplish. It was an impossible mission, too big for one person to accomplish on his own. But he set out to accomplish it by faith right from the beginning. In the last passage he spells things out clearly by telling his people: “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” And they “replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.” (2:17-18; NIV) Nehemiah had spoken to them about the condition of Jerusalem and the need to rebuild its walls. He calls it the good work because it was a work entrusted to them by God. And God moved their hearts. They had stood together as one man and gave themselves to the task of rebuilding.

We need to think about Jerusalem’s former glory in order to understand their agony. Once that city wall of Jerusalem stood magnificent. Its view struck awe in the hearts of anyone who beheld it. Even invaders thought twice before attempting to break down those walls. At the time of the crusaders, when Saladin attempted to retake the city, months went by, and thousands of lives were lost before even a small breach was made in the wall, through which the invaders could enter. The history of the city and its walls is vast, spanning generations and generations of history.

Its walls would not have been subject to destruction had the Israelites listened to God and obeyed his words. But they rebelled against him, and God gave them over to their enemies. And so, the walls were not only breached at the time, but the enemy made sure that the walls were demolished. Nothing was left of these tremendous walls but bits and pieces of rock and a few standing, broken down gates. When Nehemiah beheld the walls and surveyed them, he knew it would not be a small job, that it would require countless hands, and many months of working for the walls to go up again. But they were certain that the wall needed to be rebuilt. There was no doubt about it. And so, chapter 3 is the story of those who rebuilt those walls.

When we read the chapter, there are some repeated phrases. “beside him” and “next to him”. It is the theme of this rebuilding work. These words capture the spirit of the rebuilding project. Nehemiah repeats these phrases because they worked not apart but side by side in this endeavor. It was a work that was done by a community of people working towards the same goal. We are sure that these people had their own differences. They had quarrels and disputes. They were a city of folk divided by districts, some poor and some rich. Some worked for one cause while others worked for another. They were different.

But they had a common faith in the God of the Bible. They were the same when it came to their love for God and for his city. They agreed that they were God’s people endowed with God’s special grace, set apart for his glory. And when the time for working towards the rebuilding of the walls, they stood together with one heart and mind. When a people love their God and are convinced of the importance of the mission he has given them, they can work side by side, one beside the other. It is a beautiful picture of coworking, of working together towards the same goal for the glory of God.

Unity is always a key element, or virtue, in fulfilling the Lord’s work. If Christians would learn this virtue, as a command given by the Lord and dear to their hearts, any work given them can be accomplished. We too must learn to put aside all our differences, for the sake of the Lord and his Gospel, and learn to work together, literally beside each other. In that way the work given to us can surely be accomplished.

God inspired the people to make sacrifices. The thought or desire for unity is not enough. Many may wish for unity. But wishing or praying about it is not enough. Unity surely requires some sacrifices and heroic deeds on the part of God’s people in the cause of unity. Just as chapter 3 is the story of those who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, so also it is the story of the sacrifices they made. Their sacrifices may not be evident at first glance. But when we look deeply into Nehemiah’s story we see many sacrifices and heroic deeds that contributed to the rebuilding of those walls. Here are the sacrifices some people made in the process of rebuilding the walls.

The high priest set the example. Read verse 1. “Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel.” The high priest is the first person mentioned who volunteered in this great work. The high priest was the first to put his hand to the work. Why was it important that he do so? He had to set the example. He had to pave the way for the mission to be done. In this Nehemiah also tells us that the high priest’s fellow priests worked with him to rebuild the sheep gate as well. Servants of God must always be first to do the work given them by God to do.

They chose to rebuild the sheep gate first. It was the gate through which sheep and other cattle were brought into the city for the spiritual sacrifices demanded by God to be made on a regular basis. The walls of the city were of grave importance! They provided security for the city and its inhabitants. They provided ease of mind for those who were constantly under threat of attack by enemies. But there was nothing more important for the rebuilding than the sheep gate. It was the symbol of worship to God. Rebuilding it was even more important than the people’s sense of security. Worship to God which demanded the sacrifices of sheep at the time, was the priority to the people and their priests. The high priest deeply understood that. The people deeply understood that. And so, the sheep gate had to be rebuilt. Worship of God had to be the first activity to be secured.

They dedicated the work to God. Look at verse 1 again. Twice the word “dedicated” is used. Once the gates were rebuilt and standing, they needed to be dedicated to God. So, they dedicated the gate to God. They dedicated the worship to God. They dedicated the people who worship God. The dedication was as an offering and a prayer to sanctify the work to be done on the walls. These people knew the enormity of the work to be done and that that they needed God’s blessing to accomplish the impossible. They knew that God’s blessing would come when they dedicated the work, all the work, to God and to his glory. So they prayed and dedicated the sheep gate. It was the cornerstone of all the work to be done. In this we see two things. And we also see that any work to be done for the Lord requires dedication. We must dedicate our life and ministry to the Lord so that God may bless the work we are doing.

God brought workers from all over the region. In verses 2, 5 & 7 we see that the work was not only done by people who lived in the city of Jerusalem, but people came from all over the region in order to participate in the great work of rebuilding the walls. The people of Jericho, the people of Tekoa and the people of Gibeon and Mitzpah all had a part of the wall to work on. The work on the walls of the city was not a selfish kind of work. it was not a work of convenience. Not only those who would benefit from the security of the walls of Jerusalem gave their hearts to the work. People from surrounding towns came to work on the walls, even though they did not live in Jerusalem. Why? Because it was a work done not for security or prestige, but a work done for the glory and honor of the God of heaven. The God they loved and his city were dear to all of their hearts. So, they would make many sacrifices in order to rebuild those walls. They would take pride in their work as well, because whether they lived there or not, the city and the work belonged to God. It was God whom they were serving, and not the people of Jerusalem. Christians are called to serve the Lord. In addition, the Lord has taught us to serve his purpose, not out of convenience or for our benefit, but for his own glory.

There was a family that worked together. Look at verse 12. “Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.” Here is a family whose name went down in history. Shallum’s family. We are not sure whether Shallum had any sons but we know that it did not stop him from participating in the work of rebuilding. In those days, all such tasks required men to do the work, especially in the laborious work of wall building. But it did not stop Shallum’s daughters. Clearly those daughters of his were as brave and sacrificial as any other in the region. They did not want to be excluded from this high and noble task of serving God. They could not be priests, but they could surely put their hand to working. How great this family, a family who was determined to serve the work of God regardless of how dangerous the work was. It is fathers like this, and daughters like these through whom the work of God had happened in history. They are the ones who make history as well. May God raise up many such Shallums and daughters as his in the work of building up the Christian church.

There were a few problems: the nobles of Tekoa didn’t want to work under supervisors. Look at verse 5. “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.” In the midst of countless people who worked on the walls, there were also those who did not want to work. Nehemiah mentions here the kind of people who refused to work. Nehemiah never obliged anyone to work. It was a volunteer effort. The people had heard that it was the will of God to rebuild the wall, and they had responded, but not the nobles of Tekoa. They were nobles, who did not want to put their shoulders to work. they did not like to be supervised, so they did not want to work under the supervision of someone else. They were people of wealth and nobility. But there was nothing noble about them. They were proud. They were too lofty in their own eyes for the work to do done. They were foolish not to include themselves in the great work God was doing. Their names were left out, and only mentioned as those who would not work. The work of God is for everyone, even people in high positions in society.

There were many others of equal status who did put their own shoulder to work on the walls. People from all walks of life worked–goldsmiths, perfume-makers, rulers, Levites, governors and merchants. In this chapter there is yet another phrase that seems to be repeated. Six times the words “the ruler of such and such a district”. It seems that Jerusalem was divided into sectors even at the time of its ruined walls. It was a huge city of thousands. And it was divided by districts. But the rulers of those districts did not leave the work to be done by their underlings, as the men of Tekoa did. Rather they “put their hand to plow.” Most people in high positions would not be too keen on working menial jobs. These people were glad to work on the wall. It may have looked like a menial job, but not to their eyes. Actually, there is no work of God in God’s history that is ever menial.

Doesn’t it seem that the author of the passage is really highlighting “co-working”? And so, let’s think about this term more deeply. Co-working can be defined in many ways, but maybe it can be explained as, “working together towards the same purpose”. Co-working is a subject dear to the heart of our Lord and Savior Jesus. In every way possible, Jesus often worked to unite his disciples towards the same “Gospel” goal and purpose. During the three and the half years in which Jesus raised his disciples, he often taught them lessons and showed them examples of working together. On his last day with them, in his high priestly prayer, Jesus prayed to God like this— “that they may be one as we are one.” “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” (Jn. 17:11,21,22) Jesus dearly wanted them to be one, to believe as one, to act as one, to live as one. He often talked to them about loving each other and about uniting with each other as one. It wasn’t an easy teaching, nor an easy lesson for them to follow. But later on in the book of Acts we see them uniting, and thus becoming the model church for all time. Eventually, the subject of working together or co-working became a teaching the apostles passed on to the churches they established and prayed for. As long as they had the same faith, the same love for God and for one another, the same purpose, working for the One who saved them by his grace, they put aside their differences, their personal likes and dislikes, and they stood as one. How beautiful is that?

Because of their unity, they were able to advance the mission given them by the Lord, which was to bring the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27 summarizes the spirit of coworking and the significance of it. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

Part 2: Filling The Gaps (17-32)

Verses 17-32, “17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and to the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel. 28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.”

Some worked only on the part of the wall opposite their own houses; some repaired larger sections. In this section we see people stepping out and repairing the wall next to their houses. I think that this is significant. They had a sense of responsibility to take care of the work of God, exactly where they were. Some people came from other towns. Some people came from other districts. Some were living right there.

It is like this in the church. There are missionaries. There are visiting preachers. There are the regular members of the church. We all work together to build up the Christ’s church.

Also, the whole wall had to be repaired. Not just the gates and the large stretches. Every part, even the small breaches in the neighborhoods. If one part were left open, then the whole wall would be useless. Building the wall meant restoring their dignity and confidence; it meant restoring their nation.

Prayer: Lord, help me to share in building up of the church, doing my part along side other servants of Christ. Help me to be team player with a sense of unity with you and other Christians you have brought into my life.

One Word: Serve the Lord with a sense of unity with the rest of the body of Christ.

References: Sarah Barry’s Daily Devotional

Teddy Hembekides message. Triton UBF.

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