Nehemiah 3:1-7:3 (The Message
John Andersen, Elder
I can see several themes at work in these chapters:
The period of God’s judgment was over. Can’t you sense the excitement over what was about to take place? Nehemiah having led the third group of exiles back to Jerusalem, was to begin the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and its walls with the approval of King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah relied on God, intervened with Him on behalf of the Jewish nation for the restoration of Jerusalem, demonstrating this by praying and trusting. I like how he engaged God in conversational prayer as each need arose.
Nehemiah was a good manager and planner, and an inspirational leader. At God’s beckoning, he left a comfortable and wealthy lifestyle serving in the government of Persia to return the homeland of his fathers. God used him to instill a sense of purpose and a “can do” attitude in the hearts of the people.
This huge public works project was done in a way that reflected God’s characteristics of bringing order out of chaos, and renewal out of destruction. He used gifts of planning and administration bestowed on him by God. Materials were lined up, and instead of directing the people to view the entire project, he divided it up into chunks that could be grasped by individuals and groups close to where they lived. Notice how he got people from many different talents and abilities who were obviously not stone masons and carpenters to participate in the physical labor of wall building and gate repair. People like the high priest and fellow priests, temple support staff, gate keepers, goldsmiths, perfumers, mayors of the districts and in one case his daughters, and many other merchants and named individuals rebuilt houses that were part of the wall. I wonder what the Tekoite nobility was thinking, “for their nobles, who wouldn’t work with their master and refused to get their hands dirty with such work” Nehemiah 3:5? At the risk of being judgmental, I’ll say this attitude was not very noble, won’t you agree? Lord, help us to guard against arrogance and unwillingness to serve.
Nehemiah had concern and a sense of justice for the poor calling out those who were gouging the people in the form of taxation with the accompanying slavery it was causing, and shamed them into stopping the practice. He also demonstrated good leadership and servant-hood by using the allotment of food and wine for the governor to feed 150 Jews and officials at his table in addition to those who showed up from the surrounding nations. He refused to line his pockets at the expense of the people.
He was wisely aware of the presence of opposition and the danger it posed. Nehemiah didn’t announce the project with great fanfare, but started this important work in a quiet way. Once the enemy found out what was happening, Nehemiah 4:9 says, “We countered with prayer to our God and set a round-the-clock guard against them.” God’s work in this world faces opposition, but that opposition is ultimately futile. Matthew 16:18b says, ”This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”
Lord, help us to be like Nehemiah in purpose, relying on you, and remember to live by Romans 8:31-39 “So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose?”