We Are Family

nehemiah wall_final

Amazing things can be accomplished by the Church when we focus on glorifying God and not ourselves.


I know chapter 3 has turned into a bit of a marathon. I appreciate you sticking with it and enduring to the end of my thoughts. Today we’ll finish up with two more principles and a little summary. Lets dig into what God has for us here in Nehemiah 3.

Some work with passion.

In this chapter filled with folks working together for a common goal, one person stands out from the rest. His name is Baruch. We see him in verse 20:

After him Baruch the son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the Angle                                         to the doorway of the house of Eliashib the high priest. Nehemiah 3:20 NASB

Notice the word “zealously”. It is an interesting term that means “to burn or glow”. So was Baruch on fire? Had he been too close to a nuclear power plant? Maybe he drank some weird potion that made him luminesce? Well, no, not really. The idea being conveyed is that Baruch was working so hard that he expended tremendous amounts of energy. In that way he was “on fire”. Have you ever met someone like this? Have you ever been like this? I hope so. I hope you are this way right now. The Church could sure use some Baruchs right now. We need some folks who just burn with passionate service to our God like Baruch did here. Everyone was working hard, but in a crowd of committed construction workers, Baruch stood out from the rest. How are you doing with this?

Do you blend in or stand out?

Some work as families. 

The final thing we see in this chapter is that some of the workers worked as families. They would work on a section right in front of their home or in a completely different “neighborhood” than where they lived. The point is that they worked with others as a family unit. Take a look at verse 3:

Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. Nehemiah 3:3 NASB


Now take a look at verse 12:

Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the official of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs, he and his daughters. Nehemiah 3:12 NASB

Do you see what I see? In v. 3 we see the sons working. In v. 12 we see the daughters working. Everyone in each of these two families was doing his or her part. Just like the rest were doing. We see Priests,  anonymous folks, families. All strata of society was represented in the work. And they all worked together.

I wonder what our churches would look like if we all worked together on building up rather than tearing down each other? I wonder how attractive this would be? When we work as one – whether we are Pastors, teachers, police officers, nurses, homemakers, technical folks or whatever you may do for work and whatever your place in society – we make a phenomenal statement to the world that is watching. When we work together for the benefit of others rather than ourselves, we do show what Paul stated in Galatians:

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.        Galatians 3:27-28 NASB

So how are you doing in your part of building the wall of the Church? Are you working zealously? Diligently? Lazily? Take a look at what you could be doing and what you are doing. Work with your family on a project in your neighborhood…or someone else’s neighborhood! Show someone the love of Christ.

When we engage in kingdom work, we are called to work together. We are called to forget about our position in society, be it a lofty or not-so-lofty position. We each have our part to do. Let us encourage one another with our actions, not leaving 90% of the work to 10% of the Church.


As we do the work of Kingdom building, let’s remember it is to God’s glory that we do this work, not our glory. Ronald Reagan had a quote on his desk during his Presidency. It stated (I’m paraphrasing)

Amazing things can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.

I’d like to change that a bit for us

Amazing things can be accomplished by the Church when we focus on glorifying God and not ourselves.

Whatever you are called to do with whatever gifts God has given you, do that! Look at the construction project of the wall as a way to glorify God in doing your part. Work zealously, be diligent, and most of all, give God all the glory as the wall is built.

Gleanings from Nehemiah 3


nehemiah wall_final

When I was in California i did some work with an organization title Gleaners. They were mainly a prison  ministry who partnered with my church (and others) to reach out to those who were in a prison. Their name had a two-fold meaning. First it referred to the picking up of the leftovers after  field had been harvested. Another meaning was to pickup seldom overlooked truths and subsequently share them with others. I hope to accompilsh the latter while not ignoring the former.

In the next two articles, lets glean some truths and principles from Nehemiah 3.


Leaders must set the example

If anybody in the city should have been busy with the work, it was the priests, for God’s reputation was at stake. But take a look at verse 1: “Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate” The high priest had no hesitation using his consecrated hands to swing a hammer or push a wheelbarrow. He wore a sacred garment of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet, made out of fine linen. On the upper part he had 12 precious stones set in gold with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel engraved on them. On his head, he wore a dark blue turban with the phrase, “Holy to the Lord” engraved on a diadem of pure gold.

And yet, here he was picking up rubble and laying brick. I wonder how much it took to clean it all…Though I doubt I’ll ever wear a turban, purple robe and 12 precious stones to do intense and laborious work, I do want to remember that no one is above hard work.


How we finish matters

Not only is beginning a project with the right attitude important, how we finish it matters at least as much, if not more. In finishing well we give testimony to God enabling us to persevere through difficult and trying times. Sadly Eliashib did  not stay working hard on the wall alone since he evidently gave Tobiah (an enemy of the rebuilding effort) an apartment in the storehouse

Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. Nehemiah 13:4-5 NASB

Eliashib gave Tobiah – an enemy of the rebuilding effort – a room in the Temple where the Levites had previously stored provisions. UGH! Double UGH! Eliashib lost sight of the task and showed preference for a family memeber rather than for the work of God.

This serves as a good reminder to us – it’s not as important how we begin a project, it’s how we finish that counts. Some people who enthusiastically begin a job or a ministry may drop out or even turn against it for one reason or another.

God uses all kinds of people

Take a look at verse 8: “Uzziel the son of Harhaiah of the goldsmiths made repairs. And next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall.” The Lord didn’t need just skilled masons and carpenters to rebuild the wall – he needed ordinary people who were willing to work. People from a wide variety of different backgrounds with differing skills and gifts worked together on the wall. Nehemiah had a place for every person. And the same is true for the church today. No matter what your skill is – no matter what your gifting – there is a place for you to serve. All you need is a willing heart. No one can do everything, but everyone can do something (see Romans 12:6)

Some people will not work

There will always be those who refuse to exert themselves. There will always be folks who sit on the sidelines. We see this in 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.” Tekoa was about ten or so miles from Jerusalem. While some working on the wall travelled to work on the wall, these nobles could not be bothered with a task like building a wall. Perhaps they thought manual labor was below them. Perhaps they were just too proud.  We do know they refused to take orders because the text says that they refused to participate in the work of God. Wow, that a lot of pride. Of course we don’t have that problem now, do we…

The reason I think pride is the issue here is because of the phrase translated “…nobles did not support the work of their masters” is a phrase that makes me think of them being stiff-necked. This phrase is used to describe a “stiff-neckd” ox who refuses to be yoked. If the ox isn’t yoked, the ox can not work because the ox can not take instruction.

Some do more work

Just like there are those who are lazy or sack in their sharing of the load in work, there will always be those who do more work than others.
Remember the men from Tekoa? In verse 5, we read that they finished their section of the wall, even though their nobles didn’t help out at all. Drop down to verse 27: “the Tekoites repaired another section in front of the great projecting tower and as far as the wall of Ophel.” We see that these men from Tekoa still working hard and competing another section.These few from Tekoa refused to follow the very bad example of their leaders, Refusing to follow the bad example of their leaders, these workers went the extra mile. I can imagine them coming to Nehemiah and asking “What can we do now?” once they had finished their portion of the wall. I can also imagine the broad smile that spread across Nehemiah’s face.

We can sometimes think that when our assignment is done, we can sit down, let out a big sigh, and say “Wow, that was great working for the Lord. Where’s my tea? Sometimes we think that when one particular task is done, that it is time for us to rest, take some time off, declare ourselves finished. While I am an advocate of taking time off from time-to-time, I’m not an advocate of ever being finished with the work God has for me. Take breaks? Certainly. Stop? Only when God stops me.

As long as there is work to be done in God’s kingdom, there will work for you and me. As long as we breathe and can move there will be work for us to accomplish. We don’t accomplish kingdom work in our strength, we accomplish it in His strength.

Working Together for God’s Glory

nehemiah wall_final


They consecrated the wall…Nehemiah 3:1b NASB


When we first read through chapter three it seems pretty dry, doesn’t it? There are lists of names and assignments. For some I’m sure it appears to be nothing more than a list of jobs and those who do those jobs. Not very exciting stuff. But there are some beautiful nuggets here if we’ll just take the time to mine them.

Before we find those nuggets, I’d like to make a couple of observations.

First this chapter reveals that Nehemiah was both an extraordinary administrator and leader. He was able to not only mobilize a large group of people but also he led them to undertake an enormous task with vigor. Achieving that requires great vision, organization and motivational skills. So Nehemiah demonstrated that he could both organize and lead.

The second observation I’d like to make here is this passage demonstrates what a group of folks can do when working together for a common goal. While their goal – rebuilding the wall – the particular job that they performed varied. Not everyone did the same thing. But they all worked together and in working together they achieved more than they could have working alone. I am reminded of a truth I learned in the Marine Corps: my part of a mission – be it big or small, visible or not-so-visible, attention getting or forgettable – did not matter. What mattered was that we accomplished the mission. If we accomplished the mission, then my contribution – no matter what it was – was significant.

This concept we see at work in Nehemiah is so very important for the Church to learn and practice today. Whether your particular gift puts you in front of people or behind the scenes, it is important to achieving the goal we have been called to accomplish.

For the rest of today’s article, I’d like to view the purpose of the work we see taking pace here in chapter three.

Man’s Ultimate Purpose

The big question is why am I here? What is my purpose in life? To those who reject Christ, their purpose has to be self-fulfillment. We see it all around us. The various acts of selfishness – from selfish acts of hoarding resources to the selfish act of abortion-on-demand – mankind is just so “ME” oriented. Some in the church have bought into the empty philosophy of the world and created little social cubs called a “church”. Sadly this will always fail because it builds on the shifting foundation of man.

What we need to do is build on the rock foundation of Christ.

But what does that mean for man’s purpose in life. What should we do?

If we truly are God oriented then we will seek to bring Him glory rather than serve our appetites. Instead of being “ME” oriented, I need to be “HE” oriented. If I am oriented towards God, then I will seek to glorify Him and not me. Understanding this is of paramount importance if we are to serve God with a pure heart and pure motives. If my ultimate aim is to glorify God, then the way that comes about – my job or your job – isn’t as important as the goal.

 If I am focused on glorifying God, then I can see my part – whether big or small – as integral to the mission.

So what the purpose of Nehemiah’s work? Lets take a look.


The Purpose of the Work

Nehemiah was able to build his team around a central rallying point. He pointed them to the purpose of the work – the glory of God. They weren’t just working on walls, they were worshipping their worthy God. The workers were discourage about the conditions of the city and disgraced in the presence of their enemies. It was difficult for them to sing out the truth of Psalm 48:2, which describes Jerusalem as “beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth.” They probably longed to see God’s city regain its splendor and be a showplace for God for all the nations to see. They were concerned with God’s glory, not the nature of their work.

We can easily see the rallying cry of Nehemiah – the central purpose of the work at hand – was to glorify God. The priority was on God, not them.

Take a look at verse 1:

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 Nehemiah 3:1 NASB

We could easily classify this as placing the priority on God and not themselves. Why? Well, close to the wall’s northeast corner, the Sheep Gate provided easy access to the Temple. The reason for the name of this gate is because the sheep used in the worship of God entered through this gate. do you see their priority? It was as if they were saying “Take care of God first, then we’ll think of ourselves. They established that God is central to their mission and their life together as a people. It’s another way of saying, “Put God first.” Close to the wall’s northeast corner, this gate provided easy access to the Temple, and was given this name because of all the sheep that entered through it to be sacrificed. By beginning here, Nehemiah is establishing that their relationship with God was central. This was the most important place to start.

The purpose of all ministry, and really of life itself is the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 puts it succinctly: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” In your life, are you doing everything to the glory of God? Are you looking to draw attention to Him or to yourself? Do you see your part of kingdom work important to be viewed and approved of by others or do you seek to bring glory to God?

God is not so interested in your part of ministry – your part in kingdom work as much as He is interested in the learning of your heart to bring glory to Him.

Next week we’ll continue in chapter three and see some important principles we must follow as we work together to bring Glory to God.

Seeing beyond the Rubble

nnehemiah wall_final


In the mid 1970’s my parents bought a house in my hometown. We had lived on our street for a number of years and in two different houses. The house we were renting at the time was a two-story house with a bit of land. The house my dad was interested in buying was also a two-story house with a bit more land than what we currently had. Sounds good, right? Well what I have yet to tell you is that the condition of the house and land. It was…well, it was in bad shape. And by bad shape I mean really not good shape. It was really old, the grounds had been overgrown with weeds, briars, and other such things. I thought my dad had lost his mind. But the problem was that I was seeing the present condition and my dad was seeing the finished product. My dad saw beyond the rubble. So did Nehemiah. So does God.

We see the present situation while God sees the finished product.

We see spiritual things much like I saw that old house. We see the present situation while God sees the finished product. We need more than ever to see the finished product in spite of the present condition. Nehemiah did this when he saw the walls. He was able to communicate his vision of the finished product to those around him. Lets take a look at Nehemiah, the wall, and the people.

Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, “What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” So I answered them and said to them, “The God of heaven will give us success; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem.”         – Nehemiah 2:17-20 NASB


Nehemiah was faced with a massive undertaking. The walls of Jerusalem had been toppled. The gates were burned. Complicating things was that Jerusalem was surrounded by folks who hated them. Nehemiah had to perform many tasks just to get to the point of beginning the rebuilding effort.


After replenishing his resources and assessing the need, Nehemiah now recruited workers in verse 17. In some way not mentioned in the narrative, Nehemiah gathered together a large group of prospective partners. Let’s look and see how he put his work force together:

First, he identifies with the workers: “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in.” Nehemiah is passionately involved in the city’s welfare and feels its need as acutely as though he had been living in the desolate city all his life.

Next, he presents spiritual perspectives. They are in trouble – and its not just because Jerusalem is in ruins. He sees their spiritual disgrace. The sight of those collapsed walls for well over a century has created the impression in the pagan mind that the God of Israel has abandoned his people. He recognizes that there are always spiritual issues involved – a building project is more than just brick and mortar. As His people, we have to be aware of the spiritual opportunities and challenges as they present themselves to us.

Then, he invites immediate action. Everybody knows exactly what is required, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace,” and everyone realizes that the task must begin without further delay. Nehemiah is asking a lot of the people. He’s not afraid to ask them to step up to the plate. The sacrifices will be huge. They will have to take time off from work in order to rebuild the walls. Who will protect their families? Before people can respond they need to know that there is someone greater than Nehemiah behind this project.



That leads to the next task – Nehemiah inspired confidence in the people in verse 18. While rebuilding the walls is an important job, the central theme in the book is the sufficiency of God. His mind dwells on the greatness of God and he wants his workers to do the same.

Our growth is important, but the central thrust must be the sufficiency of God.

Listen to Nehemiah’s testimony: “I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me.” He didn’t reach Jerusalem because he was a skillful persuader, or because the queen was possibly a compliant helper, or because the king was a generous benefactor, but only because God was a sovereign provider. Since God had done all that, He would certainly help them to complete the task of rebuilding the walls.
By telling the people what God had already done, he was firing them up for what He was about to do. His appeal was positive as He focused on the glory and greatness of God. When you think about it, it’s amazing that the people said, “Let us start rebuilding.” Think about what they could have said. They could have been apathetic – they had been living in the rubble for a long time and could have just stayed there. They could have reminded Nehemiah that the Jews had “already tried that” before in Ezra 4 and were stopped by the authorities.
We often face those same two obstacles within the church. Either “we’re content with the way things are” or, “we tried that before and it didn’t work!”

  Someone has defined leadership as “the art of getting people to do what they ought to do because they want to do it.”   I want to do all I can to help us do the things we ought to do because we want to do them – because the gracious hand of our God is upon us.



The fifth task comes almost immediately after the decision to make an impact takes place: He Handled opposition. Whenever we get serious about kingdom work, Satan will oppose us. The first two enemies have already been identified in verse 10. Now Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite are joined by Geshem the Arab. In verse 10, the opponents are “very much disturbed,” now this troublesome trio becomes highly vocal in their attacks on Nehemiah and his work crew.

Let’s look at their tactics:

First, they derided the efforts of the workers. Verse 19 says that they “mocked and ridiculed” them. Verbal onslaughts have always been part of the enemy’s demoralizing tactics. They laughed at the workers and belittled both their resources and their plans.

Next, they suggested that they were rebelling against the king – that weapon had worked once before in Ezra 4: “What is this you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” This was a cutting allegation to the timid workers.
I love how Nehemiah deals with these bad guys. He doesn’t answer their lies or engage in a conversation with them. Nor does he just ignore them. He first exalts the God who called him to do the work in verse 20: “The God of heaven will give us success.” He wasn’t concerned about their fictitious insinuations – he was concerned that God would get the glory in the project.

Whenever we get serious about kingdom work, Satan will oppose us.

Nehemiah wanted his people to know that God had everything in control. Even though Geshem controlled the southern approach to the city, and the other two thugs patrolled the north and east, Nehemiah was not ruffled. In his reply, he made three things clear:

· Rebuilding the wall was God’s work
· The Jews were God’s servants
· Their opponents had no part in the matter.



The last part of verse 20 says it rather strongly: “We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” Their opponents had no past right, not present prerogative to be there, and no future role in the city.
Let me just say that as believers we should expect spiritual opposition and even be thankful for it. It’s a sign that we’ve angered the enemy and encroached on some territory that He thinks is his. If there’s no conflict or opposition, then we’re probably not disturbing the enemy enough. Remember, Satan only shoots at moving targets!

Have you ever looked on a situation as hopeless? Have you ever been intimidated by the task ahead. Sometimes – perhaps oftentimes – we do this because we use only our eyes when looking at problems or issues. When we are faced with obstacles that look insurmountable, we need to see with God’s eyes as much as possible. We need to see beyond the struggle – beyond the problems – and see the goal, the finished product that God sees.