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.