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.