Stephen Caswell © 2000
I Can Watch Work All Day
British humorist Jerome K. Jerome said, I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours on end. When it comes to the work of the Lord, there is no place for spectators or self-appointed advisors and critics; but there is always room for workers. Nehemiah faced a great challenge and had great faith in a great God, but he would have accomplished very little had there not been great dedication on the part of the people who helped him to rebuild.
Last Sunday we saw how Nehemiah challenged the people to go to the wall. After he examined the work first hand he called them to rise up and build. We saw how the people caught the vision and responded in faith. But immediately the enemy opposed the work and Nehemiah rebuked him. Nehemiah stood firmly on his convictions trusting God to vindicate him. Today we see the result of Nehemiah's challenge. The people rise up and build. I would like to look at today's passage under three headings.
I. The Purpose II. The Pattern III. The People
a. The Glory Of God
Nehemiah was concerned about only one thing, the glory of God. Israel was God's witness to all the nations. Jerusalem was His special city. God loves Jerusalem. But because of sin He had allowed it to become a ruin and a reproach. The Gentile nations delighted in mocking their Jewish neighbors by pointing to the dilapidated condition of Jerusalem. However the time had come to change this. Nehemiah desired to see Jerusalem rebuilt and fulfill its God given purpose. We saw Nehemiah's concern for God's glory last week in Nehemiah 2:17b: Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach. The purpose of all ministry is the glory of God. It is not work for work sake or the promotion of religious leaders or organizations. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Just A Job
Three men were hard at work on a large building project. Someone asked them, What are you doing? I'm mixing mortar one said. The second man said, I'm putting up this great stone wall. But the third replied, I'm building a cathedral for the glory of God. It doesn't matter what our occupation is, we can just do the task to be paid or we can do it for the glory of God! The same is true of our service in the Church.
b. The Growth Of The People
Of course, the rebuilding of the walls and setting up of the gates also meant protection and security for the people. Jerusalem was surrounded by enemies, and it seemed foolish for the residents to improve their property when nothing was safe from invasion or plunder. Over the years, the citizens had become accustomed to their plight. Like too many believers in the Church today, they were content with the status quo. But Nehemiah's arrival changed all this. A Church that doesn't grow soon withers and dies.
a. The Glory Of God Nehemiah was concerned with God's glory. This was his motive for rebuilding. Is your motive for service God's glory? It should be! Only this is acceptable.
b. The Growth Of The People As we serve the Lord for His glory we ourselves grow. God's people grow through service, not just learning the word of God. God calls us to serve in His field not only to come and feed. People who eat and never exercise become overweight!
II. The Pattern
Nehemiah was a leader who planned his work and worked his plan. We should follow his example. The work was far to great for him to complete alone. He assigned the workers specific tasks to complete. Thirty eight different workers are named in this chapter and forty two different groups are identified. Many others were involved but aren't named. Their service is just as important and God is aware of it. Nehemiah assigned many workers their tasks near to their homes. This was very wise since they had a personal interest in this section. It also saved time in traveling to work. The priests rebuilt the sheep gate as they had a particular interest in this because of the sacrifices. Although the Church is an organism and not an organization it still requires organization. For the Church to grow God has appointed leaders. He has appointed pastors or overseers, administrators and deacons for this purpose.
Because the task was large, there was a job for everyone to do. God's work is great requiring many laborers. Today, many believers leave the Lord's work to just a few people. They think that it is the job of the pastors and deacons. Last Sunday night we looked at 1 Corinthians 12. We saw how Paul compared individual Christians to members of the human body. Each member is important having a special function. A function that only they can do! Do you believe that the Lord's work is just for one or two dedicated people. D.L Moody confronted this sort of thinking in his day too. However I believe it is more common today.
D.L. Moody On Church Work
A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest in. To get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy. The idea of work for them, actual work in the church, never enters their minds. Yet, the great commission has been given to all believers. What ministry are you doing in God's work?
The word built is used six times in Nehemiah 3 and means rebuilt. George Morrison reminds us that for this restoration no new material was needed. In the debris of the ruined masonry lay all the material required. The builders gathered their stones from amongst the ruins. God builds the Church out of the ruined lives in the world. Every Christian must help gather them.
The Wrong Goal
A novice duck hunter, tired of waiting in the blind, decided to forge out on his own and see if he could get better results. After several cold and tiring hours he returned to his friends with what he considered to be a display of his hunting skills, several prized mallards. His friends were not impressed, because all he had was a worthless bunch of mud hens. Because the young hunter did not have his goal clearly in mind, he wasted his time and efforts. Zeal, commitment, hard work - all are wasted if spent on accomplishing the wrong goal.
God provides all the materials we need to build the Church. 1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. The Church is not this building but the people. In fact the word Church means the called out ones, a congregation or assembly. Are you working in the building that will ultimately be destroyed or with people, living stones that will last? Only people ministry lasts for eternity. God doesn't need buildings. He wants people. He loves them and sent His Son to save them. Are you bringing the lost to the Savior? Are you aiming at the wrong goals? Are you working with living stones or bricks?
The word repair is used thirty-five times; it means to make strong and firm. Nehemiah wasn’t interested in a quick fix, a whitewashed wall that would soon crumble. They were building to the glory of God, and therefore they did their best. Are you taking care as to how you build in God's temple? The apostle Paul advises us to take great care in this.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
a. Organization Nehemiah was an organized builder. He assigned different tasks to 42 different groups of people. The Church of Jesus Christ must be organized if it is to progress. We must work to a plan. We must work with our leaders. Are you following the leaders?
b. Participation Nehemiah could not rebuild the walls alone. As a wise administrator he enlisted the service of many people. 38 people are named in chapter 3. People with many differing gifts and trades were involved. Jesus Christ is looking for workers to build his Church, not advisors. Some pray for others to do what they should be doing themselves. Would we be here if the Apostles prayed this way? Are you a participator or a spectator?
c. Restoration The method that Nehemiah used in the work was to rebuild and repair. The materials needed were readily available. The same is true in the Church. God changes ruined lives into living stones in his holy temple. Are you working with living stones or bricks? Will you help restore ruined lives for God? Are you building in light of Christ's judgment?
III. The People
God uses all kinds of people in his service. He is not limited by our qualifications or lack of them. As you read through chapter three you find priests, Levites, civil leaders, perfumers, goldsmiths, merchants, and the Nethinim. Both men and women were involved in the work. No class or sex was either too high or too low for the task they had to do.
a. Leaders Must Set The Example
Ÿ Verse 1 tells us that Eliashib the High Priest rose up and enlisted the Priests to work with him. The priests were the religious leaders of the nation. Verses 22 and 28 also mention the work of other priests on the wall. It was right that these men should show the way since God's glory was involved in the project. Their example lead others to join in.
Ÿ Verse 17 records for us the involvement of the Levites. They were also appointed to the service of the temple. They taught the Law to the people. They too set a good example.
Ÿ Verses 9, 12, 14, 15,16, 17, 18 & 19 record eight Civil Leaders who worked on the wall. Even though they were men of authority they wanted to help. They didn't think that hard labor was beneath them. These Civil Leaders set a good example for the people.
Mature believers need to enlist others and encourage them in their service for the Lord. It was one of D.L. Moody’s policies that each new Christian be given a task soon after conversion. At first, it might be only passing out hymnals or ushering people to their seats, but each convert had to be busy. As previously mentioned, he said, It is better to put ten men to work than to do the work of ten men. Many of Mr. Moody’s assistants became effective Christian workers in their own right and this multiplied the witness.
b. Some People Will Not Work
Nehemiah 3:5, 27 says: Next to them the Tekoites made repairs, but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work. After them the Tekoites repaired another section, next to the great projecting tower, and as far as the wall of Ophel.
Tekoa was a town about eleven miles from Jerusalem, and some of their people traveled to Jerusalem to assist in the work. What a contrast between these people and their nobles! Verse 5 & 27 tell us that the Tekoites built in two places on the wall. But their nobles refused to bend the neck and work in even one place. These aristocrats were so important in their own eyes that they could not perform manual labor. They walked around pretending to work. But God knows the truth! What a terrible testimony, to be remembered as a group of bludgers.
c. Some People Do More Than Others
Most folk are glad to lay down tools when their job is finished. But we find people who finished their first task and then asked for more work. Six times we read that someone repaired another section. These keen workers must have been a real encouragement to Nehemiah. It isn't enough for us to say that we have done as much as others; we must do as much as we can as long as the Lord enables us.
Nehemiah 3:13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Refuse Gate. One thousand cubits is about 1,500 feet. These people worked very hard and accomplished a great deal.
d. Some Do Their Work at Home
Nehemiah 3:29: After them Zadok the son of Immer made repairs in front of his own house. Six times it says that workers repaired sections of the wall that were near to their own homes. As I mentioned this was wise since it saved time traveling to work. But there is a spiritual principle here: Christian service begins in the home. Hudson Taylor wouldn't even consider candidates that weren't serving in their own churches and neighborhoods first. Paul said this. 1 Timothy 5:4: let them first learn to show piety at home. Christian service starts at home.
e. Some People Work Harder Than Others
Nehemiah 3:20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.
Baruch is the only worker of whom it is said that the work was done earnestly. The word earnestly means, to blaze, to burn or glow, to be zealous. It means that Baruch burned a lot of energy! Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. Lazy workers not only rob themselves and the Lord, but they also rob their fellow workers. Proverbs 18:9 He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster. Baruch received a good report because he was a zealous worker. He gave it his all and we should too. Colossians 3:16 says this: And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Building Our First Home
After Sandy and I had been married for eighteen months we built our first home. We soon discovered that a good deal of organization was needed. Firstly an architect drew up the plans. After this, the plans had to be passed by council. Then we signed a contract with the bank and a builder. The builder enlisted the help of many different tradesmen to participate in the work. He couldn't complete the task on his own. Many people with different skills were needed. Some tradesmen were unreliable and held up the work. At times work on the house stopped. But generally they worked together with different materials and skills for 4 months until they finished. This took organization, participation and restoration.
a. Leaders Must Set The Example To start with, the religious and civil leaders set a good example. To them leadership was not just giving orders. They rolled up their sleeves and got to work. If the leaders call God's people to serve the Lord, are they themselves involved in service? I include myself in this. Leaders must lead by example. The old saying applies here, do what I say not what I do!
b. Some People Will Not Work The Tekoites had two different testimonies. Some worked hard and some bludged. The nobles wouldn't put their shoulder to the grind stone. They bludged. Perhaps they thought manual work was beneath them. Or maybe they tried to live off the good works of their parents or relatives. We can't live on the past glory of our forefathers. Maybe they thought it was good enough to help out once a month. While the rest worked every day. But God knows the truth. Do you think Christian service is beneath you? Are you claiming to serve the Lord but really it's a pretense? You say I am just so busy, but how many hours are spent for the Lord? People don't always know, but God always does! Have you brought God's building to a stop because you won't put your shoulder to the work?
c. Some People Do More Than Others I am sure that Nehemiah praised the Lord for these willing workers. They did what was required of them and then came back for more. Too often workers down tools when their task is completed! They don't think that God might have another task for them. Have you served in the past as a Sunday School teacher, youth worker or Bible Study leader? Do you feel that you've done your bit and it's time to retire? How many hours of service did you give to the Lord each week ten years ago? How many hours do you give each week now?Will you serve the Lord till the end or retire?
d. Some Do Their Work At Home Nehemiah assigned many people work near to their homes. This was wise as they could make the most of their time. But an important spiritual principle is involved here. Christian service begins at home. If you can't serve the Lord at home you won't be able to serve Him anywhere. Is your home a place of Christian service? Is Christ head of your home? Is your home a place of ministry to neighbors and fellow Christians? Do you have people over for coffe or a meal? Do you entertain visiting speakers?
e. Some People Work Harder Than Others Baruch received the glowing report that he served the Lord earnestly or zealously. He was on fire for God and gave his best. How much effort do you put into the Lord's work? Are you zealous? Do you give Him your best or leftovers?
No one person could have accomplished the work of repairing the walls and restoring the gates. It took leadership on Nehemiah’s part and cooperation on the part of the people. Each had a place to fill and a job to do. So it is with the church today: We must work together if we are to finish the work to the glory of God. Today we have seen: I. The Purpose, II. The Pattern & III. The People.
I. The Purpose Of The Work
a. The Glory Of God b. The Growth Of The People
II. The Pattern Of The Work
a. Organization b. Participation c. Restoration
III. The People
a. Leaders Must Set The Example b. Some People Will Not Work c. Some People Do More Work d. Some Do Their Work At Home e. Some People Work Harder Than Others