I have something in common with Nehemiah, and I’d guess you do, too. Nehemiah who? Remember the faithful man who was cup-bearer to King Artaxerxes of Babylon, where the unfaithful Israelites had been taken as captives? The man who received the King’s permission to return to the land of his ancestors and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem? Still don’t remember? The Old Testament book of Nehemiah between Ezra and Esther? Oh, that Nehemiah!
Like most of you, I’m a list-maker, penciling on paper scraps (or my planner) lists of groceries, errands, prayers, books to read . . .
Today’s to-do’s will become tomorrow’s recycling, but Nehemiah’s detailed lists have been preserved for over 2500 years.
He recorded lists of exiles who returned to Jerusalem after being in captivity. He counted their servants (7337), singers (245), horses (736), mules (245), camels (435), and donkeys (6720). He also kept track of donations (how much and from whom) of gold, silver, and garments.
Although Nehemiah’s attention to detail amazes me, the list that has inspired me lately is his descriptive chronicle of those who rebuilt Jerusalem’s wall and gates. Although it isn’t in bullet points or enumerated “1, 2, 3,” he records the names of all who helped repair and rebuild the wall and its gates, in consecutive order starting and finishing with the Sheep Gate.
Nehemiah lists the high priest and fellow priests, rulers, goldsmiths, perfume makers, merchants, men from small towns, and a few women. Some worked on a small section of wall by their home. Some rebuilt 500 yards. Regardless of class, occupation, or gender, people worked together to finish the wall in a remarkable 52 days. There were a few exceptions, and their names are missing from the list.
The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. Nehemiah 3:5 NIV
Every person repairing the wall of Jerusalem was needed and wanted. Every stone and brick fit together to make the whole: small stones, large stones, corner stones, capstones; gates done elaborately and gates constructed with only utility in mind. The only bad stone would be no stone at all.
It is a picture of the church today, where each of us has a function. How sad that the noblemen of Tekoa thought they were above manual labor!
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. I Cor. 12:27 NIV
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thess. 5:11 NIV
Few of us will be sought-after pastors or in-demand speakers or best-selling authors. We all want to feel special and unique–and we are–but there is a great need for hundreds and thousands of seemingly similar bricks and stones. There is a great need for good mothers and fathers, good workers, good husbands and wives, good friends. We can serve our local body and our communities in so many simple ways.
Imagine what we can build, together!
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Wall photos by Barb Briggs