Have a job that needs doing – roof leaks, boat won’t run, both faucets in sink run cold, stove smells funny before you put dinner on it. Wouldn’t ever consider hiring a nurse to shingle the roof, a mountain climber to repair the boat, an explosives technician to attend to troublesome plumbing. No, after careful deliberation, contact individual in your estimation most qualified, engage their services to address the need. Call the one best equipped by way of ability, training and experience to do the job.
Ever notice God doesn’t work that way? He picked a reluctant 80-year-old shepherd to confront Pharaoh, lead the Hebrew children out of Egypt. God picked the arch-enemy of the church to take the Gospel to Europe and write more than half the New Testament. He picked an insignificant teenager engaged to a carpenter to be the mother of his Son. Unlikely choices for some pretty significant jobs, not the sorts of selections we would be apt to make upfront. Yet consider the results – who better to lead the Jewish people in the wilderness than Moses? to be the model theologian and example for Christian missions than the Apostle Paul? to be the mother of the Lord Jesus than Mary?
The same could be said for the situation in Jerusalem. Major public works project – about 2.5 miles around the security wall, sections needed repair or replacement, entrances required reconstruction. The one in charge: a political insider, second-tier official with immediate access to highest authority in empire. No indication Nehemiah had any experience outside the palace, nothing in Biblical or secular history accounts that would lead to believe he’d had opportunity to oversee rebuilding city walls. Yet, Nehemiah was clearly God’s choice for the job – God had given desire to do it (Neh. 2:12), God gave success to efforts (Neh. 2:20; 6:15; finished in 52 days). Nehemiah, though, only the first! God called all sorts of people with all sorts of experience to do all sorts of work on the wall as they were equipped by God.
A. all sorts of people
churchly – those in full-time ministry
first-mentioned of various classes of people; responsible for sacrificing, leading people in worship
proper that leaders in church should lead God’s work of making community secure
worked on northern section of wall close to temple, Sheep Gate where animals brought to temple for sacrifice
teachers, choir members, responsible for maintenance and care of utensils used in temple & sacrifice
rebuilt eastern section of wall close to temple; portion of wall along with what priests worked on hardest hit – area most vulnerable to attack
charged with maintaining supply of wood and water for temple ceremonies, keeping the temple area clean and tidy – custodial duties
of all those involved in full-time ministry, perhaps ones most accustomed to regular and strenuous physical labor
like priests in verse 1 & 28, worked on area of wall close to home
all of God’s servants, regardless of regular duties, involved in work of rebuilding; none asked to be excused for lack of skill, experience
former enemies v.11
Hashub – son of a sheik (tribal chieftain) of Moab
as a people, had been enemies of Israel for centuries; national existence came to end as God had promised during time of Babylonian & Persian empires
individual Moabites had shown great loyalty to Israel and Israel’s God: during time Saul trying to kill David, Jesse & wife found safe haven with Moabite king; Ruth, ancestor of Jesus, a Moabitess; Hashub diligently worked on section of wall assigned to him
truth be told, we’re all enemies until Jesus changes us, reconciles us, makes us friends! Rom. 8:7 “the sinful mind is hostile to God.” NIV
families with no sons v.12
women have been an integral part of God’s work and key to the survival of God’s church from beginning – Rahab, Deborah, Abigail, Priscilla just a few who adorn pages of Scripture
Shallum – only daughters who could help him; in spite of cultural no-no, figured out a way for them to be involved in God’s work.
city folk v.23
little known about Benjamin, Hasshub and Azariah other than place of residence; lived on (perhaps opposite sides of) street just inside city wall. Azariah’s house probably backed up to wall, Benjamin and Hasshub’s on other side
maybe belonged to league of craftsmen or merchants who lived inside the city; content to work close to home
country folk v.27
diligent workers from Tekoa, southeast of Bethlehem in a valley that leads to the Dead Sea; Tekoa, the home of Amos, the shepherd-prophet
finished their first assignment – verse 5, western end of the north wall; found another area on the eastern side of the city and got back to work
B. with all sorts of experience
goldsmiths and perfumers v.8
highly skilled craftsmen – accustomed to delicate work with their hands and senses; the artsy type, more like fine cabinetmakers than barn carpenters
almost certainly would not have calloused hands and big muscles
civil servants v.14-15
those who were multi-talented: skilled at flying a desk, pushing a pencil; office types, Dilbert cubicle
had been recognized for leadership ability, talent for managing as opposed to doing
keeper of East Gate of the Temple; duties in 1 Chron. 9:26-27
“But the four principal gatekeepers, who were Levites, were entrusted with the responsibility for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.They would spend the night stationed around the house of God, because they had to guard it; and they had charge of the key for opening it each morning. NIV
security guard for the east side of the temple, pacing back and forth all night, making sure nothing was stolen or desecrated in God’s house
gifted in the art of negotiation, barter, buying and selling; perhaps importing needed items from port cities of Tyre and Sidon
C. to do all sorts of work
rebuilding gates, incl. frame, doors, hardware, installation v.1,3
repairing houses damaged when the wall was breached v.7
repairing or rebuilding sections of wall with earth and stone v.13
replacing a roof over the entrance gate v.15
projecting towers v.25, 26
D. equipped by God
Each of these people from each walk of life with their individual experiences were equipped by God and used by God to successfully accomplish the task he gave them. The wall around Jerusalem was completed successfully, securely, no report of any portion needing to be done over. God came through and so did his people!
Just like Jews of Nehemiah’s day, all God’s people, not just the leaders, necessary for accomplishing God’s work.
Often, the day jobs God’s people have don’t use all same skill set needed for tasks “in church”. Means trusting and training will be needed: trusting God knows what he’s doing, learning new skills so as to be useful in different ways.
Requires willingness to do whatever God asks of us, getting out there past the comfort zone into areas that can be a little (or a lot) scary. Not a blind leap in the dark – if God expects us to do it, he will be there with us. He will also provide the resources, skills, abilities, understanding we need to do what he asks of us. God equips those he calls so they will be effective instruments in his use.
When God uses such unlikely instruments in his work, who gets the glory? God, of course; and the more unlikely, the more glory. There is much work to be done to build Christ’s church whether here in White Rock or in Southern China or some other place in God’s world. Are you willing to be one he uses in accomplishing that work? Will you say “I’ll go where you want me to go, I’ll say what you want me to say, I’ll be what you want me to be?”