The other day a few of the preschoolers were playing in the block center together. They had taken down the blocks, settled onto the carpet, and built a foundation, when they began discussing design plans.
“I want to build a castle for Elsa!”
“No, I think we should build an ice cream shop for the Transformers.”
And without a clear focus in designs – the building got difficult.
“That block is for Elsa to sing on!”
“No, it’s for the Transformers to eat ice cream on.”
And each one grabbed a hold of the block. They pulled. They tugged. Someone fell over. And there was lots of crying.
And no one built anything.
It’s hard to work together with others in a building project. People are so different. We have different ideas. Different likes. Different dislikes.
If it’s hard on a small project, how will it work on a big project? (Like a Preschool Expansion? Or sharing the Gospel in all of North Raleigh?)
Today we’re continuing our series called Building Project and see how Nehemiah was able to get an even greater group of people work together on the even bigger Building Project of Rebuilding Jerusalem. As we learn about how they worked together, we can grab a few tips for working together as a church here. Before we study, let’s say a prayer and ask God to bless us. O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. Nehemiah’s Crew
The section describing Nehemiah’s crew is found in Nehemiah 3. If you get a chance to read the whole thing, it’s one of the chapters that can be kind of difficult to read. There are names that are hard to pronounce. There are place names that are hard to pronounce. It’s kind of repetitive.
Which teaches us one important thing right away: This is not fiction. If it were, it would be terrible fiction. Dr. Seuss would never include such mundane details. If J.K. Rowling wrote like this, Harry Potter would never have been that popular.
But beyond the historical, true vibe that we get from this detailed information is an incredible portrait of Nehemiah’s work crew.
Nehemiah exits his house at the first hint of sunlight. He’s got a tall cup of coffee in his hands that he sips as he picks up his morning bagel. Then, he heads to the Northwest corner of the city.
Good morning Eliashib!
Nehemiah watched as a large, jovial man made his way over to him. God’s blessings, Nehemiah! We’re hoping to get the second layer of brick set today.
Nehemiah smiled. Eliashib (3:1) was a hard worker. Still, it was strange to see him working like this. He was high priest. In fact, all of the people working with Eliashib were priests. There were men who usually were in the temple. They wore fancy robes. They wore fancy jewels. They worked with incense and prayer books.
Now? They were wearing cut off sleeves. They had traded in their quills for hammers. They smelled less like incense and more like they had been working outside.
A few blocks down Nehemiah met up with Uzziel and Hananiah. (v.8) This was an interesting pairing indeed. Uzziel was a goldsmith. Hananiah was a perfumer. The two of them were rivals. In the marketplace, they were each vying for the attention of the consumer.
“Buy a new golden bracelet for your girl?”
“Don’t spend your money there, his gold is fake. Get some perfume for her.”
“Perfume? Ha! Only if you’re trying to attract skunks.”
The desolation of Jerusalem had made money scarce and the marketplace difficult.
But these two weren’t fighting. They weren’t even running the business. They were building the wall together.
Hand me a hammer!
Nehemiah turned at the sound of a heavy accent. There were some of the men from Gibeah and Mizpah – cities over 30 miles away from Jerusalem. Country folk. They had heard of the project from some traveling merchants and came into town with a leather tent on their back. They had promised Nehemiah that they would help and they certainly were helping. Even though they didn’t live in Jerusalem, they knew how important this project was to restoring glory to Israel and to God.
As far as those men had come to help with the project – a few steps later, Nehemiah came across a group that came a much shorter distance.
Benjamin! Grab my tool belt while you’re in there.
Nehemiah shook the hand of Hasshub. He was repairing the wall that was literally a few 50 feet away from his house. Apparently, he had been running back and forth to his home all morning to grab forgotten tools and shove an extra Jewish Pop Tart into his mouth.
Still, Nehemiah admired his desire. When Nehemiah mentioned the project, Hasshub and Benjamin were some of the first men to sign up. They knew the destruction. They knew the need. They knew the importance of returning Jerusalem to its former glory.
Those are only a few of the names. We don’t have the time to talk of Rerum and the Levites, Binui the ruler, or Baruch, the zealous and hardworking.
Still – one thing is certain. As Nehemiah looked around that morning, he saw something beautiful.
Not the project. It was far from done. It was still in progress. In fact, the city was dustier, dirtier and as a result – uglier than ever, but that was only the materials. As he looked around and saw people coming together – different people with different cultures and different ideas, all working together on the project – Nehemiah saw something beautiful.
He saw people working together for God.
II. Lessons for Our Crew
It’s the same thing that’s going on here at Gethsemane. We’ve got something beautiful going on here. I’ve been here five years and when you stop and look around, it’s beautiful!!!
But we’ve got a big Building Project going on. That’s a test of our ability to work together. How can we work together in the same wonderful way that Nehemiah’s crew did? Remember a few lessons:
(1) The Building Project Needs You
Did you notice this phrase: “they laid the doors and bolts and bars in place”? (v. 3, 6, 13, 14, 15) It appears 5 times in Nehemiah 3.
How many times do you pass doors and stop and think, “Man, I am thankful for whoever put the hinges on that door in the right space. It opened so easily. I’m so thankful. I should find out and write a letter.”
Probably, you don’t. We take it for granted. And I’m sure that the people in charge of bolts and nuts and the little tiny hinges hidden in the back portions of the walls must have known that they weren’t going to get a lot of accolades.
But what happens if you don’t have doors?
You can’t get into anything.
It’s like 1 Corinthians 12:15. If the foot should say “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.
Imagine if your foot was thinking that. “I wish I were a hand. I’m sick and tired of being all cooped up inside this shoe. I wish I was free to move and high five and play video games. Instead, I sit. I stay on the ground. I’m not nearly as important as a hand. I’m not as cool as a hand. Or as good looking as a hand. The body needs the hand, but it doesn’t need me.”
But then, when the foot gets its wish and becomes a hand, suddenly the body…doesn’t go anywhere.
It’s so easy to feel like there’s not a lot you could do to contribute to our Building Project. You might think, “I don’t have a lot of money. I can’t preach like pastor. I can’t do architecture drawings; I don’t know anything about preschool and I don’t know the difference between a bandsaw and a handsaw. I’m not that valuable to this congregation.”
But that’s the devil talking.
If you think that you aren’t that important to this congregation because you don’t have the skills and money and talents like others, you’re wrong.
God thinks you matter. A lot. He died for you. He hung and bled and died on the cross for you. He saved you from your sins. He rose triumphantly to save you from death. He washed you in your baptism to make you a part of his family. He offers you his true body and blood to reassure you that you have a part of him.
He wants you a part of His Building Project. He wants you to be a part of adding soul after soul to his kingdom.
No matter what you do.
If you do painting, then do painting for the Glory of God.
If you do singing, then do singing for the Glory of God.
If you do friendly, then do friendly for the Glory of God.
If you do numbers, then do numbers for the Glory of God.
If you do speaking, then do speaking for the Glory of God.
If you do giving, then give for the Glory of God.
If you do anything, then do something for the glory of God.
(2) Our Project Needs More than just You
But be careful. Once you are invested in God's kingdom, the devil works a second trick.
It is described in 1 Corinthians 12:2. “The eye cannot say to the other body part, ‘I don’t need you.’” Imagine if your eye started to think, “I’m the best. I get to see beautiful, color changing trees. I get to watch Simone Biles do Olympic flip after Olympic flip. I get to read tweets and blogs and newspaper articles. I am the most important part of this body. No one and nothing is as important as me. Especially your ear – all you do is sit there, looking all open and kind of dopey.”
But if the ear packed up its bags and moved to Vermont, the eye struggles. “I see the doctor, but I can’t understand what he’s saying. How serious is the injury?"
If you think that you are more important to our Building Project or to our congregation than others, you’re wrong. Others matter too.
God thought they mattered. He died for them. He hung and bled and died on the cross for them. He saved them from their sins. He rose triumphantly to save them from death. He washed them in baptism and made them a part of this family. He offers them the true body and blood in the Lord’s Supper to reassure them that they are a part of Him.
And since you are a part of Him, they are a part of you.
Nehemiah’s group knew this. It’s why they were on the same page.
Some worked on the Sheep Gate -- where they brought in the sheep for sacrifices at the temple. Very important.
Some worked on the Fish Gate – where they brought the fish in for the marketplace. It was a bit fishy smelling, but equally as important.
Some worked on the Dung Gate – essentially the restrooms! Also important.
Everyone is important here. No matter what they do.
Can you help me make sure that they know that?
Whether it’s someone on the front lines of evangelism or in the back printing off the invites.
Whether it’s someone giving a large amount of money to the project or a large amount of prayers.
Whether it’s someone telling a bunch of people about Jesus all at once or someone telling one other person about Jesus all by himself.
We are all important. Important to making this whole thing work.
Treat each other like that.
(3) Don’t be a Tekoite
Verse 5 says, “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.”
I think that’s a very interesting because this is the only part of chapter 3 that’s negative. The Tekoites worked on the wall, but apparently they weren’t very agreeable. They were stinkers.
Which leads us to a very powerful truth, if you work well with others awesome. If not, others will notice that, too.
If all of us are Tekoites, being selfish and only thinking about ourselves, then not a lot will get done.
Don’t let the devil stall our project. Don’t be a Tekoite.
(4) Remember Ezer, Son of Jeshua
Do you know who he is? He makes an appearance in verse 19. It doesn’t say much about him. It simply says that he was involved in a section of the wall near the armory. That’s it.
I have feeling that not a lot of people knew that. I have a feeling that plenty of people walked by that wall without so much as ever knowing the name of Ezer. Essentially his work was forgotten.
Except…not everyone forgot.
He is in the Bible.
That’s because God didn’t forget. God doesn’t forget the works of faith done to his glory no matter how small. From sanitizing a Pre-K toy to loading the dishwasher after Fellowship. From loading a sermon onto the website to handing a bulletin to a visitor. God remembers it all. It’s to His glory.
Rest assured that whatever you do, big or small – he sees it all.
And it’s all to His Glory. Amen.