You may remember the story of Scott Beamer, a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. When Scott realized the plane had been hijacked by terrorists, he placed a call that went through to an operator. He told the operator what was going on and that he and some other passengers planned on attacking the hijackers. The last words the operator heard him say was, “Let’s Roll!”. With that call to action, they did attack the hijackers and the plane ended up crashing in rural Pennsylvania instead of into another federal building. “Let’s Roll” became a call to heroic action all over our county as the story became well known.
Nehemiah had given a call to action as well in 2:17, “Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” With that simple vision casting statement, the people of Jerusalem responded like this in verse 18, “‘Let us arise and build.’ So they put their hands to the good work.” There it is – the call to action for the people of Israel.
And put their hand to the good work they did! At first glance, Nehemiah 3 appears to be one of those chapters! You know what I am talking about – full of unpronounceable names and not the kind of chapter about which you would love to hear a whole sermon! However, after studying it more carefully, I got the biggest blessing from it because it describes how the Jews joined in the “good work”. Please go read it right now and notice all of the repeated phrases of “next to” and “after him”. This chapter is a list of the people who are helping in the work and what their specific jobs are. It even mentions that a perfumer is helping to build the wall in 3:8 (wouldn’t you love to see how that turned out). And sisters – we weren’t left out either – notice in verse 12 that Shallum and his daughters were making repairs! Hey girls – we can wear a cute outfit and still join the good work!
The phrase “next to him” or “them” speaks to how clearly the vision was cast from their leader, Nehemiah. The work was getting done because God was with them (Neh. 2:18) and because they had a clear vision of what needed to be done. Great leaders know that their success comes from God – remember Nehemiah had specifically asked for success in 1:11.
I just have to call your attention to two little caveats in chapter 3. The whole chapter is just eaten up with people joining their hand to the good work. However, in verse 5, there is a little hint of some folks who were not happy with what was going on and refused to support the work. These are folks “inside” the family too. Let that be a lesson to us all. Even when we are working as hard as we can for the cause of Christ, some of our Christian brothers and sisters may try to de-rail what God has called us to do. Just because these folks did not support the work, praise God, it didn’t stop it! If you are on a God-called mission, DO NOT waste your time going toe to toe with those who would not support the work.
The other caveat is that this chapter specifically names certain gates as the wall construction progresses. If you follow the progression of the work with a map of the city, it starts at the sheep gate, which is at the northern end of the wall. At this time, attacks were most likely to come from the north. So Nehemiah started fortifying the most susceptible part of the wall to the enemy’s attack and worked his way all the way around. Oh, there is definitely a spiritual application here. What area in your life is the most susceptible to the enemy’s attack? Whatever it is (and you DO know what it is), start building that part of the wall back. Bathe it in prayer and take action to make sure you are not in situations where you can be tempted.
So Nehemiah’s vision of longing to see his home city repaired is now coming to life right before him. A lot of people say they have a vision or a call to do something; however, very few have the integrity to follow through with the actions and plans to accomplish it. Notice that Nehemiah knew what resources he needed (timber and letters from the King), he knew how to mobilize people to action, and then he JOINED the work. This is what effective leaders do – they join their hands to the good work along with those who are following. They know there are people who won’t support the work, but they have confidence in God who will grant them success.
Next week, we will explore the progression of the enemies’ attacks, who at first were just “displeased” with the work, but ended up in a full blown conspiracy to murder Nehemiah and to stop the work. It is quite a lesson in how to face the opposition. Until then, read Nehemiah for yourself. I would love to hear the lessons you are learning – so leave me a comment!