Newsletter September, 2005



September, 2005

Together We Build (2)

Nehemiah 1:1-2:4,18; 3:1,12,20,28,32; 4:1-3

The Israelites sinned against God, and were under captivity for seventy years. As they finally returned, Nehemiah was the last of their leaders. Zerubbabel was of the royalty, and Ezra was a scribe. But Nehemiah, though just a common man, shone as a hidden jewel in the history books. At that time, the temple was rebuilt, and the worship was restored according to the law. But the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruin, and the Jews were constantly under the attack of the gentiles against their way of life. God therefore raised up Nehemiah and commissioned him to build the city wall, so His people might be separated from the gentiles. Here we noticed three important issues:

I.        The builders ---- Nehemiah and his brethrens. We mentioned previously the good example of the special qualities in Nehemiah. The most important is that he started from prayer to God. First, he cared enough to ask (1:2) and listen (1:4) to the news of Jerusalem. He was not a priest, but he showed love; not a prophet but the foresight; not a king but the dignity. Second, once having known the situation in Jerusalem, he prayed on behalf of his people for four months. He confessed, "I and my father's house have sinned"(1:6), and asked God to remember the covenant He established with Moses and the Israelites (1:8). On the basis of God's word he trusted the faithfulness of God. He was a mighty prayer warrior. Third, he grasped the opportunity and acted upon. Because of his prayer God helped him (2:8,18). When the king asked him of his needs, he immediately prayed and received the royal commission (2:4-9) to return to Jerusalem, and to begin his project of rebuilding the wall.

The ministry of the church does not belong to a single person but the whole body. To build is for all the people, not Nehemiah alone. By God's grace he had the wisdom to encourage the brethrens. They were moved to say, "Let us arise and build!" So they put their hands to the good work.

The church is the dwelling place of God through the Spirit. The enemy constantly attacks in order to break down her testimony, just like the ruined wall of that day. God's will today is to recover the testimony by finding people like Nehemiah and his fellow brethrens. May we arise and put our hands to this good work of the recovery of God's testimony.

II.     They had a goal ---- the city wall. That was the center of their effort, the focus of every labor. No matter how the enemy attacked them, they trusted in God and single-mindedly worked on the wall. Nehemiah 3 recorded how they shared the work, which gives us the principles of building the testimony of God.

The Bible recorded that the people were divided into forty-two teams to build, starting from the sheep gate. The record went counter-clock wise, back to the sheep gate (3:1, 32). Therefore the wall was completed, and Jerusalem again became the center of worship and praises, "built as a city that is compacted together" (Ps. 122:3). Because of their unity in spirit, they were able to build the city of God, His dwelling place.

The forty-two teams of city builders reminded us of the 42 stations during the journey in the wilderness. God led the Israelites through, and at the end they reached Canaan, the promised land of God. We also remember the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. From Abraham to Christ it was 42 generations. The birth of Jesus gave the slaves of sin hope and redemption. So, from sheep gate to sheep gate, the testimony of God was fully restored.

God desires that we have the same testimony. Recently, the Taiwan Aboriginal Children Choir came to testify in songs and gospel messages. Brothers and sisters joined together to call, to invite, to send fliers, to provide transportation and to receive the guests...... As a result, we had a successful gospel meeting. We pray that all the church ministries will be like this, not 10% people carrying 90% of the work load and shoulder 90% of the burden. Such is not the Biblical principle here. Church is the Body of Christ. We are all members of the Body. Everyone should arise to function in accordance with the spiritual gifts to build the Body, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. From Chapter 3 we may learn the following principles:

Verse 3:1 " Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they built the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Hammeah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananel." The high priest's duty was to offer offerings to God, i.e. to handle the blood of sacrificial animals. But they participated in building, and led the way at the sheep gate. This was where the sacrificial lambs came into the city. How appropriate for the priests to repair that section. It was twice mentioned that they "sanctified it", meaning that they worked with proper attitude. Today our High Priest the Lord Jesus leads us in our building of the testimony. May we look up to Him and each person serve at the proper position with a proper attitude.

Verse 3:2 "And next unto him built the men of Jericho." Those men were from the city of Jericho, and Jerusalem was not their hometown. However, they joyfully joined in, because they had a complete picture of the city wall in their mind. Sometimes we say, "the children's work is not mine", or "the students work did not belong to my department"....... That is not good.

Verse 3:3 "And the fish gate did the sons of Hassenaah build; they laid the beams thereof, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof.." Similar statements were found in v. 14 etc. It showed us how they cared for the details of the work and missed nothing. We need to be as careful and faithful in building the church with our service to God.

Verse 3:13 "The valley gate repaired Hanun, and the inhabitants of Zanoah; they built it, and set up the doors thereof, the bolts thereof, and the bars thereof, and a thousand cubits of the wall unto the dung gate." A thousand cubits represented a long section of the wall. They were not only careful, but also diligent.

Verse 3:5 ".... the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their lord." Tekoit was a small mountain town in Judea, the home to prophet Amos. The citizens there also came to work, whereas their nobles did not. The leaders of a small place prided themselves and did not participate, even though they knew it was "the work of their lord." During the independence war at one time, a group of soldiers were repairing a section of defense against the British. They were exhausted, but the sergeant did not bother to give them a hand. Then a middle-aged man came on the horse back, and asked what was happening. So he dismounted and helped the soldiers. When all was done, the man asked the sergeant to report to the headquarter the next day. Of course, the man was General George Washington himself. May the Lord have mercy on us that we do not fall into the same snare!

Verses 3:9, 12, 16, 17 and 18 showed us the real nobles, the true leaders of the people. Although they ruled a portion of big cities, they joined the men of Jerusalem and put their hands to the work.

Verses 3:8 and 31 showed that the goldsmiths and perfumers joined in to the labor force. They were wealthy people of the time, but they did not take pride in their money. They were willing to sweat it out for the Lord. Today, many think of the ministries only in terms of giving money, but never participate themselves.

Verse 3:32 "And between the ascent of the corner and the sheep gate repaired the goldsmiths and the merchants." Again we found the goldsmiths and merchants in the building work. Their names were not mentioned, but they served the Lord with their love. God knew who they were, and would certainly remembered them.

Verses 3:10, 23, and 28-30 In these verses people built opposite to their own houses. Every member of the city dwellers contributed his effort, not negligent of his responsibility. The Lord Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Our testimony begins with our neighbors in our own communities.

Verse 3:12 "And next unto him repaired Shallum the son of Hallohesh, the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, he and his daughters." Shallum's daughters arose and joined in with the men. In today's churches, often there are more women than men, and the ladies contribute more than the brothers. When the Lord was on this earth, many women followed Him from Galilee and served Him. When the disciples ran away, they followed Him all the way to the Calvary. Luke 8:3 recorded that they ministered Jesus and the disciples with their substances. In the New Testament, we also read about the prayer meeting in the house of Mark's mother Mary, the service of Phoebe of Cenchrea, Timothy's grandmother and mother, Dorcas of Joppa, Priscilla of Corinth...... God honors the service of the sisters, and we thank God for their labor in rebuilding the testimony of God.

Verse 3:20 "After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired another portion, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest." For Baruch's work the Bible used the special expression of "earnestly", because he repaired "another portion". May we learn of his manner of service. In the following v. 21, we noticed how Meremoth repaired the section near the high priest's house. The high priest perhaps was too busy and did not have time for that portion. Seeing the breach Meremoth jumped in to help him out. When we see needs in the church, we should just join in and fill in the breaches instead of standing by or criticizing.

Verse 3:27 " the Tekoites repaired another portion," and v. 30 "After him repaired Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph, another portion." When the nobles did not work, the Tekoites repaired an extra section. When some did not move, others arose to do extra work, which would put the lazy people to shame. When the Lord returns one day, He will judge according to each man's work. Some will be called "good and faithful servants", whereas others "evil and lazy servants".

There are many other lessons we may learn from Nehemiah 3. May the Spirit enlighten us to come before the Lord. Just as the Apostle Paul asked, "O Lord, what shall I do?" on the road to Damascus, we should ask what we should do in the church as the Lord would place us.

May the Holy Spirit move in His church to raise many faithful ones to labor for Him, whether in music, visitation, children or student ministry..... Everyone stands at his or her own station to join in and say, "Let us arise and build."

III.   Enemy's Attack: Whenever God found faithful men and women to begin the work of recovery, the enemy would also begin a fierce attack to mess up the building effort. This is an unchanging principle. We shall fellowship on this point in our next sharing.