III. Planning for Success (Nehemiah 3:1-32)


III. Planning for Success (3:1-32)

3:1 The rebuilding work in this passage is a reminder that no matter what fell apart in your life, God can rebuild it in less time than it took you to mess it up. There is hope for a broken-down life, a broken-down family, a broken-down church, and even a broken-down community when God gets a good person with a good plan going about his kingdom agenda. These people had been living in Jerusalem for years, but they just never linked up to deal with the wall issue. Nehemiah unified them around a common purpose, and suddenly things were getting done.

The devil’s task is to keep people in the church from linking up to take on their common spiritual goals. As long as he can keep you disunified, he can keep walls torn down and the gates burned up. But, when Christians realize they have a common enemy, all other problems lessen in their significance. We find power in unity.

This same principle applies to the home. Sometimes, a husband will say, “My wife is different from me.” Of course she is! If both marriage partners were the same, one of them would be unnecessary. The main thing a husband has to do in a home is set forth God’s agenda for the family. If you don’t, everyone will have his or her own agenda. When there is unity, however, there is power.

Importantly, unity is not sameness. Unity is oneness of purpose. That, in fact, is why people have so many meetings over race problems that don’t seem to go anywhere. Everyone has their own interests and agenda. The only way you can overcome that is to have a purpose so much bigger than everyone’s private focuses that they can march on common ground.

Don’t miss that the high priest and his fellow priests were leading the way in the rebuilding of this community by rebuilding the Sheep Gate. What would come through this gate once it was back in repair? The sheep that would be sacrificed in the temple. Thus, they dedicated the Sheep Gate—an action that showed their divine perspective on the work.

The mention of these men here brings me to an important point. Whenever people decide they are going to rebuild the community, they must be aware that the most important institution in a community is the church. The values that must be operating in an area in order for it to survive and for businesses to stay within it, has to be set forth by a moral agency. What better agency is there than the church?

Society needs a standard, a measuring rod. The church does not replace a bank or a social entity, but it infiltrates and influences them so they begin to make their decisions based on a proper moral code. The church highlights the standards, the absolutes, the rights and wrongs. The church points to the truth. Thus, churches based on the Word of God can begin to turn a dilapidated community around when they operate biblically.

3:2 The men of Jericho were commuters, meaning that there is a place in a local church family for people who must commute a long distance to attend. However, people tend to move away from communities where the spiritual needs are greatest. So, while it’s okay to commute to your church, make sure you let your godly presence and the strengths that God has given you be felt in your local community where the walls are torn down and the gates are burned.

3:3-8 Even the goldsmith and the perfumer made repairs (3:8)! Though these men may not have been used to such physical labor, they were willing to use their time and energy to make a difference in the community process. Similarly, when there is a common agenda, you have to take some of your time and energy and get busy with the greater need. Nehemiah called out the wealthy Tekoites who chose to be lazy and did not lift a finger to help (3:5).

3:9-11 Don’t miss that the ruler of half the district of Jerusalem made repairs (3:9). Some people have the idea—especially if they’re considered somebodies in the community—that a church is blessed because they joined. Let us get this straight: you are the privileged one when you are granted membership, by the grace of God, in his church. It is not because of who we are but because the cross of Christ has enough grace that we are let in.

3:12 Shallum’s daughters made repairs, too. God has called women in his kingdom to have strategic positions of responsibility that must be acknowledged and respected. The strengths of godly women are not to be ignored or bypassed but utilized. Similarly, if your wife has a degree or a skill in a particular field, you’re foolish if you don’t recognize, honor, and promote that skill, so that your family benefits.

3:13-27 Apparently, there were bachelors on the wall because Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house (3:23). The key here is that they weren’t working on their houses but their house. Even though they were single, they found their place on the wall. (And, who knows? They might have run into Shallum’s eligible daughters in the process; see 3:12).

This whole passage is full of phrases like “after them” and “next to them,” showing how the people combined forces to get the job done. When you have a puzzle, you have protrusions and indentations. The protrusions represent the strengths and the indentations reflect the weaknesses. Your protrusion in a puzzle fits into another piece’s indentations, so that you link up. If we link our strengths with someone else’s weaknesses and vice versa, then we can put something on display worth looking at.

This massive project was handled in much the same way that you would eat an elephant: in manageable sections. The people in Jerusalem for 150 years had been saying, “The job’s too big. All the walls are down!” And, this is just the kind of thing many people say at the thought of addressing their broken marriages, kids, and communities. But, to do that is to look at the whole elephant rather than the small bite on your fork. Taking on the whole world is too big, so focus on one thing at a time. When you do, what you thought would take centuries to address might well be accomplished in fifty-two days.

I love that this chapter’s lists include men’s names. These guys had been there all the time—doing nothing, a reminder that Satan’s great victory against spiritual progress in a nation is the removal of men from the spiritual sphere. If you are going to rebuild families and communities, you are going to need men to stop wimping out and making excuses. There is a place for sports and entertainment, but all of that is secondary to what men were created to do. Manhood requires taking responsibility for the challenges you face. Whenever you are being irresponsible, you are not being a kingdom man.

Don’t miss that the Tekoites did so well on one wall (3:5) that they made repairs to another section (3:27).

3:28 The priests made repairs each opposite his own house. Why? First, for the sake of time: they did not have far to go, so they could give more time to getting the work done. Second, this would ensure excellence: if a man is fixing a wall outside of his home, it will be a well-fixed wall. Third, this allowed whole families to get involved. Thus, Nehemiah masterfully gave his craftsman personal investments in the work.

3:29-32 After them . . . And beside him . . . Next to him are all phrases suggesting solidarity and even quality control (3:29-30). Within the church, sometimes you may miss a ministry opportunity, but as soon as you see it, you have to plug it by inviting someone else to come alongside to meet that need. We as believers have all kinds of personalities and all kinds of skills, but many of us have never kingdomized them. God wants you to use your spiritual gift to link up with other Christians and accomplish his divine agenda.