Nehemiah Delegates the Work - Nehemiah 3:1-32
Nehemiah Delegates the Work
Nehemiah 3:1 – 32
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. 3 The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. 5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.
Introduction / Background
- The Jews were in a state of reproach and shame since the captors had torn down the walls years ago and left Jerusalem as a burning trash pile.
- Then, many of the Jews were taken into captivity and a remnant were left to pillage the land for food and to survive with no protection.
- They had become accustomed to their plight. The rebuilding had started up and then suddenly stopped by the decree of the king
- Nehemiah comes to town with position, favor and authority from the King to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and restore the honor of the temple all for the glory of God.
- Make no mistake that Nehemiah was concerned and focused on one thing and that was to return the glory of God to the temple and bring glory to God by rebuilding the walls of the sacred and holy city
- How concerned are you and I about our church being holy, being a light set on a hill for those in need of Jesus? Are we desiring to be a lighthouse in a dark and ever darkening world? Are we wanting to build His church to the glory of God like Nehemiah wanted for the people of Jerusalem?
- The church in America is in sad straights in many ways.
- Ed Stetzer in his book “Christians in the Age of Outrage” shares three types of people in our society.
- Cultural Christians – People who self-identify as Christian because they are not something else and were born in a historically Christian country. They are Christians in their minds, because that is part of the heritage
- Congregational Christians – People at church on Christmas Eve and maybe for the occasional wedding or funeral. Although they may not have a vibrant faith, they retain some connections to a local congregation, probably going back on Easter, for example. As a result, over the last few decades, most churches have tried to reach these people.
- Convictional Christians – people who identify as Christian and are decidedly more religious. They more likely go to church regularly, live values that align with Christianity, and choose their spouses based on their faith.
- 25% of all of America identify as non-Christians; other religions or atheist / agnostic
- Cultural Christians and Congregational Christians are now dropping those names and moving toward the secular mainstream away from God. This group used to lean toward Christianity when it came to values in decades past but now they are taking the values of the secular mainstream.
- Convictional Christians have remained steady in their numbers over the last few decades
- As our world is becoming and is destined to become more secular unless a spiritual revival comes to impact our nation, the margin and numbers between people choosing a secular lifestyle and Convictional Christian is widening and there is virtually no such thing as “Cultural Christian” anymore. You will be either secular or “spiritual” however you want to describe “spiritual” or a strong born-again Christian. There will be a pluralism of other committed people to their particular world religion that is represented here in America but I believe as the Christian church is persecuted, we will see a purification of the church and that only the true believers will stand for Christ.
Purpose: Every Christ follower needs to work in cooperation and harmony as a team focusing on doing the work God has given to them for the completion of the task and for the glory of God.
Transition: We see Nehemiah’s enthusiasm to roll up his sleeves with his team and build the wall and restore the sacrifices in the temple for the glory of God. Let’s look first at;
The Organization of the Team
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel
- The team workers were organized and directed by spiritual leaders
- This was going to be an enormous task with strong opposition from within and without, but would be accomplished with delegated authority and a decisive leader who discerned who was best for each job.
- It began where it always begins with leadership and in this case spiritual leadership and how big their vision for God and His God sized assignments.
Illustration: Get a Bigger Frying Pan
- Everything rises and falls on leadership. People will not rise above their leaders. Leaders character and spiritual ongoing growth are essential in leading a team of people.
- The elders of this church must be continually stretched and challenged in our spiritual walks and as a collective body in order for God to bring this church along that Jesus is building.
- Church governments whether congregationally run, elder led or elder rule are only as good as the people they put in position of leadership. There is no perfect church government because everyone is a sinner.
- The team workers were recognized individually by God
- One thing stands out in this chapter and throughout the Bible. Every person and their name are important to God.
- God does not write about nameless individuals
- Mary and the perfume on Jesus – memorial to her
- The widow’s mite thrown in the offering did not escape Jesus eyes
- You and I are so important to God and to His kingdom work
- In this chapter, God, in His inspired word, placed these individuals in there because they served a very important purpose
- They worked together as a team.
Illustration: Calvin and Hobbes cartoon on March 3rd, 2002
- People want to know they matter. They love hearing their name and being encouraged. That is why I take so much time at the beginning of the semester to get to know my student’s names and how to pronounce them.
- The team workers each had their own area of responsibility
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
- God has a specific part each person on the planet needs to fill.
- Like a giant jigsaw puzzle, we all are important.
- The second leading cause of death among teens is suicide just behind car accidents according to recent studies. Teens feel they are not significant, not special.
- We as a society are throwing away the sanctity of life
- New York legislation standing ovation for their bill on defining partial birth abortion
- Governor Ralph Northam – pediatrician – infanticide
- We need to preach and teach to our kids everyone is made in the image of God for a very important and special purpose and that everyone should be treated equally with dignity and respect.
Illustration: On July 20th, 1069, the world watched as astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. Who can forget the moment when he said; “That ‘s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind?” What we probably don’t remembers is how many people were involved in getting Mr. Armstrong to the moon. In all, there were 218,000 people working together behind the scenes to make that historic moment possible.
- That is also why it is so important to come and join us each week for worship. The collective whole in our church family is so important
- You may say something that would encourage some you. You never know what your words can mean to someone.
- Your singing and lifting your hands in worship is powerful!!
- Praying together, sharing community in our connect groups / Sunday School are so very important.
- Serving as part of team in using your spiritual gifts helps you and others grow.
- For the Jewish people and for us as a church, it is important that the leaders, the spiritual leaders pioneer the way and lead the way.
- That is why it is so essential to pray for, support and follow the leaders of our church.
- Despite all the Nehemiah and the leaders did to inspire and encourage everyone to participate, there are always a few who will not go along with the plan or the program.
5 And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.
- The nobles of Tekoa could not support the plan with physical labor because they thought it was beneath them to get down and dirty with the others.
- Others would have to pick up the slack left by those who are unwilling and uncooperative.
Application: God provides structure and a chain of command to fulfill His kingdom work.
Transition: Let’s look next at a very important element in being a team: Cooperation
The Cooperative Effort of the Team
Illustration: Lou Holtz started his coaching career at the University of Minnesota. During his first year there, he distributed T-shirts with the word “TEAM” printed on them in big block letters. Underneath, in tiny print, was the word “me”. Holtz understood the truth that success comes through placing the team’s objectives above personal ambition.
- As you see in this chapter how they worked in support and harmony with one another.
- There were thirty- eight people mentioned in chapter 3 of Nehemiah and 42 groups of people doing the work.
- No one complained about doing a job that they were not skilled at
- There wasn’t a job too small that anyone was unwilling to do.
- They just did it for the good of all.
- Paul uses the analogy of church as the Body of Christ in I Corinthians 12 and 14 to show how each part is an important part of the whole.
Application: Every Christ follower is a vitally important part of the team for the work of the kingdom
Transition: Let’s look in summary at chapter 3.
The Work of the Team- 3:1 – 32
- Notice how the work was delegated
- He assigned everyone a specific task
- 28 times in this chapter you see the words “next to him, next to them, next to that, next section, beside him, beyond them.
- He assigned them work near their homes. Why?
- They would have skin in the game. They would be more personally motivated because that section of the wall was for their personal protection
- Second, no travel so it saved valuable time
- Third, if attacked, they would not have to leave another section of the wall away from their family to go home and protect their family
- The family worked together and that utilized every family members’ talents
- Farming is a great way for the family to work together
- Even commuters had a part
- People from Jericho, Tekoa, Gibeon, Mizpah took areas to work on. They worked on areas of the wall where there were very few homes and areas that would not be able to be handled by the residents
- The assignments were made by vocations as well
- High priest along with the other priests took the Sheep Gate to be repaired
- This gate as we will see was the gate that sheep and other animals to be sacrificed at the temple would come in and thus that is probably why the priests chose to repair that gate. Verse one
- Goldsmiths are mentioned in 3:8;31-32
- Perfume makers – 3:8
- District and half district government leaders – 3:9-12;14-19
- Levites – 3:17
- Merchants – 3:31-32
- There were eleven gates and four towers in need of repair or inspection
- Sheep Gate – speaks of the cross of Christ – Nehemiah 3:1 - 2
- This particular place is at the NE wall and the text reads of the project by Nehemiah as going counterclockwise.
- Archaeologists discovered the Sheep Gate near the Pool of Bethsaida that was mentioned in John 5:2
- As we said before the high priest Eliashib along with other priests repaired and dedicated the Sheep Gate to the Lord because it was through that gate the animals for sacrifice came through. It made sense that the priests would do the labor to repair this particular gate.
- The towers are mentioned throughout this chapter because they were the defense systems for any town. See the danger and safe place to run and hide in from the enemy.
- He assigned everyone a specific task
- The Sheep Gate apparently had no locks or doors so there was always access for those who had sinned and wanted to make their sacrifices in the temple to get forgiveness
- It was sanctified and set apart as holy by the priests.
- Fish Gate – speaks of winningsouls to Christ – Nehemiah 3:3
- The people of Tyre would bring fish to Jerusalem through that gate and there may have been a fish market by the gate.
- Jesus said to His disciples
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
- Old Gate – speaks of the old nature we battle continually – Nehemiah 3:6 – 12
6 Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. 7 And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. 8 Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters.
- The old gate known as the Yeshanah gate meant the entrance to the old city
- They restored this gate and the wall to the Broad Wall
- Gibeon and Mizphah lived just a few miles from Jerusalem and they came to help
- In verse 11, little is known about the tower of the ovens
- Conjectured that it was near the street of the bakers mentioned in Jeremiah 37:21. A place where the bakers worked together in a district of Jerusalem
- You see some government officials (half district) along with his daughters repaired the wall.
- The old gate represents also the moving from the old city into the new representing possibly, allegorically, moving from the old covenant of the OT to the new covenant Jesus talked about at His Last Supper.
- Valley Gate – speaks of the humility, suffering and testing’s we must faceas Christ followers – Nehemiah 3:13- 14
- South wall
- This was the place that Nehemiah on his journey through Jerusalem at night to survey the damage began and started his vision preparation
- It was 1700 feet long, the section of the gate and wall that was repaired
- This gate may speak of the humility, sufferings, and testing a believer may face
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
- Dung Gate – speaks of the worksof the flesh – Nehemiah 3:13 - 14
- The Dung gate led to the valley of Hinnon, the place where the city dump was. It was described as gehanna or like hell. It was a perpetual burning dump of garbage and waste
- King Manasseh sacrificed his children to an idol there
- King Josiah decreed it to be the city dump for Jerusalem
43 And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.
- The Dung Gate may represent the works done in the flesh apart from the Spirit that are not pleasing to God
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
- Fountain Gate – speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit
Nehemiah 3:15 - 16
15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king's garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David. 16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men.
- East Wall and just north of the Dung Gate
- It was near a water tunnel built by King Hezekiah
- It was also near the King’s Garden – Pool of Siloam – King Zedekiah- Judah’s last king tried to escape from the Babylonians out that gate but was subsequently captured
- Tombs of David – this was the place known as the “city of David” where David and his ancestors are buried
- Artificial Pool by be the King’s Pool – Isaiah 22:9
- House of the Heroes which was the barracks of David’s select soldiers that were called “mighty men” in 2 Samuel 23:8
- Water in the NT is often associated with the Holy Spirit
37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
- Water Gate – speaks of the Word of God
- Before getting to Water Gate repair, notice a few things from Nehemiah 3:17 – 27
- Nehemiah 3:17-27
- 17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress.[f] 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired[g] another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and to the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.
- Armory – Eastern wall – corner / angle or a turn in the wall – verse 19
- Baruch is mentioned in verse 20. In the NIV it describes him as zealously or earnestly or diligently working. God had him pointed out for how hard he worked maybe as an example for us
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.
- Some private homes are mentioned specifically – Eliashib – high priest home. – 3:21
- Priests were working near the temple at this point – 3:26
- Tower that was near the palace – 3:25 - 26 – probably near the palace of Solomon and the court of the guard as it is referred to was probably Solomon’s great courtyard – 3:26
- Hill of Ophel was between the city of David and the temple mount where the priest lived nearby
- Note #1 The Water Gate was the seventh gate and seven is the number of perfection!
- Note #2 The Water Gate is not mentioned as in need of repair and may allegorically speak to the fact that the Word of God is eternal
Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
- Horse Gate – speaks of the believer’s warfare – Nehemiah 3:28
- East wall
- Horses entered the palace and Solomon would import horses from Egypt as part of his elaborate defense system
- The believer is to prepare for the battles against this world’s system that is attempting to lure him or her in or defeat them by persecution
2 Timothy 2:1-3
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, 2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
- East Gate – speaks of the second comingof Christ – Nehemiah 3:29
- Also known as the Golden Gate was east of the temple area and it was the gate Jesus entered on Palm Sunday as He came into Jerusalem
- Ezekiel in his book noted that when the glory of the Lord departed the temple and Israel that the glory left out of the East or Golden Gate
- Jesus will return coming into Jerusalem bringing back the glory of the Lord at His second coming
I John 2:28
And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
- Inspection Gate – speaks of judgment and the judgment seat of Christ – Nehemiah 3:31
31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired.
- The last gate was known as the Muster Gate, the Inspection Gate or the Hammipikad Gate
- Translated here Muster because this was where the troops would be mustered for inspection
- This was the Northeast Corner of the wall around Jerusalem
- It is a picture for us as believers of the fact we will be called into account after this life. We will face inspection at the judgment seat of Christ
2 Corinthians 5:10
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
- Notice the name Malkijah is used and this name was used three times in this chapter all representing different men.
- In verse 32, we see that Nehemiah records the Sheep Gate which is back where the work had been described and begun.
- Warren Wiersbe in his commentary on the book of Nehemiah says that it maybe a picture of the fact that Jesus is the Alpha and Omega – the Beginning and the End. This picture and imagery we draw from Nehemiah’s writings.
Application: God uses the imagery of the gates to give us a picture of the Christian life.
Transition: It is amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit.
Key Thought: When a team works in unison to execute God’s plan, there is nothing that can thwart God’s kingdom work.
Concluding thoughts – Take a look again this week at the gates and how some commentators correspond them to the Christian life. These gates start with salvation and the believer ends up after his life at the judgment seat of Christ. I am not sure how it was intended but it does make sense.
Are these qualities at work in you through the Spirit of God? Are you part of the team, the church family here at PVBC as we work together, collectively to build the kingdom of God?
Questions to Ponder this Week
- Are you supportive of the structure and authority of the local church as described in God’s Word?
- Are you a team player or a lone ranger when it comes to serving in the local church?
- Do you see the value and importance of working in unison as a team to accomplish God’s kingdom work?