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Rebuilding Together 1

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Arise And Build!  All Things Are Possible With God’s Help

Rebuilding Together 1

Nehemiah 3:1-32


       There was an article in the Toronto Globe of a lady who had a terrible experience in trying to rescue her 7-year-old son from the jaws of a crocodile.  With arms outstretched, the child was screaming for his life as the reptile dragged him in among the reeds.  The mother splashed through the water and grabbed the helpless boy by the shoulders.  Other vacationers formed a human chain, and they finally were able to free the victim from his powerful captor and bring him safely to shore.  The youngster, now fully recovered, is alive because his mother and many others became involved in a time of danger to rescue him from a desperate situation.

       We live in a day and age that screams for all of us to get involved, and work together, if we are going to snatch people out of hell’s fire!!!  Yet, in this day of individualism, we need intense lessons on togetherness and teamwork.  We find such a lesson in the third chapter of the book of Nehemiah.  This is a very important chapter.  It may seem like a boring chapter with all of the names and repetition, but there are some very important principles to be learned here.  Notice with me please Nehemiah 3:1.

(In Nehemiah 3:1 we can see:)

I.     The Solidarity.

Notice that the people went to work rebuilding the wall.

Also notice that Nehemiah begins his account with the work of the High Priest and his brothers.

Please consider the fact that Jesus, our great High Priest, has already performed the great work of salvation.  Jesus said,

“I must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day.  The night is coming when no man can work.”

       In keeping with the example of Jesus Christ, leaders should pitch in on the physical work sometimes, particularly at crucial times.  They must lead the way in their work and their work ethic.  Leaders must work on behalf of and along side of the people.  They cannot sit around and be lazy.  Leadership is hard work!  Leaders must plan, organize, staff, direct, control, teach, preach, counsel, research and train.

       In addition, we must all learn to work together.  We must develop teamwork.  There can be no big I’s and little you’s.  Everybody in the body of Christ is important.  The trite and shopworn cliche is still true, “In unity there is strength.”  Jesus talked about the power of unity in

Matthew 18:19-20 (NASB-U), “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. [20] For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

Although the passage is about church discipline, it can certainly be applied to the larger contexts of fellowship and service!!!

It Takes Teamwork

       An incident from the life of the great Italian conductor Toscanini was related by Jackson Wilcox in the book 450 Stories From Life.  During a rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York City, the maestro offered some constructive criticism to a featured soloist.  She was too proud to accept his help, however, and expressed her resentment by exclaiming in anger, “I am the star of this performance!”  Toscanini responded wisely and firmly.  Madame,” he said, in this performance there are no stars.”  Wilcox commented, “Unless the soloists and the members of the chorus were ready to work together in harmony, there could be no...symphony!”  We can make no advances with only solo work.  All of us, from the greatest to the humblest, should work together in harmony and devotion.

       In the first verse, we also see the element of consecration.  As we build these new buildings, we want to consecrate them and dedicate them to the Lord.  They will be consecrated by prayer and by their use.

       Now, take note of how the name of every ruler and every family is mentioned.  God is keeping a record!  He knows who is working and who isn’t.  The center of our lives should be the Kingdom of God, and in history the terminology changed from “the Kingdom of God” to “the Church.”

(Let’s move on to verse 2.  Let me read it aloud for us.)

Look at the words “next to him,” “next to them,” and “after him.”  These phrases occur over twenty times.  We can see that the people worked together.  They worked side-by-side.  There were 42 different work crews, but they worked together.  They were like one unit, one body.

The Parable Of The Watch

       From an experience of her childhood, Mrs. Floyd Crook recalls how this truth was impressed upon her with special meaning.  She writes, “I came home from school one day crying because I had been given only a small part in the children’s program, while my playmate got the leading role.  After drying my tears, my mother took off her watch and put it in my hand.  ‘What do you see?’ she asked. ‘A gold case, a face, and two hands,’ I replied.  Opening the back, she repeated the question.  I told her I saw many tiny wheels.  ‘This watch would be useless,’ she said, ‘without every part--even the ones you can hardly see.’  That helped me all through life to see the importance of the small duties we’re asked to perform.”

Please don’t here this as a criticism, but an observation.  We can’t all have our own personal ministry!  Some of us are going to have to be little parts in a very big church.

       Think about the early church.  How could they impact so many people so quickly?  How could 3,000 be added to the church in one day?  It may surprise you to realize that unity and togetherness were crucial to success of the early church.

Acts 2:44-47 (NASB-U), “And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; [45] and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. [46] Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, [47] praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (emphasis mine).

       In the book of Philippians, Paul does some very important teaching on unity.

Philippians 1:27 (NASB-U), “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (emphasis mine).

Philippians 2:1-2 (NASB-U), “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, [2] make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (emphasis mine).

       In Paul’s teaching on unity, he goes on to cover what is probably the most important element of unity in

Philippians 2:3-4 (NASB-U), “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; [4] do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (emphasis mine).

We will only be able to minister to thousands of members, as we work together!!!

       In order for us to work together,

·        We must give up our groundless self-esteem;

·        We must give up our selfishness;

·        We must have a renewing of our minds;

·        We must subject our personal goals to Kingdom goals;

·        Our minds must be transformed from exalted minds to humble minds;

·        We must make a different evaluation of ourselves in respect to others;

·        We must regard others as more important than ourselves;

·        We must make room in our minds to consider, allow, and be concerned about the interests and values of other people.

Often, we can’t work together because of clashes in values:  not God’s values, but men’s values.  We must understand that unity of purpose can be achieved, even though the people involved possess a variety of gifts, interests, values, personalities, etc.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NASB-U), “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. [5] And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. [6] There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.”

       Unity is so important that even when people are working together for evil purposes and goals, unity can still accomplish much.  Do you remember what happened at the towel of Babel (Gen. 11: 1-9)?

       So if we work together towards God’s vision and goals, under the power of the Holy Spirit, there is nothing we can’t accomplish!

       Notice also that each work crew did the work that was nearest to it.

       We must do what needs to be done where we are at.  Bloom where you’re planted!!!  If a visitor needs to find the restroom, don’t call and usher, show him the way.  In this age of specialization nobody wants to do anything that’s not their job.  We all have a ministry, but we must all do what is needed where we are.

       Organization is also a large part of unity.  Notice that there were 42 work crews that knew what they were supposed to do.  They were not running around in mass confusion.  This must be due to Nehemiah’s organization.

       We have many ministries at The House of the Lord that must be organized for unity and effectiveness.  Those of you with the gift of administration, it is needed!

(Let’s take a look at verse 5.)

Another reason for the success of the Israelites in rebuilding the wall is that nearly everybody worked.  I said nearly everybody!  Total participation is the goal.  Just a little while ago, we had a day of sacrifice where almost everybody participated, and the results were glorious!  God blessed us to raise $180,000.00 in one day, because many people gave.  What would happen if one time—just one time—everybody worked, gave, or participated?

It is also important to note that God marks the shirkers as well as the workers.

(I would like you to take note of verse 12.)

Notice in this verse that women worked as well.  The daughters of Shallum worked with him.

       In the Black church, women have long worked in ministry, and women—in general—continue to be the largest part of the spiritual workforce.  Thank God for our women!!!  But, like the Jews, we must have more men involved in the work of God.  Thank God for the many godly men that we already have!

       Notice that the word repaired and repairs come up many times.  We make repairs to our church and our individual spiritual lives as we journey to heaven.  Sometimes we need maintenance.  Sometimes we need an overhaul.  In keeping with this perspective, a wonderful verse comes to mind in

Isaiah 58:12 (NASB-U), “Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

·        I want to rebuild the ancient ruins of the Church.

·        I want to raise up the age-old foundations.

·        I want to be called, “The Repairer of the breach.

·        I want to be called, “The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.”

       What do you want to do with your life and how do you want to be known?

(Let’s also look briefly at verse 20.)

It is very interesting to see that God, through Nehemiah, recorded how Baruch repaired his section of wall.  Baruch repaired his section of the wall zealously.

       God wants us to work for Him with all of our might!!!

Colossians 3:23 (NASB-U), “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”

(If we could look at a map of old Jerusalem, we would see that Nehemiah circled the city in his description of the work.  By looking at each one of the gates of the wall, we can see the things which individual Christians and corporate local churches ought to be working on.  There is a symbolism here.)

II.    The Symbolism.

(Excerpts taken from Nehemiah God’s Builder, Richard H. Seume.)

       The wall of a city had gates in it.  The gates of the city let people and things in, let people and things out, and kept people and things in, and kept people and things out.

       The gates of the city were where the business and the government of the city took place.

       The gates of the city represent the security and stability of the city.

       These gates can represent a number of things typologically, but look at them as the security and stability of Church.

(All right, let’s look at the significance of each gate.)

A.    The Sheep Gate.

This gate was near the temple area in the northeast section of the city.  Through this gate the shepherds brought their flocks from the wilderness pasturage.  Here the priests also performed their endless task.  Jesus passed through this gate on His journeys to Bethany.  He went out through the Sheep Gate to Gethsemane on that last awful night, and He probably passed through the Sheep Gate when He was brought back “as a sheep” before her shearers and “as a lamb” led to the slaughter.

       The Sheep Gate speaks of the cross.  How significant that reconstruction should begin here.

The Church needs to rebuild and repair the doctrine of the cross of Christ.  The apostle Paul said in

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NASB-U), “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

It is the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which extends from the cross that saves people!

       I certainly don’t believe God or the Word of God intended for us to truncate the Gospel into the cross alone, but the cross is certainly a central part of what the Church is all about.

(We come next to:)

B.    The Fish Gate.

This is probably the site of the present day Damascus Gate.  The Fish Gate probably received fish from fisheries on the Jordan River and as far as the Sea of Galilee.

       Remember that Jesus told Peter and Andrew,

Matthew 4:19 (NASB-U), “And He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’”

He has called us, likewise, to be fishers of menWe must repair the walls of evangelism our churches, and in our individual lives.

(We come next to:)

C.    The Old Gate.

As we move counterclockwise we come to the Old Gate.  This is perhaps the same gate referred to as the Corner Gate in Jeremiah 31:38.  Since most of the city was destroyed, the Old Gate was probably in actuality a new gate, but naming it the Old Gate would remind the people of what had been.

       Jeremiah said in

Jeremiah 6:16 (NASB-U), “Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls.  But they said, “We will not walk in it.”’”

Enough of modernism and neo-orthodoxy!  The Church must get back to the basics.  The Church must get back to its Kingdom mandate.  We must understand that the Kingdom mandate has to do with God using a people, through relationship, fellowship, and empowerment to usher in the final manifestation of the Kingdom.  Let us seek for the old paths, the well trodden paths of the Bible and Kingdom values of honesty, purity, love, work, marriage, paying for what you buy, prayer, thankfulness, etc.

(Finally, at least for today, we have:)

D.    The Valley Gate.

This gate lies adjacent to the valley of Hinnom.  Through this gate “the poor children”, i.e. victims of the savage Moloch worship, had been led out to their fate.  This gate would be a perpetual reminder of shame.

       We need to remember our shame, i.e. the shame for what we have done, not shame because of who we are.  Shame for what we have done is a legitimate response to sin.  If we are shame because of who we are, this is illegitimate shame, because God created us and loves us for who we are (i.e. who He created us to be, when we are not under the influence of the principle of sin that is in the flesh).

We need to remember that we are but dust.  The Lord hears the cry of those who are of a contrite heart.  How often we need to pause by this gate, for too easily even Christians tend toward pride and arrogance.

       Although we only have time to deal with four gates today, you can count for yourself that there are ten gates mentioned in this account.  Ten is one of the perfect numbers.  It signifies the perfection of Divine order.  It implies that nothing is wanting; that the number and order are perfect; that the whole cycle is complete.  As the repair of the ten gates meant the wall was completed, when we rebuild these ten things the church will be complete and Christ will come.  Let us work together in rebuilding the gates of Christianity so that we may honor the name of Christ and hasten His coming!

(Now is the day of salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)


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