Allow me to tell you a little story. You have already been told bits and pieces of it. For 20 years or so I was a full-time, local church pastor. I served in Texas, the Philippines, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky. Tresa and I saw God perform miracles because He had a purpose and plan for His churches. We saw God transform people and groups of people to believe and grow.
Churches that were just starting, or about to close their doors, or who had never accomplished much for God in over 200 years, or who were trying to survive in hostile contexts. Fear, doubt, worry, competing opinions and personalities had ruled their worlds.
You know, most people fear because they project the past into the future. We must learn to be present. Because right now, regardless of what has happened or not happened in the past, right now, God has a plan and mission. We watched people turn fear into faith and begin to grow as disciples.
They began to pray, love, and develop a burden for their lost worlds. Soon, we began to watch God blow in the quail! People were being saved weekly if not more often. We began each service with baptism to put that testimony ever before the people and to keep up with those who were ready to join the family. We saw people from other faith systems saved, atheists saved, Mormons saved, new age believers saved, and crusty old sinners saved. We saw God’s people revived, excited, and passionate because they began to base their lives on what God was doing and not on what other people were doing.
That is very liberating!
Along the way, we began to consult with other churches, seminaries, and mission boards and to lead conferences, teach and write and we saw others changed here in the United States and overseas.
I believe because I have seen what God can do when His people believe and seek to grow as disciples first and then overflow into their communities with evangelism and mission. Revival must happen first.That is for the church. Then spiritual awakening can take place. That is for the lost world.
When God’s people are so full of Him and His Spirit as they grow as disciples, it will naturally overflow into the unsaved community surrounding them.
I have seen it, experienced it, been blessed by it. I know what God can do in and through Richland Creek Community Church. But, church, you must submit to Him, get on board with His plan and leadership. There was a lot of hard work involved as we served in these places. The dream is always free, but the hustle costs extra.
The story of Nehemiah models much of this for us. It is time to rise up and build!
Turn to Nehemiah 3.
Nehemiah 3 is one of those chapters you would tend to skim over in your daily devotions with its many names and construction descriptions. It might seem like boring or unimportant detail to you. Be careful, however, about how you handle the Word of God.
Chapter 3 is included for a reason. There are lessons we must learn from it if we are to move forward and see restoration.
First, we must recall the lessons we have already gleaned from chapters one and two.
For us to join the future God intends and to see revival, it is necessary to first recognize Him and His plan, repent of our sin, remember His Word and promises, and totally rely upon Him for our next steps.
We must request to be engaged and used in His Mission, review the extent of the cost to be involved so we can resolve to embrace His Mission in complete obedience, and rebuke any enemy who stands in our way.
Nehemiah and the leaders of Jerusalem committed to rise up and begin rebuilding the walls and gates but actually doing it would take more than just the leaders.This was going to be real and hard work. This is always true as God gives us the privilege to demonstrate our faith.
We must all embrace the mission and be willing to work in the building of the future God has for this church. You cannot sit back and expect the pastors, ministry leaders, deacons or life group leaders to do all the work. I mean, isn’t that their job? Not according to Scripture.
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
To equip all of us to do the work is the job of biblical leadership. These are not hired hands; they are called men and women of God who have been gifted to servant leadership. I know some think they have the privilege of just sitting back and watching the action, reaping the rewards of what others do for them.
They are like British humorist, Jerome K. Jerome who once said, I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.
There is no room for spectators on these train tracks, but there is plenty of room for real workers.
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
We are called and gifted to carry out the work of ministry as every part does its share. We each must do our part. We must each take a section of wall and get busy! Leaders set the example and the pace, but they cannot do it alone.
The great evangelist-preacher, D.L. Moody once said, A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest in…to get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy, is all they want. The idea of work for them – actual work in the church – never enters their minds.
We are to give and use our very best to edify the Body and reach the lost. This is a qualitative measurement not simple a quantitative one. Churches and Christians within them must be very careful how they define success. For some, it is all about how many people are showing up, how full the room is, how big the crowd. Biblically, we would be more accurate to define success by how many disciples were being made, grown, and reproducing themselves.
How many lives are not just being saved, but being sanctified in ongoing transformation? Is this simply a show we put on for people to watch or is this an equipping, refueling, and worship session to glorify God so we can then roll up our sleeves and get busy about His work?
People who are not spiritually mature do not know what spiritual maturity is and often do not understand what the real goals must be. It is easy to believe you do not need to put yourself in a better position for discipleship and maturity when you do not know what they really are.
Filling a building is not the primary goal. Filling hearts with the Gospel and lives with ongoing transformation are.
I am in many full buildings around the world with thousands of people. Some are also making disciples, but many are not. There is simply more to it than that. Making attenders or even converts is not the same as making fruit-producing disciples.
Our focus and purpose must be to bring God glory and not ourselves.
I Corinthians 10:31
Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
II Corinthians 4:5
For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.
Our world mocks the church, considers her totally irrelevant, or just ignores her. They ask, if your God is so powerful why is your church so weak? They are not talking about a building being full or not; they are talking about the Christians they know and hear about.
Why aren’t lives being transformed in an ongoing, maturing way? Why are God’s people not living out their faith in obedience and testifying of Him to the world?
So were the enemies in the days of Nehemiah. The walls and gates of Jerusalem needed to be repaired for their protection and security from their surrounding enemies who mocked them. But many had been living there for years and were content with the disrepair. It had become normal for them.
Nehemiah challenges them to rise up and build. They needed a new normal! These walls were also symbolic. They were more than physical protectors. They encouraged the people of God to have a sense of identity and distinctiveness.They created separation from the pagan influence around them and were a reversal of the great defeat and reproach they suffered at the hands of the Babylonians due to their own disobedience before God.
This restoration was a symbol of the people of God being back with Him and ready to worship and serve Him. They were symbols of great restoration and revival. This is an important chapter for us to study as we learn about our path forward. The detail of this chapter is a testimony to the historical accuracy of the story. This actually took place with real people in a real place in real time.
Down the road, I pray, when they are telling the amazing story of what God continues to do through Richland Creek after this transition ends, they will hear a similar description. God’s people joined together, side by side and built what God wanted.
Warren Wiersbe calls this chapter, Wall to Wall Workers.
Chapter 3 is organized around the repairing of the gates and beginning north of the temple, moves counterclockwise around the city. He names ten gates and several towers. Nehemiah had a plan and organized the workers accordingly. The work was subdivided into around 45 sections and the rebuilding included about 42 work parties.
During this transition we have been working on a plan as well. We need all workers on the wall!
Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They built as far as the Tower of the Hundred, and consecrated it, then as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 Next to Eliashib the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. 3 Also the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars. 4 And next to them Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, made repairs. Next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs. Next to them Zadok the son of Baana made repairs. 5 Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. 6 Moreover Jehoiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors, with its bolts and bars. 7 And next to them Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and Mizpah, repaired the residence of the governor of the region beyond the River.
I. The Northern Section
Nehemiah begins here since this was the section of the wall most commonly attacked by enemies. It was likely the most heavily damaged. The towers here would have been very important for defense, observation, and warfare.
The first people mentioned are priests who constructed most of that northern wall. Leaders set examples. It was appropriate for them to work here as these walls were closest to the second temple that had already been completed as well.
They wanted to re-establish and protect the temple worship of God. Men from surrounding cities came to help also like the men of Jericho about 15 miles to the east and the men of Tekoa, 11 miles away and the hometown of the prophet Amos.
Please note though, the leaders from Tekoa, refused to help, however. These nobles did not participate. Some never will. The hard work is either beneath them or they do not believe in it.
God will remember those who do not put their shoulder to the work.
8 Next to him Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs. Also next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, made repairs; and they fortified Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 And next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, leader of half the district of Jerusalem, made repairs. 10 Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs in front of his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabniah made repairs. 11 Malchijah the son of Harim and Hashub the son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section, as well as the Tower of the Ovens. 12 And next to him was Shallum the son of Hallohesh, leader of half the district of Jerusalem; he and his daughters made repairs. 13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Refuse Gate.
II. The Western Section
This was a long section with two gates and a tower. It required many to be involved. Note the variety of people who pitched in to do the difficult labor. There were dignitaries and businessmen. There were specialized craftsmen and again, those from surrounding communities who came to help.
It takes all kinds and all people. It is just like the church. God has created each of us with talents and giftedness to be used to build His future.
I Corinthians 12:4-6, 11
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
God is the unifying factor. We are saved and gifted to serve the Body and to help it become stronger and more and more God glorifying.
Everyone made repairs. The word repair is used 35 times in this chapter and means to make strong and firm. This was no flimsy quick fix job. They did their best to build something that would last. It was not something dependent on a single person or that would collapse under a little pressure. This was something to depend upon, stand upon. We need all hands on the wall!
The repairs continued…
14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, leader of the district of Beth Haccerem, repaired the Refuse Gate; he built it and hung its doors with its bolts and bars.
III. The Southern Section
The southern part is the shortest section. They not only had to repair the wall but also the gates. Those entry points had to be made secure again with locks and bolts. Those were the ways the enemy would creep in. They needed to be safe.There were enemies all around them who did not want them to move forward or succeed.
- Will you secure the gates church?
- Will you make certain the enemy has no entry point into your lives and this fellowship?
- Will you remember God’s word and promises as we have already learned in chapter one?
- Will you repent of any sin that allows a foothold, a stronghold for the enemy?
- Will you be defined by God’s Word, devoted to prayer, and dependent upon the Holy Spirit?
As the old song goes, let’s shut de door and keep out the devil; shut de door, keep the devil in the night.
What openings in our heart, mind and spirit need to be locked tight this morning? Hear the work being completed…
15 Shallun the son of Col-Hozeh, leader of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate; he built it, covered it, hung its doors with its bolts and bars, and repaired the wall of the Pool of Shelah by 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, leader of half the district of Beth Zur, made repairs as far as the place in front of the tombs of David, to the man-made pool, and as far as the House of the Mighty.
17 After him the Levites, under Rehum the son of Bani, made repairs. Next to him Hashabiah, leader of half the district of Keilah, made repairs for his district. 18 After him their brethren, under Bavai the son of Henadad, leader of the other half of the district of Keilah, made repairs. 19 And next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, the leader of Mizpah, repaired another section in front of the Ascent to the Armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai carefully repaired the other section, from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz, repaired another section, from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 And after him the priests, the men of the plain, made repairs. 23 After him Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs by his house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress, even as far as the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai made repairs opposite the buttress, and on the tower which projects from the king’s upper house that was by the court of the prison. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh made repairs. 26 Moreover the Nethinim who dwelt in Ophel made repairs as far as the place in front of the Water Gate toward the east, and on the projecting tower. 27 After them the Tekoites repaired another section, next to the great projecting tower, and as far as the wall of Ophel. 28 Beyond the Horse Gate the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer made repairs in front of his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shechaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, made repairs. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah made repairs in front of his [r]dwelling. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the Nethinim and of the merchants, in front of the Miphkad Gate, and as far as the upper room at the corner. 32 And between the upper room at the corner, as far as the Sheep Gate, the goldsmiths and the merchants made repairs.
IV. The Eastern Section
The eastern is the longest section with five gates and a large tower. It is built on the crest of a hill. Regional leaders, leading priests, temple servants, merchants, and even goldsmiths built here.
The word built is used six times in this chapter and means rebuilt. Again, a variety of people from all walks of life joined together to accomplish the work. Some will do more work and work harder than others.
20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai carefully repaired the other section, from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest
Other translations say he did so zealously. Interesting that his work was especially noted in this context.Good examples and role models should be noted and celebrated.
You have some outstanding leaders and servants in this church who have been working very hard, very carefully, very zealously.
They are worth noting and emulating. Leaders and hard-working servants like that must set the pace and be examples as you move forward.
Do you work with zeal for God’s people and purpose? For what are you zealous in your life?
See, remember there are others who will not work at all like the leaders of Tekoa.
5 Next to them the Tekoites made repairs; but their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord.
Do you think the Lord remembers them? He wrote about them in His Word. What will God say about you and your efforts for His Kingdom? Some might just be surprised. They were in Jesus’ days on earth…
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
What are you seeking to build? Why? For whom?
The people of Nehemiah got the job done as they listened to their leadership, kept their eyes on the same goal, and worked together for the glory of God.
Neither the enemies on the outside, nor the problems on the inside, could keep them from their mission. They were focused and zealous to complete the journey.
I pray you will be. I pray this church will be. I have seen it before. When God’s people choose this day whom they will serve. I have seen Him do the miraculous, the transforming. I believe.
For those who also do I pray one day you will hear…
His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
Oh, that we might bring our Master joy and happiness with our surrendered lives and our willing service!
Let us rise up and build!