What do you do with sections of Scripture that just seem like they are just long lists of people or places, when they seem boring or just plain irrelevant to your life or are just detailed for you to care?
The lists in the bible contain some gems! You just need to take the time to look for them.
In this list we have here in Nehemiah 3 we have a record of all those who responded to the call by Nehemiah in 2:17&20 to rise and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, detailing what they contributed to the rebuilding project and where they worked.
So, what gems are there in this list?
1. God sees everything
The very fact that all these people’s names are here all recorded for us underlines what elsewhere Scripture explicitly teaches – that God sees everything. God sees, He looks for obedience and service (that’s the majority of this list), and God sees disobedience/unwillingness (see vs 5). Our lives and how we live them really matter! The details of our lives matter to God and so it should matter to us. How we respond to the Gospel, how we spend our days is all recorded in God’s books (Revelation 20:12) because God is looking to reward us for obedience and faithfulness with that which He has entrusted to us.
2. Kingdom advance is a community thing!
God’s plan to restore Jerusalem was not a private project of Nehemiah’s. No God mobilised a whole host of diverse people to work together, to literally work alongside one another. In this one chapter the phrases ‘next to him’ or ‘after him’ are mentioned 27x in just 32 verses! The big idea is that this was a joint effort, the purposes of God was achieved in community, partnering with others.
3. Know what’s your responsibility
Verse 28 says of the priests repaired a portion of the wall ‘each opposite his own house’. So often we are waiting for someone to do what we have seen needs doing! “Who’s going to reach those children/mom’s/school’s…..?”, “Who is going to gather the young adults?”, “There isn’t great pastoral care in this church!”, “Who’s going to fix that tap at the church building or door that’s banging…?”
If you have seen something, if you have been sensitised to a gap in your church’s ministry to people may I suggest that maybe you now have a responsibility, a mandate from God to do something about it! Serve where God shows you need, where God sensitises you to things others might not have seen, take responsibility for your portion, a portion of the wall, something you can say over; “I’ve got this, you can count on me!”
4. Don’t ever think we graduate from serving
In verse 5 we read that the novels ‘would not stoop to serve their Lord’. This is not a good situation. It appears as though this group of people thought that helping with the rebuilding project was beneath them, it wasn’t for them. Serving, getting stuck-in in practical ways is something we should never graduate from. After all we serve Jesus who came not to be served but to serve and give His life for us… May we always be like Jesus.
5. Serving in families
In verse 12 we read about Shallum who repaired the wall, ‘he and his daughters’. May we be like this guy and his daughters, families on mission together, serving God as family units! Parents that might mean supporting your child as they want to serve on sound, or set-up or children’s ministry, dropping them off early fetching late to enable them to serve. Children that means sacrificing time with mom or dad sometimes so that they can minister to people or take responsibility, it might mean sharing your home with others who are being ministered to through a Community Group or something of the sort… Let’s be such families that live not just for one another in the family unit but seek to encourage and support one another as we serve God with all of our unique talents and abilities.
So there they are, five little gems in this passage. Did you uncover any more as you read? Never disregard any section of Scripture but ask God to show you the gems.
Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you (2 Thessalonians 3:1)
The Apostolic gift lifts local eyes from considering only the local church and personal issues to see the broader need, and in so doing the worldwide mission of Jesus remains in focus always. The apostle Paul has addressed local questions that the believers had amongst themselves, but now he calls them to join him in Jesus’ mission to the whole world.
Paul asked these young believers to pray that the gospel ‘would run and be glorified’. He is asking them to pray that the gospel would advance and that it would be honoured (3:1). The gospel advances through local churches, through preaching, through the lives of all believers living out their transformation and sharing Jesus.
What do you pray about? Only local, personal things or are you prayers about the gospel speeding ahead, spreading out all across the world. I urge you from Scripture to widen the scope of your prayers if that’s needed, to care about church planting, and the gospel’s advance reaching to all unreached people of the world.
He also asked them to pray that people would respond wholeheartedly to the gospel, that lives would be transformed (as had happened in Thessalonica) by the gospel (3:1).
2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.
In Paul’s mind, gospel advance was linked to danger and oppression. So he asked them to pray that we may be delivered from wicked & evil men (3:2) and yet even as he is praying he knows, the Lord is faithful, he knows, he is confident that God will establish them and guard you against the evil one.
So he closes praying that the Lord would ‘direct their hearts’ (3:5). Only God can lead and direct us at a heart-level so that we end up loving God more and becoming more and more robust/steadfast like Jesus.
This little section starts with Paul asking them to pray, and ends with Paul praying for them! May our prayers for one another criss-cross like this, us praying for others and others praying for us – partnering in prayer knowing that prayer is the power God’s given us to open and shut doors.