Summary: This sermon is part of a series I preached on Nehemiah’s one holy passion, the glory of God.
One Holy Passion
March 4, 2001
Back when it was still a novelty to sing choruses; back when we youth thought that ¡§Pass It On¡¨ and ¡§I Wish We¡¦d All Been Ready¡¨ was the height of Christian cool; back when bell bottoms were in for the first time, one of the first choruses I learned was Psalm 48:1-2¡Xif you remember it, sing it with me! ¡§Great is the Lord¡K¡¨ This psalm speaks of the city of Jerusalem, though it doesn¡¦t mention it by name, and calls it ¡§beautiful for situation¡¨ (KJV) or my NASB says it is ¡§beautiful in elevation¡¨, and then calls it ¡§the joy of the whole earth.¡¨
This Jerusalem, however, was anything but¡Xmore like the laughingstock of the whole earth! If God loved the Jews so much, why did His city look like this? A better question: if the Jews were God¡¦s people, why did the city look like this?
Nehemiah was a man not content with this situation, as we have seen, and today we study the actual rebuilding of the walls. God has worked tremendously in preparing the stage for this to happen; much more time has elapsed in this preparation than it would actually take to rebuild these walls¡Xthough it is hard to say if the people realized this or not. And thus we come to Nehemiah 3, and are immediately faced with one of these lists that proves to be the bane of would-be Bible readers. 38 different individual names and 42 places are mentioned, and we dread wading into this list we might call ¡§The Fellowship of the Unpronounceable!¡¨
Understand that the writing style of the day was such that lists such as these and the many genealogies of Scripture were put right into the text. Today, we would find a way to footnote, but this was not their way. At the same time, one might infer from the many lists such as these in the Bible that God indeed cares about individuals, caring enough to include individual names within His Holy Word.
This list, however, is immediately interesting to me, much moreso than many of the genealogies which consist mainly of name after tongue-tying name. I think that in between the Meshezabels and Henadads there are some pertinent spiritual truths for us to consider! Let¡¦s take a look at lessons we can learn from some ordinary heroes!
The work on the walls was accomplished because the people:
1. Committed themselves to the same goal.
Nehemiah had articulated the vision, a simple one: ¡§come, let us rebuild the walls.¡¨ There is nothing particularly ground-breaking about recognizing the simple fact that we must work together on the same team after the same goal if we are going to have success as a church! And yet I daresay that you could go to a whole lot of churches in the U. S. of A. and find that there would be no clear direction among the people, no clear purposes which people could articulate. ¡§We aim at nothing and hit it with accuracy!¡¨ To the degree that we focus on our own agendas, we will be distracted from God¡¦s agenda and the goals toward which He would have us move.
Unity is absolutely indispensable in the church. And unity ought to be centered around a shared focus¡Xwe set our hearts on God¡¦s glory and upon God¡¦s purposes for us as a church. There is tremendous power in cooperation. Someone once said that ¡§snow is a beautiful demonstration of what God can do with a bunch of flakes!¡¨ Individually, we can¡¦t accomplish a whole lot alone. An single snowflake is among the most delicate, frail things we can see. But if enough of them stick together they can paralyze a city!
We spoke in our small group this past Thursday evening about how important it is to be focused on the same objective, God¡¦s objective, and to work together as a team to accomplish God¡¦s calling for us. We¡¦ll be talking in weeks to come about building a building, but God has called us to be involved with Him in the building of His Kingdom, which is not about bricks and mortar. I told the group of a previous church I served, and how this church had gotten away from this priority. For its first twenty-five years, this church had grown and prospered, and finally built its new church building. A funny thing happened then, though; the church began a decades-long slide backward. It was as if they had set their minds on a goal, all right, and pulled together toward the building of a building, but that they had missed the point and forgotten that a building is not an end in itself, but rather a means toward the purpose of building people. This is our goal, and we will succeed by the grace of God to the degree that we keep ourselves focused on and pursuing God¡¦s goal for us.