Summary: In this lesson, we learn important principles to help us serve God together as a team.
A. How many of you have heard of elephant jokes?
1. Elephant jokes were a fad in the 1960s.
2. An elephant joke is a joke that is usually an absurd riddle or conundrum, and often a sequence of such that involves an elephant.
3. For instance: Q: How can you tell if an elephant is in the refrigerator? A: The door won’t shut.
4. Q: How can you tell if an elephant has been in the refrigerator earlier? A: Footprints in the butter.
5. Q: How do you get down from an elephant? A: You don’t! You get down from a goose.
6. Q: How does an elephant get down from a tree? A: He doesn’t! Even elephants know you get down from a goose!
7. A classic: Q: How do you stop an elephant from charging? A: Take away his credit card.
8. Q: What game do you NOT want to play with an elephant? A: Squash!
9. Q: What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence? A: Time to build a new fence.
10. Now here’s the one that applies to today’s sermon: Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time.
B. Nehemiah’s big question was: How do we rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? A: One stone at a time, and one section at a time.
C. Let me briefly stage the historical context.
1. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army over-threw Israel and destroyed Jerusalem – the temple and walls of Jerusalem were torn down and burned, and the many Jews were taken into captivity.
2. But God did not abandon His people, just as he promised, 70 years later, God moved in the heart of Cyrus, the Persian king, and he allowed the Jews to return and rebuild.
3. In two stages, the Jews migrated back to Judea and rebuilt the temple and the Jewish religious life.
4. But about 100 years after the first group had returned, the walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins, and when Nehemiah, the cupbearer to the king, heard about it, he decided to allow God to use him to do something about it.
5. Last week, we journeyed with Nehemiah back to Jerusalem and watched him wisely do some prospecting, promoting, and promising as he and the Jewish people decided to begin rebuilding.
D. Today, we are going to examine Nehemiah chapter 3, and as we do so, we are immediately faced with one of those lists that proves to be the bane of would-be Bible readers.
1. There are 38 different individual names and 42 places that are mentioned, and most of us dread wading into these lists that someone called “The Fellowship of the Unpronounceable.”
2. But I want us to read the entire chapter anyhow, because there are many important lessons that we need to learn that can only come as we experience the impact of this chapter.
E. Nehemiah 3: 1 Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them. 3 The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. 5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. 6 The Jeshanah Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 7 Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah--Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth--places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. 8 Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. 9 Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section. 10 Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters. 13 The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. They also repaired five hundred yards of the wall as far as the Dung Gate. 14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Col-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam, by the King's Garden, as far as the steps going down from the City of David. 16 Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Heroes. 17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their countrymen under Binnui son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib's house to the end of it. 22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah's house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel. 28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.