Summary: At first glance, Nehemiah chapter 3 looks a bit dry. One commentator refers to it as a "colorless memorandum of assignments." It reads much like the book of 1 Chronicles with its long lists of names that are difficult to pronounce, information that seems
Working Well with Others
Have you been watching the Olympics? NBC isn’t very happy with their ratings but it’s been fun to watch the different sports. As the athletes compete, they’re all seeking a medal and the recognition that comes with it. Those who win a gold are held up as heroes.
While most of us have a desire to be recognized, our chances of competing at the Olympics are pretty slim. This week I read about a guy named Stefan Sigmund from Romania, who has been trying for many years to get his name in the Guinness Book of World Records. His recent attempt went up in smoke. Using a contraption that looked like an air filter for a car, Sigmund managed to smoke 800 cigarettes at one time. Only later did he discover that Guinness no longer accepts these kinds of "accomplishments."
Another time he ate 29 hard-boiled eggs in four minutes. Unfortunately, Guinness quit printing gluttony records many years ago. He also jumped into a lake from a 135-foot cliff only to find out that the record for diving from a fixed point had already been set at 176 feet.
People like to hear their name mentioned in a positive way. Our text for today is basically a list of people who achieved some pretty major accomplishments. Alongside the medal winners, there are a few who are listed because they never joined the team. And, it’s interesting that Nehemiah is not mentioned at all. I think he wanted to keep the attention on others.
At first glance, Nehemiah chapter 3 looks a bit dry. One commentator refers to it as a "colorless memorandum of assignments." It reads much like the book of 1 Chronicles with its long lists of names that are difficult to pronounce, information that seems redundant, and a chronology that seems meaningless. It’s hard to muddle through. I’ll never forget Tim Tuley reading genealogy lists during our Bible Reading Marathon! He did it with determination and good pronunciation! While it may be tempting to skip this chapter, it contains some great insights and principles that have direct application to our lives today.
Let me briefly set the historical context in case you’ve missed the last couple weeks. In 586 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army captured the Jews, Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were knocked down, and the temple was burned. The people were deported and were forced into slavery and Jerusalem was left in ruins.
But God did not forsake His people. He moved King Cyrus to make a decree to let some of the Jews return. And in three stages, over about a hundred years, they were allowed to migrate back to Jerusalem, only to discover the city was still demolished and desolate.
By way of review, through Nehemiah’s prayer in Chapter One we learned that he was concerned about the problem of Jerusalem’s desolation, he had a conviction about God’s character, he confessed his sins, he was confident about God’s promises, and he was committed to get involved. Last week we journeyed with Nehemiah back to Jerusalem and discovered that as Contractor he had 5 tools in his toolbox waiting, trusting, praying, planning, and testifying. He also tackled five different tasks replenished resources, assessed the need, recruited workers, inspired confidence, and handled opposition.
Let me make two preliminary observations:
1. Chapter 3 reveals Nehemiah’s extraordinary gift of administration and organization. He was able to mobilize and empower 44 separate groups of people for the ingenious task of rebuilding the walls. This no doubt came about because of his careful assessment of the need during his moonlit reconnaissance mission in 2:13-16.
Let’s take a visual look at how Nehemiah organized his troops [Show PPT slide].
2. This passage shows how people working together can accomplish more than if just one person tried to do all the work. Underline in your Bible every time you see the following phrases: "next to him," "next to them," "after him," and "after them." These expressions are recorded 28 times in this chapter! The biblical principle is this: every person is to be involved in ministry because everyone has a job to do.
It’s hard to find the right job, isn’t it? Some of you are doing exactly what you need to be doing both in your career and in kingdom work. Others of you are struggling to find your niche. It might help you feel better if you hear someone else’s job history. Listen to this guy’s story:
My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned because I couldn’t concentrate.
Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn’t hack it, so they gave me the axe.
After that I tried to be a tailor, but I just wasn’t suited for it. Mainly because it was a so-so job.