Building Together (Nehemiah 3)

Bible Passage: Nehemiah 3

Popular thought associates Nehemiah with being the one who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. It is true that Nehemiah had a burden, mobilised a movement and did his share of the work, but this chapter shows us that the labour was actually done by a community of people standing shoulder to shoulder, each playing their part in seeing the city restored to the glory of God.

As we work to see our cities restored and rebuilt for God, there are seven lessons we can draw from the work that was done in Nehemiah’s day.

1. Building was a community project. As has been stated, the work was shared. Whilst individuals with talent may draw the accolades, for real progress to be made, a community needs to mobilise together with their eyes on a single task, each willing to play their part in making it happen.

2. Everybody built. When Nehemiah arrived with a grand vision and numbers of people began to get excited about the prospect, it would be easy for members of the community to sit back, and allow them to do all the work. Sometimes we can use a passionate visionary as an excuse for our own passivity, but this was not the case in this particular building project. Each person, took their section of the wall and was willing to put in the hard work see the city rebuilt.

3. Each builder mattered as an individual. The chapter comes across as mainly a list of names. Not only was building done by a community, but Nehemiah made a point of recording the contribution that each member of that community made, and the Holy Spirit made a point of preserving that record as Scripture. Each person is honoured in the records for the building they did.

4. A diverse community is building together. We see all kinds of people sharing in this project. There are rich and poor, powerful and powerless, male and female, old and young, tradesmen and priests. God brought together a community of people who are very different, but are united in what he has called them to do.

5. They did different but complementary jobs. Sometimes, when a lot of people are involved together in a work of God, they can all gravitate to the same task. We do not see a huge crowd of builders all gathered around one stretch of wall. Rather, each builder looks to where they can make a contribution that will fit into the whole and each builder or group took on a different section of the wall. Though they were each working on different things, those things came together to make the completed wall.

6. They had day jobs. In the passage we are told of priests, goldsmiths, perfumers, administrators, servants and merchants all playing their part in rebuilding the walls. It is not like the builders were a professional construction crew able to work on it 24/7, rather they were working people who had their day jobs to do, yet were committed to building for the Lord and so made it happen around their jobs.

7. They built where they were. For some of the builders, like Jedaiah, Maaseiah, the priests, Zadok and Meshullam, we are told that they rebuilt opposite their houses. It makes sense for each person to take responsibility for their own streets. In building for God, let each one of us give consideration to how we can build where we are.

It is interesting to compare this chapter with accounts of the New Testament work of church planting (for example, by reading Romans 16). Not only do we see that this too is done in community, but we find parallels to each of the seven lessons we learned from Nehemiah. God has a purpose for his people to complete their mission in community. It was true in the Old Testament., it was true in the New Testament and it is true for us.

Potential Applications:

  • There is a call for everybody to participate in the work. This would be a good moment to invite people to serve in different ways in your church.
  • The passage challenges the way we relate to certain leaders, and shares a different vision of God working through a people together rather than a superstar individual.