‘Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ (Nehemiah 2:17)
One of the mega national projects in ancient Israel is the rebuilding of the destroyed wall of Jerusalem under the leadership of Nehemiah. What is remarkable about this project, which perhaps is rare in our time, is the participation of almost all sectors of the society in the work. People from across the nation from all sort of backgrounds joined hands in completing the work.
What inspired people to get involved?
- Importance and significance of the project.
For the Jewish people, the wall of Jerusalem was both a symbol of protection and dignity. Its destruction therefore brought disgrace. Once the wall was rebuilt, the people would no longer be in disgrace. That’s a good reason to be involved! People love to take part in projects that bring them dignity and improve their life.
- Presence of a strong and visionary leader.
Nehemiah’s strong leadership and heart for Israel’s identity as a nation were key in the success of the project. People rally around a strong, visionary and loving leader who cares for the welfare of all people. (Nehemiah 2:10)
Who were the people involved?
Nehemiah 3 gives a detailed account of the people involved. Seven sectors of society were involved in rebuilding the wall. Such a national project needed the involvement and participation of all.
- Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs in front of his house (Neh. 3:10)
- Shallum son of Hallohesh and his daughters made repairs (Neh. 3:12)
- Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs opposite their house (Neh. 3:23)
- Azariah the son of Maaseiah made repairs beside his house (Neh. 3:23)
- Zadok the son of Immer made repairs in front of his house (Neh. 3:29)
- Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters (Neh. 3:30)
3. People from other cities, communities and regions:
- Men of Jericho (Neh. 3:2)
- Men of Gibeon (Neh. 3:7)
- The inhabitants of Zanoah (Neh. 3:13)
- Nethinim (Neh. 3:26)
4. Religious leaders:
- The Levites (Neh. 3:17)
- The temple servants (Neh. 3:26)
- Shallum the son of Col-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah (Neh. 3:15)
- Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem (Neh. 3:14)
- Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur (Neh. 3:16)
- Hashabiah ruler of half the district of Keilah (Neh. 3:17)
- Binnui son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah (Neh. 3:18)
- Ezer son of Joshua, ruler of Mizpah (Neh. 3:19)
- Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmith (Neh. 3:8, 31)
- Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths (Neh. 3:31)
- Merchants made repairs (Neh. 3:32)
Isn’t that interesting? Can we imagine a high priest putting aside his priestly robes and getting his hands dirty? How many of our professionals, businessmen and politicians are taking part in God’s work and ministry?
The missing sector
Their nobles did not put their shoulders to the work of their Lord. (Neh. 3:5)
What might have led the nobles to leave the work of this great national project to others? The text does not say, but perhaps it was attitudes such as:
- Not knowing the importance and significance of the project
- Not wanting to spend energy, time and money
- No heart for Israel’s national identity
- Not wanting to get their hands dirty
Lessons from this project
1. A leader with a God-given vision is key in any successful project.
When a godly and visionary leader like Nehemiah is in place, the rest is history.
2. We all have different gifts to bring to a project.
Seven different groups of people with all their gifts, talents, resources and positions of influence took part. God is waiting for all to build his kingdom.
3. A group of nobles did not take part.
This was written to teach us today (Romans 15:4) so that we are not surprised when people do not have the same passion for a project that we do. The good news is that God’s work is not dependent on ‘nobles of Tekoa’ to be done. God will use humble and available people.
4. Attitude towards the work.
Zabbai zealously repaired the other section. (Neh. 3:20)
In such a busy project with a multitude of people working, how can one discern who does his work with passion and who is apathetic? Only God knows our hearts! God is looking for people like Zabbai who do his work with zeal.
5. No limit in God’s work.
The men of Tekoa repaired another section. (Neh. 3:27)
People say, ‘I have completed the section/role assigned to me.’ But the men of Tekoa went an extra mile and repaired ‘another section’ after finishing their section. In God’s kingdom, there is always ‘another section’ waiting for us to build.
6. Birth position does not matter as far as God’s work is concerned.
Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. (Neh. 3:30)
Hanun being the ‘sixth son’ is probably the youngest in the family like David who was rebuked for coming to the battle frontlines (1 Samuel 17:28). But God is ready to use any last born available. Where are Hanun’s elder brothers?
7. The project was successfully completed.
The wall was completed… in fifty-two days. (Neh. 6:15)
Any project that has God’s hand on it will never fail. In spite of the enormous challenges Nehemiah faced with opposing enemies (Neh. 2:19 & 4:7), people refusing to be involved (Neh. 3:5), and workers getting exhausted and tired (Neh. 4:10), the work went on to completion. Isn’t that encouraging?
Lord, help us to take part in building your kingdom.
Alex Bolek is ICMDA Africa Coordinator and Regional Secretary for East Africa.