Nehemiah 3: 5, 12, 20
5 …next… the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their LORD.
12 …next… repaired Shallum… he and his daughters.
20 …Baruch… earnestly repaired the other piece…
- The Size of your Ego limits the Size of your Service.
- Don’t be Overcome, be an Overcomer.
- Only our best is good enough
The third chapter of Nehemiah consists of a list (mainly of clans, families and others groups) of those who participated in the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Though the list is long and might seem laborious, it contains some instructive snippets. One such is the theme of builders, to wit, Nehemiah makes special note of three kinds of builders:
- The Overinflated: Had no excuse, BUT did not work hard
- The Overcomers: Had an excuse, BUT did work hard
- The Overachievers: Had no excuse AND did work hardest
Nehemiah pointedly notes (Nehemiah 3:5) that the nobles of the Tekoites didn’t apply themselves fully to the building of the wall. It should be noted that the regular Tekoites seemed to be a hard working clan: they are mentioned as building another section of the wall in Nehemiah 3:27; one of only three groups (the Tekoites, the Priests, and Meremoth) mentioned as working on more than one project. However, the Tekoite nobles obviously considered the work unworthy of their status: this was work for the commoners. There was nothing physically preventing them from working hard; they had no excuse not to give their absolute best. What stood in their way was their overinflated pride.
The real work of the Kingdom of God is menial and unglamorous. We often focus on the seemingly glamorous jobs of preachers, evangelists, worship leaders, etc. However, the bible shows us a different story. Jesus told us to go into the world and teach (Matthew 28:19-20).
Teaching/Disciple-making then and now was often a one-on-one relationship in which a more experienced believer would pass on what knowledge he had to a less experienced believer or to an interested unbeliever. This would happen as the two interacted with each other both formally (e.g., in a bible study) and informally (e.g., hanging out). This is about as unglamorous as it can get: no audience, no video, no stage, no spotlight; just an ordinary one-on-one relationship.
Nevertheless, disciple-making is hard work. It means taking the time out of our schedules to help a new believer get to understand what it means to serve Christ. Or taking the time to actually share our faith with an unbeliever: by bringing them into our lives, instead of just handing out a tract. To be effective, we also have to take the time and effort to prepare ourselves, so that we know what the Bible says.
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: ~1 Peter 3:15
Teaching/Disciple-making takes real effort and time, so much so that the apostles were consumed by it and could do nothing else (Acts 6:1-4). Regrettably, most of us will not find the time to make disciples, like the Tekoite nobles we have “better” things do with our time. We will want to spend more time on our careers, our hobbies, our toys or the television. Like the Tekoite nobles our service in the kingdom is half-hearted, we will do just enough to “get by”. The grunt work is for others to do; our agenda is already packed, filled to the brim with our overinflated egos.
Shallum was an important leader in Jerusalem and it would have been expected that his family contribute to the rebuilding effort. However, with only daughters and no sons, the Shallum family (unlike the Tekoite nobles) had a legitimate excuse not to work. Only Shallum himself would have been expected to do what he could for the project, because in that society, women were not expected to engage in this sort of labor.
Nehemiah, however, shows that this excuse was never given. Shallum didn’t have sons, so he called on his daughters to participate in the work, which they did. Indeed, these are the only women mentioned as builders in the book of Nehemiah.
The lesson for us is that a disability doesn’t have to disable us; a disadvantage does not mean defeat. Many of us have legitimate hindrances to service, such as finances, living situations, transportation issues, felonious histories, physical disability, etc. But the man without shoes can carry the man without feet. The woman with no money can encourage the woman with no hope. An old man with a criminal past can steer a young man away from a criminal future. We don’t have to be overcome by our limitations no matter how real they are.
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~2 Corinthians 12:9
Ye are of God… and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. ~1 John 4:4
Instead, we can be overcomers by the grace and power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t enough for Baruch to work on rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. It wasn’t even enough for Baruch to work hard on rebuilding the walls. Baruch was not concerned with how his work matched up with others. He wasn’t concerned with his status, whether the work was suitable for his station in life. As far as Baruch was concerned, he had nothing better to do. And so Baruch gave his all to the job; Baruch gave his best (Nehemiah 3:20). The name “Baruch” means “blessed”. Blessed is also well translated as happiness: specifically, the happiness that arises from feeling the hand of God. It’s the happiness a child feels when his father’s hand rests reassuringly on his head. Baruch gave his all, because he could feel the hand of God on his life.
Likewise, the Lord desires our earnest effort in building His Kingdom. It is not enough to barely do what is needed “get by”, like the Tekoite nobles. It is not even enough to be a hard worker in the Kingdom of God. God wants our all and His is not satisfied with less.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. ~Romans 12:1
Our reasonable service to God is to give Him our all: to sacrifice ALL of our life to service in His Kingdom. God wants EVERYTHING: every part of us every moment of every day. God wants us to overachieve, to go far beyond the norm, far beyond the expected, far beyond just “good”. It is when I have given my all that I can tangibly feel His hand resting on my head, reassuring me that I have done our best… and He is proud of me. Feeling His comforting hand makes me happy, makes me blessed, just like Baruch, the overachiever: earnestly working in the Kingdom of God.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. ~Hebrews 12:1-4
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: ~2 Timothy 4:7
…These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. ~Revelation 7:14b
- Do you have enough time to spare some for building the Kingdom of God?
- Is God’s strength strong enough to overcome your weaknesses?
- How much of your life does God deserve?
- What kind of Builder are you?