At a retreat I attended yesterday, one of the leaders opened with a devotional from Nehemiah 1.
Nehemiah is a book in the Old Testament of the Bible that I’ve been fascinated with for years. He’s this classic example in Christian literature of the spiritual gift of leadership.
But as much as I’ve dug into portions of the book of Nehemiah, there’s always been some of it I’ve skipped over.
The devotional renewed my interest in this book. So last night, I started reading further in.
I was stopped cold by Chapter 3.
I couldn’t stop reading it.
If you’re not familiar with the story, Nehemiah is this Jewish guy in exile from Jerusalem who has made it all the way up in the Gentile king’s senior leadership. He hears Jerusalem is totally broken and burned, so he bravely asks the king if he can go back to his city and his people and rebuild (and amazingly the king lets him).
That’s where the story picks up in Chapter 3.
This is what struck me:
v. 2 – The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them.
v. 4 – Meremoth son of Uriah… repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah… made repairs, and next to him Zadok …also made repairs.
v. 11 – Malkijah and Hasshub… repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.
v. 17 – Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites … Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. Next to him, the repairs were made…
Do you see it?
Does that knock you over?
And that’s not the whole chapter! “Next to” is said OVER TWENTY TIMES!
All these different people from different tribes and people came together to rebuild. Group A? RIGHT NEXT TO Group R! Team 12? BESIDE Team 423!
Working right next to each other to rebuild God’s city.
What if modern Christianity looked like this?
What if we were writing about Modern-Day Prophet X’s call for rebuilding crumbling cities and people and families and faith?
v. 1 – Next to her, the repairs were made by the Catholics…
v. 2 – Beside him, the Protestants carried out repairs for his district…
v. 3 – The Democrats carried out the repairs on the next section, and next to them the Republicans also made repairs.
v. 4 – The Fountain Gate was repaired by those from Mexico, and next to them the Egyptians also repaired the wall by the King’s Garden, and beyond them, the Russians made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs. Beside them the Nigerians worked on the point facing the armory and next to them the Californians and Texans zealously repaired another section.
Can you see it?
I can envision it. I want so deeply.
It doesn’t say everyone came together and agreed on everything forever after. PLUS, it says people wanted to kill them for doing it. So much so that the rebuilders had to split so that half of them could guard those doing the building and then they could swap. (Chapter 4’s premise is “Opposition to Rebuilding!” And Chapter 6? “Further Opposition!”)
The act of restoration and rebuilding does not come easily. Or cheaply. It most certainly does not come without significant opposition. But there’s a blueprint in the book of Nehemiah that it can come.
And y’all, I can barely type it without crying, in Chapter 7, “after the wall had been rebuilt,” there is a LIST of the exiles who returned. Read it. “These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive…” and then there is an actual list with actual numbers of the people from the different families who returned along with the priests and temple servants.
After the hard and painful and severely opposed work of rebuilding was done, the exiles returned from captivity.
If this is not the picture the church universal should be working their fingers to the bone to achieve, then I don’t know what is.
This is the example of rebuilding we must follow. They came home. They confessed. They sealed a covenant.
Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord.