#3  “Book of Nehemiah” Series




TEXT:         Nehemiah 3:1-32


INTRO:       Why do so many government programs fail?  The government allocates huge sums of money for many of them ... they often fail from lack of human commitment to the task or from an unmotivated bureaucracy.


ILLUS:     It is like the dad who went outside to see what his boys were doing and saw a group of neighborhood boys just meandering around quietly.  He finally asked his son what they were doing and the reply was "we are playing war."  The father was puzzled and asked why they were so quiet if they were playing "war"?  The response was revealing, "Because we are all generals, we can't get anybody to do the fighting!" – Source Unknown


This is often the state of the church of Jesus Christ!  We sing, "Onward Christian Soldiers" but no one wants to dig in their heels and fight ... we are more like the crowd of people who watch war on TV and never get involved in the real war on sin!


It is time the saints of God quit watching church and start participating in church!  This is no show ... there will be no commercials ... what we are doing is the most serious thing in the world right now!  The church cannot succeed without volunteers and workers in the ranks!


PROP. SENT:  The Word of God teaches us that if the church has the "right stuff" and by that I mean “workers,” God can accomplish incredible feats that will astound the world ... and baffle the enemy!  But it will take the whole effort by all the saints!


I.   MODELS    3:1-4


A.   Elders     3:1

1.    There was a huge task facing the Jews in Jerusalem ... we are talking about rebuilding a wall and gates that were enormous in size and shape and only a scattered remnant existed in Jerusalem at the time!

a.   It was like asking today about 18 to 20 people to buy land and plan on building a church that could seat over 1000!

b.   God never has been bothered by small numbers ... as long as they were ready to work!

c.   In God’s economy small numbers working together has great strength!


ILLUS:     The story is told of a horse-pull in Canada. One horse pulled 9,000 pounds, another 8,000. Together you would expect them to pull 18,000 pounds.  Not so!  When teamed together, they pulled 30,000 pounds.

   The principle is called synergism.  By definition, the simultaneous action of separate agents working together has a greater total effect than the sum of their individual efforts.  More can be done in a team effort than can be accomplished solo.  In order for the principle of synergism to work like it should, there has to be teamwork.

   Everything we do takes teamwork and trust.  Every person in the local church is valuable and needed.  The church is a team, and together we can build for the Lord. – Source Unknown


d.   This was the point with Gideon ... at first Gideon had 32,000 men to fight, against an enemy of at least 135,000 according to Judges 8:10 ... yet not all these Jewish men were true warriors or willing to fight.

(1.    First, all the faint-hearted were asked to go – 22,000 left, leaving him with only 10,000 men!

(2.    Second God asks Gideon to have the half-hearted men leave ... those who drank water without watching for a surprise attack, another 9,700 men leave!

(3.    This left him with 300 real warriors ... but they were real alert fighters!

2.    It is important to realize that the first to rally to the call to work were the High Priest and the other priests ... they set the example as Elders of the community ... they put themselves to the task joyfully!

a.   Not only do they do the first section of the wall but it was the section near the temple where they started, not by their homes!

b.   They also dedicated their finished job as a sign of gratefulness to God!

c.   In a unique fashion, the first gate fixed was the SHEEP gate by the Pastors of the community ... reflecting the nurture and need of the sheep which was so much a part and symbol of the people!

3.    Elders are held to high standards and good ones set the pace and example willingly!

a.   This must have been an encouragement to the people of God!  Their leaders actually led!

b.   They weren’t giving orders ... they were accomplishing God's orders together!


B.   Established   3:2-4

1.    The next names listed are interesting, these were well established men in Jerusalem ... they can be traced back to Ezra's ministry and the rebuilding of the temple under Ezra.

a.   They remembered that being in the Temple meant more than just prestige, it meant being a servant and working!


ILLUS:     For many years, the church I pastored in Vergennes, VT (Assembly of God Christian Center) had placed over the main door into the sanctuary a sign that read: “SERVANT'S ENTRANCE.”  I wanted the congregation to remember at every service that they were first servants, the very entrance to worship is the “servant’s entrance.” – Dennis Marquardt.


b.   They set the example as servants!

2.    The next to take leadership and show an example were those who were well established families within the family of God in Jerusalem!

a.   They understood the need to minister to the newer folks by their example of being servants.

b.   They served as an example of willingness to work again ... even though they had worked hard on the previous project of the temple years earlier!

3.    All of these early sections built by the priests and these established men were the areas nearest to God's house ... demonstrating their realization that they were to serve God before self!

a.   Rather than secure the walls near their homes first, they secure God’s house first.

b.   Servanthood is an example in action, not just a concept.


II.  MENTALITY!    3:5, 27


A.   Excellence    3:5a, 27

1.    These two verses reveal an interesting attitude about the men from Tekoa, a small town about 11 miles from Jerusalem.  These men could not get the "nobles" from their community to help out!

a.   "Nobles" here meant the "magnificent" ... men of wealth and power ... they were unwilling to help out their own brothers!

b.   Yet they fully expected to be blessed by the protection that would later come from a strong protected Jerusalem once this wall was repaired!

c.   Tekoa was the hometown of the prophet Amos, what would he have said about these insolent goof offs?!

2.    The common folks from Tekoa however don't become angry or bitter about their mighty nobles inaction, nor do they complain about having more to do with less help ... THEY INSTEAD DO ANOTHER section of the wall after finishing the one assigned them!  3:27

3.    If God only gives you a few people with the right stuff, don't be discouraged, a few soldiers with God's help can overcome tremendous odds!

a.   The work of the kingdom must not be held up by all the correct things having to be in place first.

b.   Even when some won’t serve, there are people ready to serve no matter what!


ILLUS:      A missionary society was deeply impressed by the courageous devotion of David Livingstone who worked single-handedly for God in Africa.  The society wrote to Livingstone:  "Have you found a good road to where you are?  If so, we want to send other men to join you."  Livingstone replied, "If you have men who will come only if there is a good road, I don't want them.  I want men who will come if there is no road at all." – Source Unknown


B.   Excuses!    3:5b

1.    Undoubtedly these nobles had their excuses:

a.   They were the merchants and kept supplies coming in ... busy with work.

b.   If they got hurt on the job it might really upset their families!

c.   How could the government run without them?

d.   They already had everything they wanted ... so why do more!

e.   They weren't living in Jerusalem, it wasn't their problem!

f.    “It probably isn't going to be finished anyways, so why waste all the time and effort!”

g.   “We've lived this long without those walls, so why change things!?”


ILLUS:       A one-legged school teacher from Scotland came to J. Hudson Taylor to offer himself for service in China.  "With only one leg, why do you think of going as a missionary?" asked Taylor.  "I do not see those with two legs going," replied George Scott.  He was accepted. – Source Unknown


2.    These are the same excuses people use today!

a.   Let's be honest ... we can always come up with some excuse if we really want to!

b.   God doesn't just look at what we would LIKE to do, but notice what we follow through with doing!


III.  MOTLEY   3:6-32


A.   Ensemble!    3:6-32

1.    What a wild combination of workers!

a.   Priests

b.   Levites

c.   Goldsmiths (vrs, 8)

d.   Perfume makers (vrs. 8)

e.   Rulers (vrs. 9,12,14-19)

f.    Ordinary citizens (vrs. 13)

g.   One man with his daughters even did their own section!  (vrs. 11b)

h.   Temple servants (vrs. 26)

i.    Guards (vrs. 29b)

j.    Merchants  (vrs. 32)

k.   Numerous neighbors from nearby towns and cities pitched in as well!

2.    It is somewhat ironic that so many different kinds of tradesmen were willing to build for God what they were not trained to do!

a.   God can make anyone capable ... but they have to be WILLING and AVAILABLE!

b.   Many of these people had never done this kind of ministry before, but with a willing heart God enabled them to do it anyways!

c.   Don't say, "IT CAN'T BE DONE" ... or "I'm not trained to do this" ... we can work on the training, but we need people to train!

3.    What a motley crew this work force was ... not much different than when I pioneered a church in Vermont and we went through our building programs and did almost all the work ourselves!

a.   We had men trained on computers who helped do construction work for the first time.

b.   Women who were housewives who did insulation work.

c.   A carpenter

d.   A welder

e.   A Forest ranger

f.    Couple of job corps teachers & office workers who discovered new experiences in building!

g.   A farmer or two

h.   An odd assortment of other careers (teachers, etc.).

4.    A few believing folks who are also working folks can do a great amount of work when God is trusted and we are available!

5.    This odd ensemble of people in Jerusalem wasn't taken as a real threat by their enemies ... it was like a joke to them!

6.    The lesson: Watch out when a few saints get on fire for God ... every thing around them will burn too!


ILLUS:     There is an old legend about a herd of mules that was attacked nightly by a pack of wolves from a nearby forest. When the wolves came, the mules began kicking viciously in all directions. Consequently the mules maimed and injured each other while the agile wolves escaped unharmed. Finally, a wise old mule called the rest together for a conference and made known his plans. That night the wolves came yelping from the forest as usual, but instead of the mules kicking, they all ran and put their heads together in a circle and began kicking outward. The wolves were put to flight, and the mules did no harm to each other. Christians need to get their heads together and kick outward against the forces of iniquity. The world must sometimes wonder whether we who call ourselves Christ's fishermen have any heads to put together. – Source Unknown


7.    THEY DID THE ENTIRE PROJECT IN 52 DAYS!!!!!  These walls had lain in ruins for almost 150 years and a few people with the right stuff had them in proper shape again in only 52 days!!!

a.   We are talking about 4 miles of walls and gates!

b.   About 40 to 45 men are named at overseeing about 45 sections, each section ran about 168 yards long, which meant they had to finish about 3-4 yards a day allowing for Sabbath days off!

c.   These walls were somewhere around 15 feet thick and around 25-30 feet tall!


B.   Empowered!

1.    They were empowered with the simple knowledge that God had brought all this to happen.

2.    When you know it is right from God no gates of hell can stand against you!

3.    Their strength not only came from God but from the unity they had among themselves ... remember the variety of people who put themselves to the task!

4.    GOD'S WILL ... AND MAN'S WILLINGNESS combined cannot be beat by the devil himself!

5.    What none of them could have done alone they did together, cooperation with a clear mandate from God's own Word got the job done!


ILLUS:     Several years ago, in England, Sir John Barbirolli was conducting a great symphony orchestra before a "standing room only" audience. The concert hall was unusual in that it was used for cultural events on weekdays and for religious services on Sundays. On this particular Saturday evening, one of the patrons of the orchestra noticed that the clergyman who was to preach there the next day was in the audience. He leaned over and said to him, cynically, "When are you going to fill this hall on Sunday the way Sir John Barbirolli has tonight?" The clergyman looked his antagonist straight in the eye and said with a steady voice, "I will fill this hall on Sunday morning when you give to me, as you gave to Sir John tonight, eighty-five disciplined men and women to be with him and to work with him." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 126.


6.    Think of the possibilities of a small church where there is an army of saints building and fighting!




A.   Eagerness     3:20

1.    "Zealously" ... you have to like the Old Testament Pentecostal!

a.   Notice that this guy like the men of Tekoa does more than his share of work!

b.   Baruch ... repaired ANOTHER section.   

c.   Some guys just aren't satisfied with doing only what they have to for God!

d.   This guy couldn't be stopped ... not until the job was done, and he inspired others!


ILLUS:      Maggie Kuhn, head of the Grey Panthers, tells of some interesting facts about sandhill cranes.  It seems that these large birds, which commute great distances and traverse continents, have three remarkable qualities.  First of all, they rotate leadership.  No one bird stays out in front all the time. Second, they choose a leader that can handle turbulence.  And then, all during the time one bird is leading, the rest are honking, signaling their affirmation.  That's not a bad model for the church.  Certainly we need leaders who welcome turbulence and who are aware that leadership ought to be rotated.  But most of all, we need a church where we are all honking encouragement. -- Bruce Larson -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 124.


2.    It is far better to burn out for God than it is to rust out!

3.    I like the family of Shallum too (verse 12), it wasn't enough for this guy to do his share ... even his daughters helped!

4.    Can you imagine the kind of enthusiasm that spread around in town with all these exciting saints working with all their hearts!

a.   They weren't counting the cost, just the privilege!

b.   They worked with a real sense of mission and with joy!


B.   Encouragement

1.    If they could do this big job then, can we do less now?

2.    They serve as encouragement to us, to show what can be done even when the task seems overwhelming ... if all will put their shoulders to the task!

a.   We must remember that many have traveled this way before, so when it seems impossible we must not be afraid to try!


ILLUS:     As we drove up the steep, winding road in the Cave of the Winds near Colorado Springs, we came suddenly to a narrow passageway between high rock walls through which it looked as if the car could not possibly go.  But facing us was a sign which said: "Yes, you can! Millions of others have!"  And so, driving carefully through, we soon came to a wider roadway. 

   So many times we face seemingly insoluble problems and impossible situations.  But we can know that God is able to open ways before us which are now hidden from our view.  We may hear God's message to us: "Yes, you can! Millions of others have gone this way.  Be of good cheer. Trust in the Lord and go ahead!"

   Heavenly Father, when we face difficult times, help us to trust in You to show us the way through.  In Jesus' name. Amen. – Source Unknown


b.   God can make a way for us if He did for others!

3.    God has never called a Christian to sit and be comfortable in church each week, EVERY ONE OF US IS A MINISTER, there is no such thing as LAYPEOPLE!

a.   Too many "lay" people ... sleeping all the time, letting others do the work!

b.   We need ministers, our babies need them, our young children need them, the older children need them, the youth need them, and the unsaved need them, GOD GIVE US MINISTERS!

4.    It doesn't matter what your earthly occupation is ... in the church God can use you in many different ways, find the spot or section of wall you are suppose to work on or the wall will be left unfinished, and the enemy can slip in!



CONCLUSION:   It is amazing what can be done for God when ALL God's people get in on the action!  Excitement breeds excitement, as examples encourage more examples!  Nothing short of the miraculous happens when God's people pull together to build the work of God and to stand against the enemy of God and fight the odds!  Are you working or wallowing!?