Lord's Day Evening Meditations March 23, 2003

Nehemiah 2:17-3:12

"To Every Man His Work"

Before continuing with the details of chapter three I would like to review some thoughts on the significance of the wall. Look again at last week's outline of the three enemies and what the Lord has provided as protection from them.

1) Are we walking in the power of the Holy Spirit? That doesn't mean speaking in tongues and doing miracles. There is a very simple way to determine if we are walking "in the Spirit" or not. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (self-control)." Gal. 5:22, 23. The presence or absence of this fruit determines whether we are walking in the Spirit or not. If the fruit of the Spirit is not there, then the opposite will be seen - "the works of the flesh" listed in verses 19 - 21.

2) Are the things of the Lord, divine things, so real and precious to us that things around us here have no power to attract?

3) Are we characterized as being a people to whom the Word of God is all-important, who spend our Lord's Days and spare time in the enjoyment of that Book?

In the light of these questions, I think that we will realize that our wall is in need of repair. "Let us rise up and build." But there is another aspect in which the wall is instructive for us. That wall made a clear separation between God's people inside and those who were not God's people outside. In other words, the wall represents the separation of God's people from the world. Moses asked the Lord to go with them, for, he said, "so shall we be separated, I and Thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth." Exod. 33:16. That is what God wanted then, and what He still wants now - a distinct people, set apart for Himself.

The subject of separation is a very important one, and one that we need to understand correctly. There are some things that separation does not mean. 1) It does not mean isolation. Hermits would cut themselves off from all contact with people, thinking that in this way they could lead holy lives, not realizing that they brought their worst enemy, self, with them into their isolation. Besides the Lord could have taken us home the day He saved us, but no, in His prayer He says, "As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." John 17:18. Actually, having returned to heaven, He has left us in His place down here during His absence.

2) Separation does not mean superiority. The Jews maintained a very superior attitude to the Samaritans, such that "the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans" (and a brother once added, "but God does.")

3) Separation is not an attitude of arrogance like some in the time of the prophet Isaiah who said, "Stand by thyself, come not near me; for I am holier than thou." Isa. 65:5. That attitude was very obnoxious to God. Actually, if you put those three things together, do you know what you have? You have a Pharisee. What may have begun with a right desire and intention became simply the activity of the flesh, something totally contrary to the Lord's will.

So is there a way of knowing what God's thoughts are on this matter of being "separated" to Him? Yes, there is. He has given us a perfect example of it in the Person of His own dear Son. Follow the Lord Jesus in His life down here and you will see a Man perfectly separated unto God, according to the Divine standard. Yet there was no man more available to answer to every human need and misery. He was there in the midst of "publicans and sinners", much to the disgust of the self-righteous Pharisees. He was "meek and lowly in heart", the humblest Man that walked this earth, not too busy or self-important to stop at the cry of a poor blind beggar. Though He was "holier" than all who surrounded Him, yet He drew near to sinners to meet their needs and the misery that their sins had brought upon them. Mind you, He never condoned their sin; He never went with them in it, nor allowed Himself to be defiled by it. He maintained a perfect abhorrence of sin, all the while manifesting a perfect love to the poor miserable sinner. In all lowliness and humility He could say, "I do always those things that please Him (His Father)." John 8:29. He is the perfect example that is set before us; the One Whom we are left here to represent and to make known the love, truth, and salvation of God. How wonderful it would be if we, as individuals, and as a company, could be recognized as being like Him!

As we look at those recorded as doing each their share in the rebuilding of the wall, I want to give a reminder of what we had in Mark 13:34 - "to every man his work." As members of the body of Christ we each have a function and a responsibility to fulfill. Romans 12:4 - 8 gives some examples of different types of work to be done to meet the needs of the members of the body. A word addressed to the conscience, a little instruction in the Word, some encouragement to one who is down, a gift to help in a moment of need, a reassurance of love and concern to one who has fallen into sin (without making light of the sin), these are all things that present themselves as occasions of service to different ones. When each does his or her part, what remarkable things are accomplished, as in the example before us! The wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt in record time.

The account begins in chapter 3 with Eliashib and the priests building the sheep gate. Outwardly their work seemed well done, but that gate was not fitted with locks and bars. Why was that? Well, we find in chapter 13:4 that "Eliashib was allied unto Tobiah," one of the enemy leaders. He was in league with the enemy! Besides, one of his grandsons "was son in law to Sanballat the Horonite," (ch. 13:28) so that Eliashib had connections with both enemy leaders! No wonder he didn't put locks and bars on his gate! This is very sad when we further realize that Eliashib was the grandson of Jeshua (Neh. 12:10), a man on record, in the beginning of the Book of Ezra, as being faithful. Do any of us have grandparents who were faithful believers? Are we following in their footsteps, or are we turning traitor like Eliashib?

In verse 2 we find "the men of Jericho" building. This is commendable, for they had their own city to work on, but they put their own interests aside for a time in order to help in the work of the Lord. In Phil. 2:21 Paul wrote how "all seek their own (things), not the things of Jesus Christ." We must not neglect our duties and responsibilities, but what about the Lord's work?

We come now to verse 5 where "the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord." Apparently, these "nobles" were too proud to lower themselves to do manual labour, and it is on record in the Word of God, to their shame. Notice that it is not "the work of the Lord," but "the work of their Lord." This makes it particularly striking that they refused to render this service to their own Master. Compare this with Priscilla and Aquila who, wrote Paul, "have for my life laid down their own necks." Rom. 16:4. There was a couple who were not afraid to put "their necks to the work of their Lord."

In the next verses we find goldsmiths, apothecaries (druggists) (v. 8), and a ruler (v. 9) working on the wall. They were what we might term upper-class, white-collar workers, but here they are, hauling rock and mixing cement. Verse 12 is very interesting, for it tells of Shallum, another ruler, "he and his daughters" faithfully building. This is the only mention in this chapter of women working on the wall, and it shows us how the Lord appreciated this work of the "daughters" with their father. "To every man his work" includes the ladies also. We find this in Romans 16 where Phebe, Mary, and others are commended for their labour for the Lord and His people. In Luke 8:1 - 3 we find "certain women" who followed the Lord and His disciples and "ministered unto Him of their substance." What a valuable service they rendered to the Lord! S.L.