This chapter radiates warmth and enthusiasm. The whole population responds to Nehemiah’s call to build. Each is satisfied with his place, without being jealous of another. Hardly anyone avoids his task, no one grumbles about his task. Because of this there is care for every part of the wall. How impenetrable is a church with such collaborators.
The Spirit takes us by the hand and goes with us along the wall. We are allowed to watch with Him the progress of the building. We see people busy. We are not inspectors, but students. The Spirit is the Inspector. He says what the people are called, what they are doing, where they are doing, why they are doing it. He shows who’s diligent and who’s doing nothing. He sees the motives that lead a person.
Everything that is done is recorded. Not to have a nice evening later with a slide presentation or a video presentation and to talk about the performances. There doesn’t have to be anything wrong with that. But what is recorded here, is recorded on indelible paper, in the register of God. Impeccably the Spirit records the names of the employees and their activities.
The enumeration of the workers is reminiscent of the enumeration at the end of the letter to the Romans (Rom 16:1-161I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea;2that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.3Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus,4who for my life risked their own necks, to whom not only do I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles;5also [greet] the church that is in their house. Greet Epaenetus, my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia.6Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you.7Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.8Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord.9Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.10Greet Apelles, the approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the [household] of Aristobulus.11Greet Herodion, my kinsman. Greet those of the [household] of Narcissus, who are in the Lord.12Greet Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in the Lord. Greet Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord.13Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine.14Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them.15Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.16Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.). It is also reminiscent of “the right seat of Christ” (2Cor 5:1010For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.). There each one will “receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1Cor 3:88Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.). This also applies to us. That is why it is so instructive to walk with the Spirit of God. Of every worker in God’s kingdom, in which each has his own task and field, is now recorded what he is doing.
However, we are not all working on our own, for our own little kingdom. We do not work alongside each other when we are working together towards the same goal: the rebuilding of the wall. Shoulder to shoulder they are busy, which is so nicely indicated by the recurring words “next to”.
Nowhere is it more important than in the church of God to have the right person in the right place. For this purpose “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (1Cor 12:1818But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.). To this end the necessary gift has been given to each member by the Spirit (Rom 12:6-86Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, [each of us is to exercise them accordingly]: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;7if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;8or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.). Service is not only serving with the Word. Service is being engaged in the work that the Lord has ordained for each person. It is about doing His will. He rewards according to the faithfulness with which one is engaged and not according to the gift one possesses.
Everyone has a personal and unique share in the restoration of the wall of Jerusalem. No one does the same work, no one imitates another. Each has a share that is different from all the others. We see this in the disciples of the Lord, in the co-workers of Paul, in the warriors of David.
There is work enough. Everyone can get to work, no one needs to be unemployed. Those who have nothing to do may ask themselves whether it is because of laziness, jealousy, or pride. If you’re lazy, you don’t want to work. He who is jealous only wants a certain work, but that has already been assigned to someone else. He who is proud does not want work that he considers to be beneath his dignity. Everyone has a work that suits him and is given the grace to do so.
Building the wall is not an afterthought, but a necessity. A wall is intended for separation, it is a means of defense against external attacks by the enemy. This also makes the wall a means of security for society within the wall. The presence of the wall allows the inhabitants of the city to concentrate on the values of the city. The values of the city are determined by the temple, the house where God dwells. The wall also makes the city a whole.
The wall is not meant to isolate the city from her surroundings. Separation does not equate to isolation. It is beautiful to see how in this wall there are no less than ten gates. This makes it possible to enter and to leave. It is necessary that the gates are guarded. In the new Jerusalem guarding is no longer necessary (Rev 21:25,2725In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed;27and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.).
The ten gates are:
1. The Sheep Gate (verse 11Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors. They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred [and] the Tower of Hananel.)
2. The Fish Gate (verse 33Now the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and bars.)
3. The Old Gate (verse 66Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Old Gate; they laid its beams and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars.)
4. The Valley Gate (verse 1313Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and a thousand cubits of the wall to the Refuse Gate.)
5. The Refuse Gate (verse 1414Malchijah the son of Rechab, the official of the district of Beth-haccherem repaired the Refuse Gate. He built it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars.)
6. The Fountain Gate (verse 1515Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, the official of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He built it, covered it and hung its doors with its bolts and its bars, and the wall of the Pool of Shelah at the king’s garden as far as the steps that descend from the city of David.)
7. The Water Gate (verse 2626The temple servants living in Ophel [made repairs] as far as the front of the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower.)
8. The Horse Gate (verse 2828Above the Horse Gate the priests carried out repairs, each in front of his house.)
9. The East Gate (verse 2929After them Zadok the son of Immer carried out repairs in front of his house. And after him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, carried out repairs.)
10. The Inspection Gate (verse 3131After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, carried out repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, in front of the Inspection Gate and as far as the upper room of the corner.)