October 01, 2023 | Don Horban
References: Nehemiah 3:1-21Romans 12:4- 8Matthew 5:29-30Matthew 13:22Ephesians 4:26-27Revelation 2:2, 4-5James 4:17
Topics: Old TestamentNew TestamentWisdomLifeFellowshipBibleFaithfulnessCommitment

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Nehemiah 3:1-21 - “Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. [2] And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. [3] The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. [4] And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. [5] And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord. [6] Joiada the son of Paseah and Meshullam the son of Besodeiah repaired the Gate of Yeshanah. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. [7] And next to them repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite and Jadon the Meronothite, the men of Gibeon and of Mizpah, the seat of the governor of the province Beyond the River. [8] Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired, and they restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. [9] Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired. [10] Next to them Jedaiah the son of Harumaph repaired opposite his house. And next to him Hattush the son of Hashabneiah repaired. [11] Malchijah the son of Harim and Hasshub the son of Pahath-moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. [12] Next to him Shallum the son of Hallohesh, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired, he and his daughters. [13] Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.” [14] Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. [15] And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David. [16] After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men. [17] After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. [18] After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. [19] Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. [20] After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. [21] After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib."

What a strange passage for a sermon text! And it’s typical of the wording of this entire third chapter. I didn’t read the whole chapter because it’s the kind of chapter that could easily bore you to death. There’s a kind of monotony in the words and names and repetition - the same phrases over and over again.

But while the passage is monotonous, it also marks the point in the book where the actual work of rebuilding begins. After all, walls don’t go up by themselves. And God didn’t put the walls up for the people.

There is praying. There is preparing. There is planning. Nehemiah has done all of those things. But, no matter how you slice it, there must come that time of participating - of actually setting the hand to the task. That’s what this third chapter is all about.

More than we might think at first glance, this is a chapter about fellowship. It probably doesn’t look like it to us, because we’ve really changed to a concept of fellowship that is miles removed from the main premise of the Bible.

Many Christians would be shocked to discover that fellowship isn’t just coffee and doughnuts in the fellowship hall after church. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not all that fellowship is about.

This is a chapter about people who see a job, and set their hearts to work together to get it done. In fact, as you read this chapter, you will find that the words “next to him” occur 25 times as the people rebuild the walls. People were joined side by side. Walls were going up in their proper place, without breaks or gaps because there were no breaks in the work force. There was a linking up in labour together. The walls were joined and solid because the people were united in labour, shoulder to shoulder.

This leads to the first principle of this passage:


This is a great chapter about cooperation. It illustrates in living flesh what is taught in the New Testament in passages like Romans 12:4- 8 - “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, [5] so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. [6] Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; [7] if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; [8] the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.”

These are Paul’s words about building, not walls around Jerusalem, but the Body of Christ. And his obvious point is simple. To build a healthy church - a church without gaps and holes in its structure - each person has a role to fill. God uses each of us to build up each other’s lives. In other words, God cannot accomplish all He wants to accomplish in my life without you. And God can’t accomplish all he wants to accomplish in your life without me.

We know from other passages of Scripture that Paul likened the spiritual life to running a race. But now we discover something else: The race is a three-legged race. I can only cross the finish line linked up to you.

In fact, it’s the weaknesses and foibles and limitations of others that deepen and sharpen my own discipline and wisdom and grace. God uses the fellowship of others in the church to increase my resistance to sin, to give me strength in united prayer with the saints, to bring me spiritual understanding of His Word, to help me grow in making wise and holy decisions, to expose my own sins through the sometimes irritating habits and words of others. After all, I can think I’m pretty patient if I only have to live with myself. It’s the sins of others that bring to the surface of my life all my anger, envy, pride, etc.

Cut it any way you want, without the rest of the church, there will be huge holes in the structure of my soul.

Get involved in some kind of mid-week ministry. Get your whole family into Christian Education. Work with Bread of Life. Join a Core Group on Wednesday night. It’s your own life you’ll be rebuilding.

If I were God I wouldn’t have included Nehemiah chapter three in the Bible. Nobody’s going to read it right through anyway. I would have put more parables, more of the miracles of Jesus, and a lot more stuff about heaven. But the Holy Spirit wants me to know that the walls of my life don’t go up without Hashabiah, and Ezer, and Eliashib and Uriah.

This chapter is the Holy Spirit’s way of saying, “Don, don’t ignore the people I’ve put into the church to build your life! Don’t think you can do it without them.

Just look at the verses I read at the beginning of this message (3:17- 21). Take any one of those unknown names out of the picture and do you know what you have left in the wall? Nothing but a big hole. Or, as so often happens, the person on the right or the left, has twice as much work to do.


This really is a very important chapter of Scripture. Why isn’t it enough for the Holy Spirit just to say, “And a whole bunch of people all worked very hard on the walls. They all served faithfully until the job was done. God bless everyone of them!”?

Because God doesn’t see what “people” do, or what “the church” does, or what “Cedarview” does. But He does write down what Tammy Fenwick or Gladys Gordon, or Laurie Garrett does.

Do you know the names of every person who’s looking after all the children in the nursery, or in children’s church today? God writes all their names down - every week. We shouldn’t be bashful or hesitant to say this. Jesus said they would be both remembered and rewarded for what they do every single week.

Do you know the names of all the people giving out Bread of Life baskets this week? God does. He writes down all of their names as they serve Him. That’s the principle of this boring chapter. God loves to record and reward unknown names.


Nehemiah 3:5 - “And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.”

I’m not quite so happy that God records my laziness as well as my industry. The Holy Spirit distinctly singles this group of men out. Technically they had done nothing bad. They didn’t rob any of the other workers. They didn’t take off with any of their wives. In fact, they didn’t even do anything to hinder the work of the others. They simply didn’t put their hands to the work themselves.

So these reminders of God’s attentiveness to individuals - right down to the recording of their names - is to help us to live our Christian lives mindfully - to keep our destiny before us - never to merely be man pleasers - never to be one thing in public and another in private.

After all, God didn’t need to write those names down so He wouldn’t forget them. He has no memory problems. He wrote them down so we wouldn’t forget their permanent testimony to either the faithful reward for working for the Lord, or the punishment for ignoring the work at hand.


Verse 1 - the “Sheep Gate”, verse 3 - the “Fish Gate”, verse 6 - the “Jeshanah Gate”, verse 13 - the “Valley Gate”, verse 14 - the “Dung Gate”, verse 15 - the “Fountain Gate”, verse 28 - the “Horse Gate”, verse 31 - the “Inspection Gate”

I know from reading many of the expositions of the book of Nehemiah that there’s a tendency to pull all sorts of weird and wonderful sermon ideas from all of the images in the book. Some people find all sorts of symbolism in each and every gate. They find lessons in the name of each gate. I think things get stretched a little out of shape some times.

But at least allow me this one point of application when it comes to the gates mentioned in the text. Whatever else is meant, at least this much is certain - gates were very important when you lived in a walled city. Gates represented the means of both access and egress. Everything entered and exited through the city gates.

In fact, you controlled the quality of life inside the city by how well you managed the traffic at the gates. A city could be ruined by what it allowed in. It could also be ruined by what it refused to put out.

I think you can see the point of application to the rebuilding of our lives as well. The Scriptures actually talk a great deal about the gates of our lives - the things we allow to enter and exit from our hearts:

A) There are things that we allow entry into our lives at our own destruction

Matthew 5:29-30 - “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. [30] And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Notice the emphasis on first entry points. Find out your weaknesses. Discover what brings sin into your heart! Fix your attention on the entry points of your life. Your eternal destiny hangs on your willingness to deal ruthlessly with the entry points of sin.

Matthew 13:22 - “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.”

Sin isn’t always openly destructive. It doesn’t always devastate the life instantly. Worry and a love for wealth destroy the soul, but in non-dramatic ways. They starve the inward life of the Word and Spirit gradually.

Ephesians 4:26-27 - “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, [27] and give no opportunity to the devil.”

That word “opportunity” is the word “topos” - the Greek word from which we get our English word “topography.” Like a place on a map, anger, cherished and warmed in the mind, will carve out a specific place for the devil to base further operations in your thinking if you entertain his lies.

All of those verses are merely a sampling of the warnings of Scripture on the importance of keeping the entry points of your mind protected and secure.

B) There are also things that we allow out of our lives that must be kept in

Revelation 2:4-5 - “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. [5] Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”

These words are a specific warning to a church that had kept a lot of things out that they should have kept out. Jesus praised them for this - 2:2 - “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.”

But they also let slip away something that they should have kept closely guarded in their hearts. They didn’t notice their passion and purity of devotion to Jesus grew cold.

But nobody monitored this. Nobody was watching the gates. Nobody saw it slipping away. Here’s another area: James 4:17 - “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Paul says our lives are to be “full of good works.” Underscore that little word, “full.” What is the path to this fullness? Or, to put the question in its negative form, how do lives become less than full? How do we become spiritually empty?

The Apostle James tells us: There’s something of a spiritual drainage that takes place in our lives when we know, by conscience and the Spirit of God, that something needs to be done, but either through pride or plain procrastination never get around to doing it.

And that failure doesn’t just leave me where I was before. It’s not just non-growth that happens. It’s a spiritual minus - an actual reduction of God’s renewing work. There comes a diminishing of the glory of the Lord in my life!

“Keep your heart with all diligence.” That’s another way of saying, “Keep the gates of the walls of your life in good repair!”

Life is never determined merely by the conclusion of things. Life is largely determined - and the course is largely set - in the beginnings of little things - little things ignored or little things allowed.

I can still remember the excellent words from Jim Rohn’s “The Formula For Failure And Success” - “Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. We do not fail overnight. Failure is the inevitable result of an accumulation of poor thinking and poor choices. To put it more simply, failure is nothing more than a few errors in judgment repeated every day.

Now why would someone make an error in judgment and then be so foolish as to repeat it every day? The answer is because he or she does not think that it matters.

On their own, our daily acts do not seem that important. A minor oversight, a poor decision, or a wasted hour generally doesn't result in an instant and measurable impact. More often than not, we escape from any immediate consequences of our deeds.

But the pain and regret of these errors in judgment have only been delayed for a future time. Consequences are seldom instant; instead, they accumulate until the inevitable day of reckoning finally arrives and the price must be paid for our poor choices - choices that didn't seem to matter.

Since nothing terrible happens to us, since there are no instant consequences to capture our attention, we simply drift from one day to the next, repeating the errors, thinking the wrong thoughts, listening to the wrong voices and making the wrong choices. The sky did not fall in on us yesterday; therefore the act was probably harmless. Since it seemed to have no measurable consequence, it is probably safe to repeat.

So here are the life lessons from today’s teaching - There are three:

a) Build your life in the commitment of fellowship with the body of Christ.

b) Remind your soul of the constant notice and remembrance of Father God - a God who records and remembers both faithfulness and neglect.

c) And always, if you work at anything important in your life, keep the gates of your life with all diligence.