Yep, I’m the One Who Repaired the Dung Gate

A brother in Christ, Geoff, sent me the following observation:


Hi Aaron!

I just re-read Nehemiah 3 last night and remembered another point that hit me from verse 14:

14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.

Not all the work is glamorous.  How would you like to be Malkijah bragging,  “Yep, I’m the one who built the poop gate!”?  And he was a ruler!  Nobody thinks about the dung gate until you don’t have one.  It may not be high profile, but it is needed and somebody needs to do the dirty work.

What about me?  Am I willing to get my hands dirty for God and build the Dung Gate?


Thanks Geoff…excellent point!

The dung gate, according to Albert Barnes was “the gate by which offal and excrements were conveyed out of the city.” The Pulpit commentary says that it is “the gate outside of which lay the piles of the sweepings and offscourings of the streets.”

This point our brother shared with us reminded me (Aaron) of the time at our previous house when we were having a problem with our septic tank, and our neighbor came over to help us with it. He had his whole arm down in OUR septic tank reaching the filter to get it to clean it out. You really have to be a special neighbor to get your arm down in somebody else’s septic tank.

The apostle Paul was that kind of man, and in the following passage this is illustrated along with the exhortation to imitate him.

“For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me (1 Corinthians 4:9-16).

Nehemiah 3

Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was a monumental task. The fact that they did it in 52 days just blows the mind. Considering all the obstacles they had to overcome takes it to a level that clearly demonstrates God’s hand was in this good work.

And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.
(Nehemiah 2:18)

I encourage you today to read Nehemiah chapter 3. Sometimes chapters like this can be skimmed through because at first or second glance it seems like just a factual list of the workers, what they did, and where they worked.  But that very list is what is so amazing.

But read the chapter carefully and think about a few things:

  1. The high priest rose up, with his brothers – The first verse shows that the spiritual leaders of Jerusalem took the lead. They were priests, but their hands were dirty and their knuckles got scraped and bloody. If you want to be a leader in God’s good work, you have to lead by example and get your hands dirty, too.
  2. Next to him, next to them, after him – Phrases like these are repeated often in Nehemiah 3. The work on the wall was divided into 42 sections. But each group worked on their section as part of the greater purpose/project. They were not working independently. Also notice that they did not finish one section before moving on to another. Each section was being worked on simultaneously (Nehemiah 4:6), thus closing the gaps.
  3. But their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord (vs. 5). Not everyone put their hands to this good work. Don’t expect 100% participation.
  4. Opposite their house, beside their house – Nehemiah stationed people in areas where there would be the highest motivation to do the best work. Folks were building / repairing the walls and gates nearest their houses (vs. 10,23,29-30). If you know this section of wall is directly connected to the survival and safety of your own family you are going to give it your all!
  5. Rulers, priests, perfumers, merchants, goldsmiths – Another point to make here is that the people working on this were not experienced wall building contractors. I’m sure some of these men had hands that were meant for inside work, and they initially had a lot of blisters and used muscles they never even knew they had! But they all put their shoulders to the work on the wall, whether they were a noble or a servant, male or female, merchant, goldsmith or perfumer. This is a clear picture of the church, guys (Ephesians 4:15-16)!
  6. With his daughters – This was a family project. Shallum was there working with his daughters (vs. 12).
  7. People from outside the city, like from Jericho (Neh. 3:2), and from Gibeon and Mizpah (vs. 5,7) and Tekoa (11 miles from Jerusalem, vs. 5,27) worked on the wall. Think of the influence God’s good work has on those around us.
  8. Repair, rebuild – The word “built” is used 6 times in chapter 3 and means “rebuilt.” The word “repair” is used 35 times and means to “make strong and firm” (compare Ezekiel 13:1-16; 22:28). They were sorting through the rubble and using the stones around them to help repair and rebuild.
  9. Tekoites – In verse 5 we find the men of Tekoa working on one section, and in verse 27 they worked on “another section.” Think about it…when they finished with “their” section, they did not walk away, they moved on to “another section.” Great principle for us to remember. Keep working in God’s work, you are never finished, just re-positioned.
  10. Zealously, carefully – Verse 20 in the NASB says Baruch “zealously” repaired the wall, while the NKJV says he “carefully” did it. Either way, you can see the spirit of the men and women working on the wall. They cared. This was not just a job, this was God’s work, and it directly affected their family, their city, their Jewish brethren. And most of all it was done for God’s glory.

I will finish with a quote from D.L. Moody:

“A great many people have got a false idea about the church. They have got an idea that the church is a place to rest in…to get into a nicely cushioned pew, and contribute to the charities, listen to the minister, and do their share to keep the church out of bankruptcy, is all they want.  The idea of work for them—actual work in the church—never enters their minds.”

How Long Nehemiah Prayed

I’m listening to some sermons on Nehemiah and this fellow made a wonderful observation that I want to share with you today.

When Nehemiah, cup-bearer for the king of Persia, heard that his ancestral city of Jerusalem was lying in rubble and his fellow Jews were in distress, he prayed fervently. Between chapters 1 and 2 there is a period of 3-4 months. Nehemiah prayed for 90-120 days before God gave him the first opportunity to petition his boss, Artaxerxes the King of Persia, to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild.

When the people of Israel began to rebuild the walls under his leadership, it took the Jews 52 days to build the wall (Nehemiah 6:15).

Do the math. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took them to build the wall.

Don’t we have this reversed sometimes? We work twice as long, beating our heads against the wall, because we did not spend enough time inviting God into our lives and our planning. Not enough time was spent seeking God’s advice, God’s will, His wisdom and His plans, and as a result we make our lives and work all the more difficult.

It’s something to think about. Nehemiah prayed about this twice as long as it took him to actually do the project.

 

For Ezra Had Prepared

For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel (Ezra 7:10).

Ezra was born and raised in captivity away from the Jewish homeland of Israel. I’m sure it could have been extremely easy for Ezra to just fit it with the Babylonian and Persian culture. He could have decided to forsake his heritage and take part in the ways of the people around him.

What was Ezra doing while he grew up?

He prepared. Preparation implies that he knew he had a purpose. He was going to teach God’s law in Israel one day. But Ezra knew that in order to teach God’s word in Israel there was work to be done first.

Ezra prepared his heart. In order to teach, he must first be doing what he was going to teach. And in order to practice what he preached, he needed to seek God’s law to know what to practice.

For Ezra Had Prepared

This required a firm decision, an unwavering commitment to follow this path. Ezra prepared his mind and heart first. Long before he arrived in Jerusalem leading a group of returning exiles, he made a commitment in concrete to seek God’s law. Years before he led the people in repentance (Ezra 9-10), he was preparing his heart and mind to seek, learn and obey God’s Law. Decades prior to him being used by Nehemiah to lead the people in spiritual revival (Nehemiah 8), he was setting his heart firmly to follow God’s word.

The long and short of it is that if we want to be used by the Lord in His church, we need to like Ezra set our minds in concrete to follow God’s word and to live God’s way. Ezra’s steadfast determination to seek God’s law and do it prepared him to be in a position later to teach God’s law. This is the same for us, men.

Wear the seat of your pants out learning the word of God. Read it. Listen to it. Study it. Meditate upon it. Saturate yourselves in it. Put your heart in concrete to do what God tells you. That will prepare you just like Ezra to be a leader one day in God’s church.

Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:15-16)

You may do nothing with us

Below are three passages recounting a time when someone or a group was excluded from working with God’s people. The first passage is from the days of Zerubbabel and the first return of the Jews from captivity to rebuild the temple. The second verse comes from the time of Nehemiah who brought the third group back from captivity to rebuild the walls. Finally, the passage from Acts 8 are words of Peter to Simon the Sorcerer who wanted to purchase the gift of the Holy Spirit with money.

Read these three passages and meditate upon them today.

Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia (Ezra 4:1-5).

So I answered them, and said to them, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20).

“You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”
(Acts 8:21-24)

In all three examples, there are those who with one heart and one soul put their minds to God’s work building God’s things. But also in all three examples there were those whose hearts were not loyal to God and they were not welcomed to join in to the great work of God. In the first two examples, the men were adversaries to the rebuilding of God’s work, and it appears that they remained that way, continually trying to oppose and frustrate the work of God. Thankfully in the final example above, Simon the Sorcerer was moved with godly sorrow and asked for the prayers of Peter (see Acts 8:22).

If you look throughout the New Testament, you will see it is full of teaching and examples showing the importance of having a group of people unified with God and with each other. It is vital to the health and growth of any organization, but especially the church of God.

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:1-5)

Let us meditate upon this in our hearts and pray that our souls are loyal to God, to His people, and to His work. May we encourage others to do the same as well.

And they listened to him until this word

Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’ ” And they listened to him until this word, and then they raised their voices and said, “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he is not fit to live!” (Acts 22:21-22).

The apostle Paul was defending himself in front of an angry Jewish mob in Jerusalem. Some had falsely accused him of taking Gentiles into the temple. If there was any word I would not have said in front of this angry Jewish mob, it would have been “Gentiles.” Especially in a sentence that claimed the Messiah Jesus had sent Paul to the Gentiles, whom the Jews considered as dogs. But the Holy Spirit in His eternal wisdom guided Paul to say these words, and you can see the reaction of the crowd. At this word, they shut down. No more listening, it’s time to kill Paul (Acts 22:23).

The problem here was not Paul’s choice of words or his timing or his presentation, it was the heart of the people hearing the message.

It brings up a point or two for consideration about listening.

How well do I listen?

Are there times when someone at work, school or home is trying to talk to me and they say “the wrong thing” or say it in “the wrong way” and I just shut down and refuse to hear anything else they say?

Would you and I be characterized as someone who truly lets someone freely talk to us without freaking out, overreacting and shutting down?

Paul said the “wrong word” to these Jews and it was over. They were not going to listen to another word. They were so mad they wanted him dead. Now you may not want someone dead, but you may kill a relationship because you refuse to listen. Think about it.

Nicodemus was one Jew who understood this principle, even though he was outnumbered in the Jewish council.

Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7:50-51)

Have you experienced these things? Are there people in your life that you cannot talk freely to because of how you know they will react? We don’t like that quality in others, understandably, but we don’t want to have that same characteristic. We as God’s men want to be the kind of men who will let others freely talk without shutting down, making quick judgments, or walking away, or over-talking, etc.

He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him (Proverbs 18:13)

It would help us to do more praying before and during conversations to ask the Lord to open our ears and muzzle our mouths.

It Has Been Fully Reported

And Boaz answered and said to her, “It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before. The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge” (Ruth 2:11-12).

Ruth was from Moab; she was an outsider, a Gentile. When she was shown such great kindness and generosity by Boaz, she was overwhelmed with gratitude. But she was also puzzled…why me?

So she fell on her face, bowed down to the ground, and said to him, “Why have I found favor in your eyes, that you should take notice of me, since I am a foreigner?” (Ruth 2:10).

Ruth’s humility here is evident. Her whole mindset was to serve God and work hard to take care of Naomi and herself. She didn’t expect a parade for her service, nor did she expect this bountiful treatment from Boaz. Ruth was perfectly content to get dirty and sweaty working in the fields to get just enough for two widows to survive.

However, Boaz kindly reminds her of why she was being so treated.

“It has been fully reported to me…”

The behavior of Ruth got people talking. Ruth’s commitment first and foremost was to serve the Lord God. She left Moab, her family in Moab and her gods in Moab to come under the sheltering wings of the great I AM. Secondly, her life was but to serve Naomi and to make sure Naomi was provided for.

Ruth’s manner of life got the attention of the people of Israel, and word eventually came to Boaz. He was greatly impressed and I believe he was encouraged by such behavior. It seems like Boaz saw himself as one of God’s instruments in helping provide for Ruth and Naomi. Boaz knew full well that God was pleased with the commitment of Ruth, and he was convinced that the Lord would repay her for her work (Ruth 2:12).

The same is true for us today as God’s people. If our mindset is the praise of men, we will get our reward, Jesus said. When our heart is all about the reward and the material goods, we will get our reward (Matthew 6:1-4). But when our hearts are set on heaven as was the heart of Ruth, heaven takes notice.

Jesus Himself observed this kind of behavior in a poor widow. He watched how the rich people were giving large sums to the temple treasury, but what really grabbed His attention was the two coins given by a widow who gave all she had. Those two coins didn’t make much of a sound when they dropped in the container, but they thundered in heaven (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). Ruth’s service was just like that…God took notice of her and used Boaz to take care of her.

Let us reflect on our own service to God. If our hearts are like the heart of Ruth, then heaven will take notice. And really, it doesn’t matter if anyone else notices if God is the one who sees it.

For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:10).

Let Them Measure the Pattern

“According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it” (Exodus 25:9).

Moses was commanded by God to make the tabernacle according to the “pattern,” God’s pattern (See also Exodus 25:40; Numbers 8:4; Acts 7:44). Everything God told Moses to do had a specific point, because God was looking forward to Christ and His church. The Hebrew writer taught that the things of the Mosaic law, tabernacle, sacrifices and priesthood served as a “copy and a shadow” of the heavenly things (Hebrews 8:5).

This same expectation of building after the pattern was placed upon King David as he began all the preparations for the temple which his son Solomon would build.

“All this,” said David, “the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern” (1 Chronicles 28:19).

In contrast to the obedience of Moses and David in following God’s pattern, there was a king years later named Ahaz who disobeyed God by seeking another pattern. He traveled to Damascus, and met with the King of Assyria. He came back with a pattern for a different altar and had it built (2 Kings 16:10).

During the days of Ezekiel the prophet, God’s people were in complete defiance of His laws, and because of it God punished Judah through the kingdom of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple and took thousands of the people of Judah into captivity. God looked forward, though, to the days of their return and the days of the Messiah. Through Ezekiel, God called His people back to the “pattern.” If they would examine the words of God which contained that pattern, they would hopefully be ashamed of their sins and turn back to God (Ezekiel 43:10).

Let Them Measure the Pattern

“Son of man, describe the temple to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and let them measure the pattern” (Ezekiel 43:10).

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul served as a pattern for us in many ways:

  • In his salvation (1 Timothy 1:16). The longsuffering and grace extended by Jesus to Paul serves as a pattern for all who will believe in Jesus Christ.
  • Through his life and character (Philippians 3:17; 4:9). Men like Titus and Timothy were also to serve as a pattern in their behavior (1 Timothy 4:12; Titus 2:7).
  • The doctrine and sound words he taught (2 Timothy 1:13). These were to be taken by men like Timothy and taught to others so that the pattern of sound doctrine would be repeated for generations to come (2 Timothy 2:2; 1 Corinthians 4:17).

God has a pattern that He wants us to follow. How we are saved. The way we behave and talk. Our worship to God. It is important for us to examine the Word and to find that pattern of sound words and follow it. As men and leaders in homes and churches, we are to have the courage and love for Christ to lead others in following God’s pattern, which first and foremost comes by living the pattern ourselves.

Sermons on Racism

Today’s post is a link to some much-needed sermons on racism by brother Benjamin Lee. Please consider these sermons prayerfully. Racism is real and as Benjamin says in these sermons, we need to have some crucial conversations about it.

Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him (Acts 10:34-35).

Sermons on Racism by Benjamin Lee

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings (Acts 17:26).

…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise (Galatians 3:26-29).

Note: We got our power back sooner than expected, enabling me to post today’s article. Many are still without power in Michigan, though. It makes you appreciate having electricity!

Religious Complaining

This week’s focus has been about complaining and how it affects our various relationships. The previous articles this week centered on complaining about things like the weather, job, bills, etc. Today we will consider “Religious Complaining,” meaning we are complaining about our perceptions of another’s service to God.

To begin, let’s look at Martha the sister of Mary and Lazarus.

But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me” (Luke 10:40).

In other words, Martha said, “I’m all alone in the kitchen, Mary’s not helping, and Jesus You don’t even seem to care.” Jesus had to remind her that Mary was right where Mary needed to be. Mary wasn’t idle or neglecting her duties. It was Martha who was troubled and worried about many things, and it would serve Martha well to follow her sister’s example and sit at Jesus’ feet for awhile (Luke 10:41-42).

Next up, Elijah:

So he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10).

Elijah in his genuine discouragement, thought he was all alone. A lot of what Elijah said was true, but he wasn’t alone. God reminded Elijah of His presence and power, and of the fact that there were 7,000 others who faithfully served God (1 Kings 19:10,18).

Elijah was discouraged and Martha was distracted, but both came to the same conclusion: “I’m all alone.” Sometimes we may complain because we look around and perceive that others are not working for the Lord like we are. We set ourselves up, whether out of arrogance or just plain discouragement, as the judge of how others are serving God.

When we begin to make judgments about the quality of another’s service to God, we become the judge instead of God. The disciples of Jesus did this to the woman who poured out the expensive oil upon Jesus. They set themselves up as the arbitrator of how she could have better used her resources for God. Jesus told them to leave her alone because she had done a good work for Him (Mark 14:4-6. We can do good works, like hospitality, and begin to grumble. “Why aren’t others doing the same? I wish others would appreciate what I’m doing!” (1 Peter 4:9).

Our assessment of the reward we should get for all we have sacrificed becomes overblown. We overvalue our service and undervalue the service of others. How much I served gets compared to the “little” someone else has served. Jesus talked about this mentality in the parable of the Landowner (Matthew 20:1-16). The basic lesson there is that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Let’s be careful about religious complaining. James wrote, “Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9).

Religious Complaining

Really, this is ultimately what the disciples were arguing about among themselves. “Who is the greatest?” In the very presence of Jesus, the Son of God, they argued about who was the greatest! When we begin to do our religious complaining, then we are sounding just like the disciples in arguing who the greatest is (Luke 22:23-27).

Finally, take a moment to thank God for all of the faithful people around you who are serving God every day. May we ask the Lord to remind us that there are many things going on in service to God everyday that we have no idea about. There are many great servants of God doing many wonderful things, and they are not sounding a trumpet about it. Only God knows. Let’s continue to pray for humility and a mindset of service simply to do the job God has called us to do…and do it with thankfulness.