“Next to them Uzziel the son of Harhaiah, goldsmiths, repaired. Next to him Hananiah, one of the perfumers, repaired. […] Next to them Rephaiah the son of Hur, ruler of half the district of Jerusalem, repaired.” (Nehemiah 3:8-9)
During the time of the Israelites’ exile in Babylon, the vast majority of the people returned to God. By the time the seventy years were up, there were scores of people eager to return home and serve God there. Three principal leaders in this time were Ezra, Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah. These three men taught the law, rebuilt the temple, and reconstructed the wall of Jerusalem, respectively. Nehemiah’s work is especially interesting, as he recruited an unlikely group of workers to help him in this enormous task. The third chapter of the book of Nehemiah relates several names, revealing just how diverse this work crew was.
Instead of relying simply on stonemasons to rebuild the wall, Nehemiah wanted everyone who was available to work on it. This meant that there were goldsmiths, perfumers, regional rulers, and even some women working right next to each other. This must have been an amusing sight, with all these people who had never been trained for this job building the wall day after day. Nehemiah records no complaints about this unusual arrangement; by all appearances, the workers were happy to serve. This wasn’t at all their profession, but it was God’s work, and they were eager to do it. Individuals from every walk of life came together, working side by side on the task God had given their nation. Their own jobs were important, but we remember them only as people who helped to rebuild the wall. As a result of their great service, their names are preserved forever in the Bible.
This is an incredible picture. As believers, we are all called to the same work—spreading the good news of Jesus and bringing Him glory. God has given each of us different talents, and He wants us to use them for Him. But more importantly than that, He wants us to work together with our fellow believers. He appoints us work specific to ourselves, but He also expects us to work with the church for the universal task He has given all of us. Nehemiah’s wall would never have been built if all these people hadn’t dedicated their services to its construction. These were ordinary citizens, but they had a heart for God’s work. Their various professions were less important than the fact that they were willing to do whatever God called them to do. We can continue to learn from their example. God’s work still goes on, and He expects us, His body, to do it. How well are you doing at building up His church?