“And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord. . . . After him Baruch the son of Zabbai earnestly repaired the other piece, from the turning of the wall unto the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.” (Nehemiah 3:5, 20)
Nehemiah had recently arrived in Jerusalem from Persia, with a burden on his heart and a building permit in his hand. One night when most were asleep, he toured the ground where 140 years earlier the majestic walls of Zion had been. What he saw confirmed the awful report his brother Hananiah had brought to him at the Shushan palace. The situation in the city was pathetic.
So, the next day he gathered the discouraged leaders and laid out his ambitious plan, backed up with that royal permission: Let’s rebuild the walls!
And the people rallied to the challenge.
The men rolled up their sleeves, organized their families, and started removing the rubble in front of them. It did not matter where their skills lay. Priests picked up hammers, goldsmiths grabbed for picks, and Levites found shovels. Perfumers made their way to the ruins and even merchants closed their shops to work. One district leader even got his daughters to pitch in!
There was excitement in the air. After all, this was Jerusalem they were repairing, the city of David, the jewel of the earth!
Chapter three of Nehemiah identifies over forty separate job sites, all linked together to form a belt of protection around the city. Everyone worked eagerly on their section, spurred on by the contagious enthusiasm and energetic words of their dynamic leader. Well . . . almost.
Two notable exceptions break the general rule in the crowd of faithful builders.
First, there was a group from Tekoa making repairs, whose nobles were irresponsible and insubordinate. Not willing to follow orders from anyone, they loafed on the job while the other sites advanced rapidly.
Then there was a man named Baruch, whose work made you stop and look again. He built earnestly and efficiently, with such a spirit of excellence that Nehemiah singled him out as an example. His section carried the mark of a believer giving his very best for God.
This work list is representative of most Christian ministries.
There are always the faithful many, who do the job well. You can count on them. They are constant and dependable, and few projects are ever done without their contribution.
Then there are the slouchers, who criticize and scoff at the ones working. They refuse to apply themselves and are invariably a liability rather than an asset.
Finally, here and there, you find a Baruch. He represents the ones who continually exceed what you expect. If you hope for three they bring you five. If you ask for a mile, they give you two. If you look for a good job, they unveil a masterpiece.
A passage like this prompts a few serious questions. So, what kind of wall builder am I? Am I in the throng of the faithful? Am I one of those who lets others do the work? Or am I one who surpasses expectations and delivers only my very best?
Of one thing I can be sure. God also keeps lists.
Dear Father, help me tackle my tasks with the mind of Baruch, one that is grateful to You and happy for the privilege of even being at the wall. Amen.