13 October 2011

Nobles & Their Necks

Coupled with the book of Ezra, the book of Nehemiah presents the history of the Jews who returned to the homeland following the Babylonian captivity.  Ezra was a ready scribe of the law of God (Ezra 7:6-10).  The book that bears his name focuses on the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.  Nehemiah was the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11-2:5), and his book focuses on the rebuilding of the wall of the city.

Chapter 3 is where the work commences.  It’s a description of who built where and repaired what gate.  The names of the gates – and what they represent – make for some great preaching. 

Then there’s this statement in Nehemiah 3:5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.  A couple points need to be made.

1.  If you’re too noble to work, then God will never use you.

The people had a mind to work (1 Corinthians 1:26).  But the nobles refused to participate.  The Tekoites were among those God used to repair the walls and gates of Jerusalem.  But the nobles considered themselves too important for that type of work.  And they missed out. 

Perhaps this is why the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:26 …not many noble, are called:

It’s a noble thing to want to accomplish something in this life for the honor and glory of God.  But whatever it is we might seek to accomplish, it’s going to take some WORK.  Your talent, your ability, your skill is not enough.  Prayer alone is insufficient.  Anything meaningful, anything worthwhile is going to take some labor, some effort, some toil. 

God can use all kinds of people.  But He cannot, He will not use a lazy, self-important man or woman.

2.  There is risk and sacrifice involved in accomplishing something for the Lord.

Read the verse again, Nehemiah 3:5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.
Would you not expect the verse to say that they put not their backs to the work of their Lord?  That’s what I expected to read, but that’s not what it says.  It says that they put not their necks to the work of their Lord.

That’s a common expression we all understand.  To “stick your neck out” or “put your neck on the line” is basically to take a calculated risk.  It’s to say, “This might not work, this might not turn out, but I believe it will, and I really think it’s the right thing to do, so here goes…” 

You and I are unlike God.  We can’t see the end from the beginning.  When we step out by faith in obedience to His word, all we have to go on is His promise that in the end, God will be pleased, and He’ll reward us for our labor (1 Corinthians 3:8).  We’re never promised success.  We’re never promised favor.  We’re never promised protection.

When you set out to do something for the Lord, you will be exposing yourself to failure, to ridicule, to mockery, to attack, to opposition.

Perhaps these nobles had listened too carefully to the laughing of Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem (Nehemiah 2:19).  Perhaps they decided to distance themselves from the work on the wall, just in case those guys were right.  Maybe they didn’t want to subject themselves to the ridicule and conspiracy of chapter 4. 

What we need to recognize is that dealing with all of those things is just part of doing God’s work.  So we all have a choice to make.  We can aim at nothing and hit it.  Or we can go ahead and pull the trigger, mindful of the fact that there might be some recoil or retaliation.  We just need to count the cost and figure out whether or not it’s worth it. 

Considering all that the Lord has done for us, we’ve got to say that anything we could possibly do for Him is absolutely worth whatever it might cost us.  May the Lord really help us believe that’s so.