What Does Nehemiah 3:1 Mean?

Then Eliashib the high priest arose with his brothers the priests and built the Sheep Gate; they consecrated it and hung its doors They consecrated the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel.

Nehemiah 3:1(NASB)
Picture courtesy of Sweet Publishing

Verse Thoughts

Because of their apostasy, both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah were enslaved and deported by their enemies, and both the holy city of Jerusalem and the beautiful temple of Solomon, were destroyed by Babylon. For 70 years the land lay desolate as foretold by the prophets. But God did not forget His people and after 70 years of exile, God moved the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to permit them to return to their homeland and rebuild the sanctuary of God.

Over the years, harsh rules were relaxed and exiles had become comfortable under foreign rule, and out of 3 million exiles, only about 50 thousand returned to the Promised Land with Ezra, the priest. The returnees attempted to return to their spiritual foundation, and although the Temple was eventually rebuilt, the city walls and gates remained burnt and in ruins for nearly a hundred years.

Because of the courage of Nehemiah, who told his concerns to King Artaxerxes, more people returned to Jerusalem to restore the city and rebuild its gates. This little band of builders met with much opposition from their pagan neighbours, foreigners who had moved into the city during Israel's exile and set up an authoritarian, legislative administration, which was determined to depress the morale of Nehemiah and his workers. Nevertheless, because of his wise example, they refused to be intimidated and continued with their important rebuilding project.

Every section of the wall and each city gate was allocated to certain groups of returnees, who were responsible for the rebuilding of that segment. Joiada and Meshullam repaired the Old Gate and the repairs next to them were carried by Melatiah the Gibeonite, Jadon the Meronothite, and the men of Gibeon. Side by side and in unity of spirit these men of Israel worked on their own section, because they shared a common goal.

The first people to be allocated a portion was "Eliashib, the high priest, who arose with his fellow priests, to begin rebuilding the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and installed its doors. After building the wall to the Tower of the Hundred and the Tower of Hananel, they consecrated it." This was no ordinary construction site. This was an act of dedication to God, because the Lord had ordained that it should be done.

Eliashib and the rest of the priests, were leaders in Israel. They were men that led Israel by example. They did not consider themselves to be an elite class, who were exempt from the work that needed to be done. When godly leaders and wise elders set an example and serve as role-models, the results produce much fruit. Jesus was the perfect role model, Who told us, "I am meek and humble of heart", and on a number of occasions, Paul instructed the Corinthians to "pattern yourselves after me - as I imitate and follow Christ."

As King Solomon wrote, many years earlier, "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it. Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain." But God was in charge of this building programme. He was the one who was guarding His servants and guiding their project. While there are always those who try to evade the work of the Lord in their life, it must have been a great encouragement to see the high priest and others from the priestly line of Levi and Aaron getting to work alongside their fellow Israelites, and not pleading exemption from this important work.

The priests were given the task of repairing the Sheep Gate, which was the place through which the sheep would be brought as a sacrificial offering to the Lord. The Sheep Gate was the Eastern Gate of the city, not far from the pool of Bethesda. The Eastern Gate, opposite the Mount of Olives, is the gate through which the Lord Jesus - the Good Shepherd of the sheep - will enter, when He returns to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation, to set up His eternal kingdom on earth.

It was their failure to follow God's commands and keep their covenant promises that caused Israel to be punished, and so the restoration of the Sheep Gate, on that eastern side of the city, must have played a significant role in raising the morale of the people, helping to keep them on task in maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There are many lessons that we can learn from Eliashib the high priest, and the rest of those that toiled so tirelessly in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and the gates of the City. Like Israel, every member of Christ's Body has our part to play in the perfecting of the saints, for the work of ministering, and the building up of the body of Christ - until we all reach unity in the faith and a deeper knowledge of God’s Son - as together we grow into a mature man, to a measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

Jealousy and resentment, superiority and criticism have no place in the Body of Christ. The work to which any one of us is called is of significance to the Lord, for it is a work that He uniquely chose for each one of us. In EVERYTHING we do whether international evangelism or caring for a sick relative, serving as an elder or serving in a supermarket, everything we do and all we say should be said and done for HIS greater glory.

There are no super saints for we are all serial sinners who have been gloriously saved by God's grace - through faith in His Son. For by the grace we are saved - not by works, lest anyone should boast. No one among us should think of themselves more highly than others, for God has distributed a measure of faith to each one. Let us never forget that although we are many parts of one spiritual body, all the parts have a unique function to play. May we use our time, talents, gifts, and graces for the edification of the body and the glory of God.

My Prayer

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father, there is so much for me to learn and I pray that I would have a teachable spirit. Thank You for the Scriptures and for Nehemiah the scribe and Eliashib the high priest, who faithfully carried out the work that You gave them to do with a willing spirit and joyful heart - and who and became such good examples of faithfulness to emulate. Thank You for the gifts and graces that You have given to me. I pray that I would carry out the work that You have called me to do faithfully, and for Your glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.

Picture courtesy of Sweet Publishing

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