You've heard of 'fly-over states', right? Those parts of the country that people who live along the coasts pass over to get to where they are going. Well, Nehemiah chapter 3 is a fly-over chapter for some people who get hung up on all the hard-to-pronounce Hebrew names.
But there is a lot of good stuff in this chapter we don't want to miss. Take these observations, for example:
1] There were a lot of people involved in rebuilding Jerusalem's walls and gates. Among them were priests, goldsmiths, mayors, perfume makers, daughters, merchants, and a security guard. Particularly interesting to me was a guy named Eliashib. He was the High Priest of the Temple who also served as a stand-in civil leader since the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. Eliashib was a big shot, but not too big to lend a hand.
And then there were the daughters of Shallum we read about in 3:12. We might pass right over this one without giving it much thought, but women simply did not do this kind of work. They were some tough ladies who helped rebuild the city walls. My point is, no one could benefit from the protection of the city walls without lending a hand to rebuild them. Each of them did their part.
2] The job was too large for one person or even a team. There was a lot to rebuild and reinforce, but the large-looming task was totally doable when everyone did their small part. Jerusalem's walls and gates didn't get rebuilt by Nehemiah. It got rebuilt because everyone did their part.
3] They were not building for themselves. True, you'll notice a lot of people took responsibility to rebuild the gate closest to where they lived or worked, and logistically, that makes the most sense. But what use would a strong Sheep Gate be if the Fountain Gate or Dung Gate was still hanging wide open? They were rebuilding for the entire community.
They were also rebuilding for future generations who would also depend on those walls, generations that would not remember their faces. I wonder if the crippled man healed by Jesus at the Pool of Siloam ever even heard of Shallum or his daughters who rebuilt the walls around the pool where he took refuge?
This fly-over chapter in Nehemiah's story reminds each of us that we have a role in building the Kingdom of God, a task too big for one person or even a team. It reminds us we cannot serve the Lord effectively on our own and that we belong to each other as we continue the work of Jesus. This chapter also is a great reminder that we are not building for ourselves. Our names and faces will one day fade from living memory, so we don't build to be remembered but so the Kingdom of God would flourish here.