“Then Eliashib the high priest and the other priests started to rebuild at the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set up its doors, building the wall as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and the Tower of Hananel. 2 People from the town of Jericho worked next to them, and beyond them was Zaccur son of Imri. 3 The Fish Gate was built by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz repaired the next section of wall. Beside him were Meshullam son of Berekiah and grandson of Meshezabel, and then Zadok son of Baana. 5 Next were the people from Tekoa, though their leaders refused to work with the construction supervisors. 6 The Old City Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid the beams, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.7 Next to them were Melatiah from Gibeon, Jadon from Meronoth, people from Gibeon, and people from Mizpah, the headquarters of the governor of the province west of the Euphrates River. 8 Next was Uzziel son of Harhaiah, a goldsmith by trade, who also worked on the wall. Beyond him was Hananiah, a manufacturer of perfumes. They left out a section of Jerusalem as they built the Broad Wall. 9 Rephaiah son of Hur, the leader of half the district of Jerusalem, was next to them on the wall. 10 Next Jedaiah son of Harumaph repaired the wall across from his own house, and next to him was Hattush son of Hashabneiah. 11 Then came Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-moab, who repaired another section of the wall and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh and his daughters repaired the next section. He was the leader of the other half of the district of Jerusalem.13 The Valley Gate was repaired by the people from Zanoah, led by Hanun. They set up its doors and installed its bolts and bars. They also repaired the 1,500 feet of wall to the Dung Gate. 14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Recab, the leader of the Beth-hakkerem district. He rebuilt it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. 15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallum son of Col-hozeh, the leader of the Mizpah district. He rebuilt it, roofed it, set up its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. Then he repaired the wall of the pool of Siloam near the king’s garden, and he rebuilt the wall as far as the stairs that descend from the City of David.16 Next to him was Nehemiah son of Azbuk, the leader of half the district of Beth-zur. He rebuilt the wall from a place across from the tombs of David’s family as far as the water reservoir and the House of the Warriors. 17 Next to him, repairs were made by a group of Levites working under the supervision of Rehum son of Bani. Then came Hashabiah, the leader of half the district of Keilah, who supervised the building of the wall on behalf of his own district. 18 Next down the line were his countrymen led by Binnui son of Henadad, the leader of the other half of the district of Keilah. 19 Next to them, Ezer son of Jeshua, the leader of Mizpah, repaired another section of wall across from the ascent to the armory near the angle in the wall.20 Next to him was Baruch son of Zabbai, who zealously repaired an additional section from the angle to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest.21 Meremoth son of Uriah and grandson of Hakkoz rebuilt another section of the wall extending from the door of Eliashib’s house to the end of the house. 22 The next repairs were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 After them, Benjamin and Hasshub repaired the section across from their house, and Azariah son of Maaseiah and grandson of Ananiah repaired the section across from his house. 24 Next was Binnui son of Henadad, who rebuilt another section of the wall from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner. 25 Palal son of Uzai carried on the work from a point opposite the angle and the tower that projects up from the king’s upper house beside the court of the guard. Next to him were Pedaiah son of Parosh, 26 with the Temple servants living on the hill of Ophel, who repaired the wall as far as a point across from the Water Gate to the east and the projecting tower. 27 Then came the people of Tekoa, who repaired another section across from the great projecting tower and over to the wall of Ophel. 28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests repaired the wall. Each one repaired the section immediately across from his own house. 29 Next Zadok son of Immer also rebuilt the wall across from his own house, and beyond him was Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the gatekeeper of the East Gate. 30 Next Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section, while Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall across from where he lived. 31 Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the wall as far as the housing for the Temple servants and merchants, across from the Inspection Gate. Then he continued as far as the upper room at the corner. 32 The other goldsmiths and merchants repaired the wall from that corner to the Sheep Gate.”
At first glance, this chapter looks a bit dry, with its long lists of names that are difficult to pronounce, and information that seems redundant. So often when we come to passages like this, we are tempted to skip them because we view the bible as boring. But the bible is filled with lessons to be learned, and powerful principles that have direct application to our lives today that we need to be put into practice. As people we like to hear our names mentioned in a positive way. And in chapter 3 we have a list of people who achieved some pretty major accomplishments. Alongside the list of winners there are some whiners mentioned who never joined the team. The bible doesn’t just give us good examples but also bad. But what’s most interesting is that the leader Nehemiah is not mentioned at all. I think he wanted to keep the attention on others. Great leaders don’t put the spotlight on self they put it on God’s servants. Lording leaders promote self, loving leaders promote those who serve. Who are you promoting? Who spends most of the time standing in the spotlight? Many men are frustrated with their families because they don’t feel like they are recognized, but a servant doesn’t focus on self-promotion they focus on sacrificial service. The second point of the passage flows out of the first. If the purpose is the glory of God, then God should be our first:
Whatever you make the purpose of life will become the priority of your life. What and who did the priests make the priority? Where did the work begin? The sheep gate, this was not only the gate closest to the temple but the gate through which the sheep entered the city to be sacrificed for sin. In John 5 Jesus heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda. The backdrop to Bethesda is the sheep gate. Jesus the Lamb of God who came as the sacrifice to take away the sins of the world, entered the city through the Sheep Gate. Work started on the spiritual center, and because God was their priority, they put Him first. So often we fail because we forget to put the Father first, we have a priority problem. One of the lessons we learn from this passage is that the spiritual center for worship must be protected. Our time with the Father is critical. Where do you start your day is it in the word or in the world? Where do you start your week is it in worship or in the world? Going to church to worship reveals a desire to protect your spiritual center. When we go to feed our soul, then we are establishing what our spiritual priorities are. What I also want you to notice is that not only is the Sheep gate the first gate mentioned but it’s also the last. As Nehemiah takes us on a counterclockwise tour around Jerusalem, he starts with the Sheep Gate and works his way around the wall until he comes back to the sheep gate. We don’t just start our day with the Savior we also end it with him, He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. Unfortunately, instead of starting with the Savior many of us try to start with self only to end up with a mess. True success starts with the Savior, you see we will never team together successfully if we don’t make serving the Savior our focus and goal. Nehemiah built his team around a central rallying point, pointing them to the purpose of the work the glory of God and making God’s praise their priority. They weren’t just working on walls, they were worshipping the one who is worthy, God. So, what is your purpose and who is your priority?