Maybe the abundance of “picture perfect” lives on social media has made me cynical. Maybe I’ve been tenderized by the fact that my family has grown to a point where everyone offers (brutally) honest feedback on just what it was like to grow up Morin. Whatever the reason, when I read Nehemiah 3, and its eighteen occurrences of “next to him,” “after him,” and “beside him,” my imagination takes off.
It sounds like life.
Old Testament scholar Mervin Breneman describes chapters three through seven of Nehemiah as the “community development process.” Kelly Minter labels it as an “extraordinary feat of organization,” and I’m sure Nehemiah would sigh and agree. My experience has been that, sometimes, what appears (from a distance) to be orderly and purposeful can feel (close up) like messy chaos with an underbelly of randomness. Nehemiah was managing a group that was culturally homogenous — everyone was either a Jew or a proselyte — but, take a close look at the catalog of names, and it encompasses every possible sector of society:
1. Siblings — “Also the sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate . . .”
“Mum, this is the picture where you made us all part our hair the same and wear matching shirts!”
2. Generations — “After him repaired Meremoth the son of Urijah, son of Koz . . .”
“Mum, did you get Grammy’s potty seat out of the tub before our guest showered?” (whoops)
3. Clergy and laity; different classes; different trades. Is it possible that not one single person sidled up to Nehemiah to explain that goldsmiths couldn’t work next to perfumers? That the Tekoites weren’t pulling their weight? Details like this didn’t make it into the canon, but I wonder . . .
When we function well as the Body of Christ, we are doing a reenactment of Nehemiah Chapter 3, and I’ve seen it. A crew of families gathers to clean the church. A couple dozen volunteers pull off a VBS, and the kids all learn something and have a great time. No one complains about working outside her skill set; people of different educational levels become of one mind; the high and mighty find grace to be meek and lowly in order for the work to go forward. Nehemiah would say that it is possible because “the hand of our great God, the God of heaven Himself, is upon us.”
The curtain slips aside, and we see that we are all in the midst of a dress rehearsal for heaven.
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Here is the link for a quick review of our progress through chapters one and two:https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/tag/nehemiah/
For further study, read Nehemiah 3, taking note of the repetitious phrase in verses 3,6, 13-15 as well as “next to him”/”after him”/”beside him” throughout the chapter. You can also join us at Spruce Head Community Church for my Sunday School class on the book of Nehemiah!