Looking for Uzziel

It's surprising what you can unearth in a building project...

Huw Williams | 16:05, Friday 8 May 2015 | Turin, Italy

Stone MasonaryWe had some fun in our latest study in Nehemiah on Wednesday evening. There's always so much to draw on in chapters 1 and 2, but what are we do once we get into chapter 3 and we are confronted with a long list of names - all probably unfamiliar - and a list of gates and portions of the ancient Jerusalem walls that are probably just as unfamiliar to us?

One option is to speed up, skip forward and get back to the dastardly deeds of Sanballat and his cronies in chapter 4. The other option is to slow down and try to process what is going on in chapter 3 a little more. We went with the latter option this week, and it turned into quite a lively time of discovery.

What we see in this chapter is a wide range of people getting stuck into the Jerusalem Wall Rebuilding Project - and what a range! The high priest, no less, is prepared to roll his sleeves up and go to work along with his colleagues, the men of Jericho stuck together and formed their own team, individuals worked alone, some noblemen opted out while others got stuck in, one of them with his daughters picking up their trowels. Families, geographical groups, priests, politicians, indiviuals, rich and poor, all find their spot of the wall to work on. It is an astonishingly diverse group of people, all unified by a common sense of purpose - the glory of God's name among the nations.

Rebuilding the WallThere's even a little of guild of artisans in verse 8. I imagine those skilled hands of Uzziel the goldsmith and Hananiah the perfumer, not so used to the heavy work of stone-masonry, doing the heavy lifting. (I also imagine getting to heaven and finding out that they took ages to get their stretch finished but boy, it was beautifully done...) It was these couple of fellows who grabbed our attention for a while.

One of our group pointed out how he has come across many Christians so preoccupied with finding and using their gifts for the church that they are not prepared to involve themselves in ministries which are right under their noses. I wasn't going to say it, but I'm glad he did.

I'm not in any way opposed to finding and using our gifts for God's Kingdom (and infinitely more significantly, neither is the New Testament) but I've noticed that same trend, and I confess I have often fallen into it myself. It's another example of our being squeezed into the mould of the world, the overflow of the wisdom of the boardroom and the airport-lounge business book, a world where our competencies rule and strength cannot possibly be found in weakness, a world where ministries struggle, workers are discouraged while others look on, apologising that "This is not my gifting."

What's the solution to the problem? Strong-arming and manipulating people into service is not the answer - Nehemiah didn't need it. And that's the point - he had a team of people who were so excited by what they were called to, who were frequently reminded of whose work it was, that - as hard as the work must have been - their hearts were set on it, they had a clear vision of the good God they were serving and of a better future with Him.

Maybe that's a better place to start.

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