The Wisdom of Excellence
(Proverbs 30:28) What is the strongest material known to mankind? What a surprise! It’s the spiderweb! It’s true; pound for pound, the spiderweb is stronger than steel. “The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and it is in king’s palaces.” Because of its skill the spider is found all around the world. The spider does excellent work. Nehemiah understood the value of excellence. “Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings, he will not stand before unknown men.” (Proverbs 22:29) The apostle Paul admonishes us, “And whatever you do, do it heartily to the Lord and not to men.” (Colossians 3:23)
Nehemiah had amazing discipline and kept meticulous records. (Nehemiah 3, 7, and 11) He called people by name. He kept records about their linage, where they lived and their vocations.
Excellence is shown by the quality of our work. “Baruch the son of Zabbai, carefully repaired the other section.” (Nehemiah 3:20) The words “carefully repaired” refers to the quality of his work. Baruch did his work, and did it well.
Nehemiah also noticed the quantity of their work. In Nehemiah 3:19, 21, 24, 27, 30, he mentioned that these workers “repaired another section” of the wall. They worked harder and faster than others. Some workers have better skills and some workers have more energy than others. Nehemiah observed it all.
In a masculine society, Nehemiah accepted women as workers and recognized their efforts. (Nehemiah 3:12) In a racially closed society which kept to itself, Nehemiah was willing to use foreign workers. (Nehemiah 3:28) “The Nethinim” refers to the Canaanite tribe which made a covenant with Joshua. (Joshua 9:3, 15) Nehemiah knew he needed as many good workers as he could find to rebuild the wall. The questions he asked were, “Can you mix mud? Can you lay bricks?”
As the work on the wall progressed Nehemiah had to make changes in the emphasis of what needed to be done. For instance, the Israelites began their work by building the city gates.
Then they sifted their efforts to clearing the rubble to make room for the city walls. (Nehemiah 4:10)
Then they armed themselves to protect what had been built against enemy attack. (Nehemiah 4:13) There’s a good proverb which says, “Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not break.” In this journey we call life, we must be careful not to lock our arms in the steering wheel,” or we will crash.
There is never a good time to have a bad attitude. Nehemiah kept a good attitude when the “nobles” refused to help build the walls. (Nehemiah 3:5) Nehemiah kept a good attitude when he was falsely accused. (Nehemiah 6:6) He kept a good attitude when the false prophets tried to make him afraid. (Nehemiah 6:14) The best way to keep a good attitude is to “remember the Lord.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
The best way to keep a good attitude to the end of life is to know the Lord remembers us. Nehemiah began his work by praying and asking God to help him. He ended his work by asking God to remember him. (Nehemiah 13:14, 22, and 30) Nehemiah believed God kept good records.
We learn from history that God answered Nehemiah’s prayers and remembered him. Nehemiah began his ministry by serving as the king’s cupbearer. Next, he became the governor of Judah and ruled the Israelites. Today, thousands of years later millions of people read his story and are influenced by his life. We are a part of his legacy.
“So, I brought the leaders of Judah up on the wall.” (Nehemiah 12:31) Nehemiah began his ministry by building up the wall. He finished his ministry by bringing people up on the wall. Our job as leaders is to leave people in a better position than we found them. When Nehemiah came to Jerusalem the walls were destroyed and the people were living in terrible conditions. At the end of the book of Nehemiah the walls have been restored and the people are standing on the walls. That is excellent leadership!
We use our ministry to build up people,
or we use people to build our ministry!