I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
- Nehemiah 2:20
“If he were alive, I wonder what Nehemiah would think of some of the recent football stadium building projects that have been completed throughout the United States. Stadiums like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Reliant Stadium in Houston, or Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas—the largest domed stadium in the world. He probably would be impressed, especially when he learned how quickly they went up. It was a different story for him. He didn’t have blueprints or heavy equipment to make things easier. But that was God’s plan.
“Have you ever wondered how Nehemiah did it? He wasn’t an architect or a stone mason. He hadn’t grown up in construction. And to be honest, when he was given the assignment, Nehemiah didn’t know how this crucial building project would turn out. He had left his role as the official cupbearer/ food taster to King Artaxerxes of Persia and donned a hard hat as he undertook to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. The city was in constant danger from troublemakers, and it needed to be done.
“Nehemiah stepped out to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls without any idea how it would go or how he would accomplish such a daunting task. He could not see the end of the project, but he knew that God could. And since he was doing this for God, God would lead him every step of the way. Nehemiah did have control over some things, and he carefully brought those aspects to the project. He surveyed the ruins and resources, laying out careful plans and gathering and equipping committed people to build the wall, and then assigning each group a section of the wall to complete.
“Everyone took ownership over their sections, and even though they were doing something they had never done before, they knew this was a labor of love for the God they served and that He would lead and bless their efforts.
“Have you ever been in a position like Nehemiah? You feel certain that God has called you to take charge of something, but you may have a lot of questions in the back of your mind. Let it be a faith—stretching experience for you.”
- Tony Dungy and Nathan Whitaker, The One Year Uncommon Life (Devotion for 10 June)
I was a construction project manager for some of my life. I think a very good one. I was a project manager for many years more. Until my last project ever … When I was the field engineer, I was fired before the project finished. I was the innocent guy, fixing mistakes that others made, and I was chosen to be the victim in the “when things go horribly wrong, blame the innocent” step in the project. The project was late in completion. The people that made the mistakes blamed everyone but themselves. It was a disaster.
Until that point, when I had management control, the project was always on time and under budget and the customer was satisfied by the quality of the finished work.
So, I would have a great deal of confidence if I had been in Nehemiah’s shoes. I might be scared, but that would be about the things that I could not control. Nehemiah had a lot that he could not control. He had no blueprints. He had no machinery, nothing with a mechanical advantage. And he had no skills or knowledge of what he was about to do. Cup bearing and tasting food to see if it is poisonous do not translate or extrapolate into construction project management.
His neighbors were ready to attack him and kill him to prevent the wall from being constructed. A Jerusalem without a wall is easier to control. Why did Babylon knock it down in the first place, other than to make Judah easier to control.
What Nehemiah had in buckets was faith. I have seen many construction plans that get to the point of… “And then a miracle happens.” I have seen 99 out of a hundred fail because the manager did not see what was coming.
Nehemiah did not have the experience to know what was coming, but as things progressed, he quickly developed the people skills that he needed. As Tony Dungy wrote, Nehemiah’s people all had a portion of the wall to work on and they were all responsible people. No one slacked off so that the people on either side had to make up the difference. Was that Nehemiah’s skill? Or was even that God at work.
Nehemiah stepped out in faith, and the job got done.
That kind of thing rarely happens, but then again, most construction projects do not have God doing the heavy lifting.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
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