There are certainly many sections of Scripture that most of us would admit we skip or at least skim. When the unpronounceable names and unfathomable numbers pile-up, we shrug, not knowing these people, and look for the next bit of story. But, every once in a while a spiritual gem can be mined from these passages. This week while skimming (I admit it!) such a chapter in Nehemiah that mentioned who was rebuilding the wall next to whom, I found one that made me almost fall out of my chair:
“And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.”
First, let’s look at the context. In successive waves, starting with the best and brightest who had skills or could oppose him, Nebuchadnezzar had brought the inhabitants of Judah into captivity in Babylon, where they would become ‘Jews.’ Seventy years later, Cyrus allowed all those who would want to return to go back and make a life out of the burned rubble of Jerusalem. They didn’t need to and many chose not to. Those who did, we would think, would have a pioneer spirit, willing to do whatever was necessary to survive and serve God who, in His mercy, had allowed them to return to the promised land.
But not these nobles! As the very defense of what little life they and their neighbors had managed to scrape together was at stake, they “would not stoop to serve their Lord.” It was beneath them. These nobles would be that friend who you take camping who sips iced tea from a lawn chair while you pitch the tent. They are Mr. and Mrs. Howell on Gilligan’s Island. As some who returned were alive when the city and temple were destroyed, it’s hard to imagine that they believed they were coming back to the Golden Age of Israel under Solomon when the Queen of Sheba was so impressed with what she saw that surpassed the reports that she proclaimed, “Behold, the half was not told me.” No, this Jerusalem required sweat and the rolling up of sleeves.
Sadly, we have those in the church who believe themselves ‘too good for God.’ While many labor around them rebuilding the walls of broken lives, these ‘nobles’ will not stoop to serve the Lord. Too wrapped up in their own lives to feed the hungry, clothe the needy, or teach the lost, they only warm a pew for an hour on Sundays and gain a smug checkmark on the attendance roster.
But, the way up is down on our knees. If God is so beneath us that stooping to serve Him is detestable to us, then how can we expect Him to lift us up? After all, if Jesus, who was God in the flesh, could stoop to wash feet and then die on the cross for us, can’t we follow His example?