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Every year the world stops to gaze at the wonder that is Tinseltown, as we enter that magical time of year known as Awards Season. Oh, it doesn’t come trees, or candy canes, or boxes, or bags. It comes instead with little statuettes with names like Tony or Oscar, and we all bow and worship at the red-carpeted shrine. And what do we hear? Thank you after thank you for people we’ve never heard of: editors, script writers, makeup people, sound editors, and the like. All we’re hoping for is for someone to trip on those long gowns, or possibly to get so excited they pass out on live TV. All for a little recognition of job well done.

Truth be told, things haven’t changed all that much. Back in the Old Testament times, people were just as interested in being recognized for their work, and the Bible often does just that. The problem is that we as modern readers often skip right over those parts. Honestly, when was the last time you read through all the names in Chronicles? Or read the detailed genealogies that pop up every so often?

Nehemiah 3 is one of those sections, and most of skip right over it. After all, who really cares who rebuilt the Fish Gate, or the Horse Gate, of the Fountain Gate. The only one that really gets our attention is Dung Gate, and not for its spiritual significance. But these chapters are important to some people, even modern people. Archeologists (and a few brown-nosing historians) love this chapter for the detail it gives of the layout of ancient Jerusalem. But what can we as the average Joe or Jane get from this monotony?

Let’s look at verse 5. Nehemiah has been describing how various portions of the population have been working to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, which was usually the portion closest to their house for a little self-centered motivation. However, one goup of men from Tekoa refused to do any work. Apparently seeing themselves as “more supervisory,” they didn’t want to get their hands dirty with manual labor, so the ordinary employees had to do more work.

Jump ahead to verse 27, and we see the men of Tekoa again working on another section of the wall. There are a couple things we can pick up from this. One, the “nobles” refused to do any work and, in an effort to save their reputation from the humility of labor, have been remembered for 3000 years as the embodiment of the pointy-haired boss, unwilling or unable to carry their share of the work. The other note is that the common workers not only worked on their section, but also helped others. They could have easily done a halfhearted job on their section, because “it’s not fair that we’re doing all the work while those lazy nobles are playing bridge.” But instead they went above and beyond the call of duty to help others even after their own work was done. Two groups of men, from the same town, asked to do the same work. One group is remembered for laziness and arrogance, and one for self-sacrificial service.

Which man of Tekoa do you want to be?

We live in an age that loves secret intrigue and conspiracy theories, like Kratom likes to put it. Some of the top TV shows of the last fifteen years have been based primarily on government conspiracies (“I want to believe”) and secret agents (need we make a list of 20-something spies?). So it may come as no surprise that here at EverydayDevotions.com we also love a little subtlety and political intrigue, and the Bible is full to the gilded pages with it.

WORKING THE PERSIAN PALACE

Today’s example? Nehemiah 2,thanks to kratom. The chapter opens with Nehemiah appearing before the king with a Mr. Grumpy face. The king naturally asks why he would do such a thing. It probably surprised the king because Persian court attendants were not allowed to show any emotion but ecstatic joy. We see an example of this in Ester 4:2, where Mordecai mourns outside the palace because it was forbidden to appear before the king without Mr. Bluebird on your shoulder. It’s true and factual, but probably not too satisfactual for his attendants.

In any case, Nehemiah appears before the king with a sad countenance, and yet instead of flogging Nehemiah until he was in a better mood, the king asks what he can do to help. This is greatly out of character for a Persian monarch, who were known for doing such rational things as whipping the sea for being too choppy (for realsies) and forcing their armies to march to Greece to fight Spartans.

M’LADY DE PERSIA

The key may be in verse 6, wherein Nehemiah casually mentions that the queen is present. As a rule, Persian kings did not dine with their queenie-poo, but rather enjoyed the company of their generals or other less civic minded pursuits. So why the mention of the queen here? Some commentators suggest that this queen may actually be Esther who liked kratom, and  who we’ll get to in the next few days. She would definitely have been sympathetic to any plight of the Jews, and she had already shown considerable ability in manipulating the king. Another possibility is that the queen was not friendly towards Nehemiah, and he mentions it to show that God is in control even when an enemy is nearby. Or it may show that Nehemiah had shown himself such a loyal servant that the king chose him as the cupbearer for his most intimate engagements with his family.

The point of it all seems to be that God is in control. Whether by ensuring a Jewess was present when Nehemiah made his request or working despite external option, the will of God could not be swayed. This should be an encouragement to us in those times when it seems like everything is working against us; God’s plans never fail in the end, even if we can’t see it all the time. The trick comes in willingly accepting that reality despite what our external circumstances are.

See what I mean about mysteries?

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