But this is not all. This next chapter shows us the names and the work of those that took part in the building of the walls. "Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brethren the priests, and they builded the sheep gate; they sanctified it, and set up the doors of it; even unto the tower of Meah they sanctified it, unto the tower of Hananeel. And next unto him builded the men of Jericho" (Neh_3:1).
Let me call your attention to the grace of God here noticing the work of everyone; and, further, in showing the distinctive character, for this was an important thing to remember. There is not one of you, beloved friends, who has not a work to do for the Lord. Are you doing it? Further, there is a work that you can do better than any other.
It is a very great mistake to suppose that the work of God depends upon great powers. I do not deny that there is such a thing as God giving a man gift according to his ability, because the Lord Himself says so. And I do not mean that the same gift is to be in a man of small ability as in a man of large ability. Certainly not; but I still say that there is a work that is suitable even where the ability may be ever so small, and a work that can be done better by that man of small ability than by the man of larger; for that very fact shows him his own proper work, whereas another work can be done not only as well, but better, by another. In short, there is no place where the right person in the right place is more important than in the church of God, and the Holy Ghost fills and fits the servants. I do not mean, now, merely those that preach, and those that teach, for there is no greater blunder than to suppose that this, and this only is the work of the Lord.
Indeed, what is called "ministry" is distinguished from "preaching," as you will find in Romans 12. The apostle speaks about the teacher giving himself to his teaching, but he that ministereth to his ministry; now-a-days people call "ministry" - merely preaching or teaching. But that is not the language of the Holy Ghost. There is a great deal of serving - saints' serving - that is done by persons who have no such power. And hence you find a phrase that is very common among us, that is, of people saying, "I was ministering such a day. I was ministering," or something of that kind; or, "Some other person was ministering." Well, now, this is only a mistake. The fact is, perhaps, that it would be no great loss if there was less ministering in that way, and more ministering in a real way.
In short, that which God calls us to is simply to do His will, but we are apt to prefer that which falls in with our own thoughts and our own feelings and our own notions, instead of finding that in which God blesses us most. Now, the caring for souls - the binding up of those that are broken in spirit - the interesting ourselves in the troubles and trials and difficulties of the saints of God - is of great price with Him, and there is that kind of ministering that, I am afraid, is very imperfectly performed amongst us. This is really the meaning of ministry - not so much speaking. I do not wish to depreciate what is said. It would not become me; it would not become anyone. But I affirm that Scripture distinguishes ministry from mere speaking, and that is what I refer to.
Ministry, properly, and according to the word of God, is a much more practical work of helping the saints of God. I do not mean merely with money. Here is another misapprehension. People think that the only way to help the saints of God is by giving them money. That is falling into the snare of the devil, because money is what governs the world, and it makes the saints of God to be the slaves of money. No, beloved friends, we have to raise our eyes to the Lord. We know the ruined state, or we ought to know the ruined state, of that which God has brought us into, and, truly, we should not have to correct such mistakes as these if there were not as true a ruin now as there was in Nehemiah's time, as far as the object of his affections was concerned.
Well, then, God marks here His appreciation of the various services performed by the different saints of God - the different members, at any rate, of God's people. I am only applying it now to the saints, of course. We find, then, that they come before us in their order. The fish gate builded some; and, again, others repaired, as we are told, this or that. The old gate repaired Jehoiada, but we are told further that, while the Tekoites repaired, their nobles put not their necks to the work of the Lord. Oh, what a solemn rebuke this is - that the men who ought to have been most of all at the head, most of all encouraging, the men who had the means to do it best - they attained the painful and unenviable notoriety, and the solemn rebuke in the word of God that they put not their necks to the work of their Lord. God is not indifferent. God notices, and no excuses will set aside His rebuke. "And next unto them," we are told, "repaired Melatiah the Gibeonite." But this is not all. "The son of Hur, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem," is found. If, therefore, there were those - and there were a few who held back - we find that there is noble service on the part of some, real devotedness.
Then. in the twelfth verse we read: "Next unto him repaired Shallum - the son of Halohesh, the ruler of the half part of Jerusalem, he and his daughters." This is an important thing, too. It is a very great mistake to suppose that women have not a seemly and a weighty place in the work of the Lord. Indeed they have, and the apostle Paul takes good care to show it. Let me refer to Philippians for a few moments, just to show where they can help and where not. The fourth chapter of Philippians gives us a beautiful picture, not without sorrow, but, nevertheless, full of profit. "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord." The work of the Lord very often brings difficulties, and the reason is not that it ought not to be carried on with a pure mind, but, alas! that will so often mingles with it. These two women, both of them valued by the apostle, were at variance more or less. "And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow" - Epaphroditus, I suppose he refers to - "help those women" (referring to these very ones) "which laboured with me in the gospel."
It would be wrong to suppose from this, that they had been preaching the gospel along with the apostle Paul: it does not mean that. I dare say many persons have drawn that inference from it - that Paul recognised them as fellow-preachers of the gospel with himself; but that is not the case. The meaning of the word, the proper and true meaning - and it is important to bring it out here - is this: that they shared the trials of the gospel when the gospel went there, and when it was in a time of trial. These noble-hearted women joined themselves in all the conflicts of the gospel. They bore the reproach of it. They were acting in every possible means - perhaps, in opening their houses - perhaps in hospitality to those that went there with the word, perhaps in seeking souls, praying with them, inviting them - a thousand things that women can do a great deal better than men. And accordingly, the apostle shows that he was very sensible of this. He tells Epaphroditus to help those women. It is very likely the brethren rather slighted them, and that Epaphroditus, being a person of much fellowship of mind with the apostle, would enter into his thought and feeling. "I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me - shared with me the trials of the gospel" - that is the thought. It is no question about preaching, but of sharing the trials of the gospel - "with Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life."
We do not find any such thing in Scripture as women preaching, any more than women teaching - in public. There are women that had a gift, even of prophecy. I am not in the least denying that, and if a gift is given it is meant to be used; but then it must be used according to the mind of God. We hear of four daughters of Philip that prophesied: no doubt they exercised the gift in a proper way. Women can help women. Women need not think that that is too slight a thing for their gift. It does not become women, surely, to despise women, and, therefore, to complain of labouring in that sphere would be uncomely, particularly in a woman; but there are proprieties that God never forgets in His work; and as even in the church of God it was forbidden for a woman to speak, so much more before the world. The fact is that to preach before the world would not have entered into a woman's head in those days. It is in later times, and in these lands, where notions of liberty have spread very much, that women now almost forget that they are women - that is their danger - so much is the line broken down between men and women in the world now. And this thing is going on rapidly to the very greatest injury of both men and women. However that may be, God gives the blaze of true honour to the women doing the true work of the Lord that becomes them. We have it here, then, signalised.
Further, we are told of other persons that helped in the most interesting way in various parts, but this would clearly occupy me longer than I wish to-night, for I wish to take a survey of the book, so that I can only commend the matter to yourselves to look into various details of the chapter. You will see how carefully God registers the varied services of the different members of His people.