So, I’m just like your average working guy, yeah? Bricklaying. Carpentry. A Jacob of all trades, as they say. Which is funny, ‘cause Jacob is my name, actually. No kidding.
Jerusalem, where I live, was conquered 70 years ago. A lot of people - mostly rich guys - were taken to Babylon. The ordinary people were left behind to pick up the pieces.
And there were a lot of pieces to pick up. Busted walls and gates and just about everything else, really. Nothing ever really got fixed. Not by my grandparents’ generation, and not by my parents’ either. We more or less just inherited the mess.
Then, not long ago, people started coming back to Jerusalem. There were some weird reunions: “My grandad used to bowl with your grandad,” that sort of thing. But it didn’t make much difference. The place was still a wreck.
And then this Nehemiah guy shows up. Says he’s King Artaxerxes’ cupbearer, which apparently is a much bigger deal than it sounds. Apparently, he has to drink from the cup before it goes to the king, to see if it’s poisoned, like. Scary!
This Nehemiah says he wants to help rebuild Jerusalem. But he says we have to do it right away, because there are these other guys - Sanballat the Horonite and Tobias the Something-or-other-ite - who want to attack us.
Now me, I’m a realist. These walls and gates have been in ruins for 70 years. So, I was a bit dubious about getting them fixed in a big hurry. And I wasn’t alone. When I told my buddy, Shem, he was like: “Yeah.”
Man of few words, Shem. But he knows the building trade, so we went along to see what was what.
Nehemiah said that rebuilding the walls wouldn’t do a thing if the gates were busted up. So, he broke us up into teams to fix the gates first.
Now maybe you know or maybe you don’t, but the gates of Jerusalem have names.
The priests worked on the Sheep Gate. Some other guys fixed the Fish Gate. Me and Shem? We were on the crew that fixed the Dung Gate. That’s the gate where the rubbish gets dumped. And a fair bit of dung.
“Figures,” I said to Shem. And he was, like: “Yeah.”
I can’t say it was the most pleasant job I ever had, but I made the best of it. When Nehemiah asked how we were getting along, I’d say something like: “Almost dung.” Or: “We’ll be dung any day now.” Something to, you know, lighten the mood.
With all those teams working, we got the gates fixed in no time. So, we moved onto the walls.
We weren’t working long, when those guys I mentioned before, Sanballat and Tobias, started giving us a load of lip.
‘‘We bet a little fox could knock those walls down,” they sneered Honest, it was like they were a bunch of kids
“Why don’t you just grow up?” I shouted. And Shem was, like: “Yeah.” But it didn’t stop. And it didn’t stop us, either. We just kept on building. And that’s when things really started to heat up. Sanballat and his buddies sent some of their men to attack us.
And, once again, Nehemiah was the man with the plan. He stationed men with weapons between the work crews. And when things got really rough, he even gave the weapons to us! I had, like, a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.
“How cool is this?” I said to Shem. And he swung his sword and gave this great big smile and was, like: “Yeah.”
Just between you and me, I did get the two mixed up once and scooped up a load of mud with my sword. Fiercely waved my trowel at the enemy. Got the odd laugh, out of it, though. Acted like I did it on purpose.
In the end, we got the work done. And we got it done fast. Those walls had been down for 70 years, and we put them back up again in 52 days! Then there was this big celebration. Ezra, this priest, read out the book of God’s law. And we worshipped God and thanked him.
I looked over at Shem and there was a tear in his eye. Honest. “You all right?” I asked.
And he said: “I’m just so grateful that our city is safe again and that we, as God’s people, now have the chance to start over and serve him as we should.”
I gotta admit it. I was shocked. And a little teary myself. So, all I said was, like: “Yeah.”