Billy Graham wrote, ″The purpose of this Christian society called ‘the church’ is first to glorify God by our worship.″ His words underline the central importance of worship. Nehemiah knew this too.
The rebuilding work begins with the repair of the Sheep Gate and the adjoining wall. Why does Nehemiah choose to start here? And why is the work done by Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests (Nehemiah 3:1)?
The Sheep Gate, located at the northern tip of the wall, is closest to the temple. Its name came about probably because sheep were brought through it to be slaughtered as sacrifices in the temple. The gate’s state of disrepair affects the worship of God, as commanded by the law. For this reason, its repair is a priority, which is why the high priest and his priestly team are personally involved. It is also the reason why, after the work is completed, the Sheep Gate and its nearby wall are dedicated (v. 1).
It must have been a high note in the building project. The repaired Sheep Gate encourages the Jews; like a flag planted in enemy territory, it serves as a rallying symbol that inspires soldiers to keep fighting during battle. The work on the wall then flows on from the Sheep Gate, all around the length of the wall, and back to the Sheep Gate.
Repairing the Sheep Gate first shows us how important it is to set our priorities right and keep our focus. The heart of life in Jerusalem is the worship of God. By repairing the Sheep Gate first, Nehemiah and his team are setting the tone for the entire work. They are stating that their first priority is the worship of God.
This is a lesson for us as well: our worship of God has to remain in sight all through the work we do for Him. It must never be lost in the details, no matter how complex or daunting the planning and coordination becomes. Truly, let us never neglect the worship of the Lord in our personal and corporate life. What is the point of rebuilding aspects of our life when our worship of God remains in ruins? How we worship God will determine how we serve Him.
What are common distractions that can diminish our worship of God?
How can we ensure that sincere worship of God remains at the heart of all that we are and do? Why is this of utmost importance?