So the wall was completed…in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. (Nehemiah 6:15-16)
While detained in a concentration camp in 1941, Olivier Messiaen, a Christian and renowned composer, cobbled together a few dilapidated instruments in the camp and miraculously composed a masterpiece called Quartet for the End of Time. Years later, when an esteemed pianist sat down to master Messiaen’s wordless music, she was an ardent atheist. “But as she pored over the music and tried to comprehend what Messiaen was trying to say, it had a profound effect. ‘Little by little,’ she said, ‘I started believing.’”
That story powerfully illustrates a truth we see in today’s passage from Nehemiah: Excellent work can preach a powerful sermon about the glory of God! While not a musical masterpiece, Nehemiah’s work rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem was no less impressive than Messiaen’s. The wall was a massive structure and Nehemiah and company faced tons of life-threatening opposition (see Nehemiah 4). Yet they were able to finish the wall in just fifty-two days!
Nehemiah’s enemies must have been incredulous, trying to figure out how Nehemiah and team pulled it off. But as today’s passage reveals, the only satisfactory explanation they could come up with was that the wall had been built with the help of Nehemiah’s God.
The British novelist, Dorothy Sayers, said that “The only Christian work is good work well done.” And Messiaen and Nehemiah remind us that our “good work well done” can demand the world’s attention and point them to Christ. As Andrew Scott says in his terrific book, Scatter, “If we were to live out our lives with excellence for the purposes of God in every sector of society, we would not have to shout so loudly to make our message heard.”
Amen. With that in mind, go and do your work exceptionally well today, praying the Lord will use your good work to serve others well and point them to his inimitable glory!