God Uses Ordinary People (Nehemiah’s Story)

Written by: Inés Franklin

In the book of Nehemiah, in the Old Testament, the Israelites were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon. He took the people of Israel, destroyed their city, brought them to Babylon, and made them prisoners.

Over many years, Nebuchadnezzar died, and the next king, Cyrus, set the people free, back to Jerusalem.

The people of Israel build an altar, and start to build the temple, but they run into a problem. The people who were living in that area did not want the Israelites to rebuild, so they started harassing them, so it took them 16 years to build the temple.

All the nations knew and feared Israel because of God’s favor, so they didn’t want them to be strong again – they didn’t want them to have a temple and a strong faith. We lock our doors because we want to feel safe, and in the same way, the walls around the city of Jerusalem were their safety. But the walls had been in disrepair and ruined for years. Without the walls, they felt vulnerable – even though they had been set free, and had built the temple, they still felt scared and alone without strong walls.

Nehemiah says in Nehemiah 2: “Then I said to them, ‘You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.’ I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, ‘Let us start rebuilding.’ So they began this good work.”

Nehemiah gives them a vision of what God wants to do. He wants his city returned to splendor. God wants the city to be in splendor because it is a picture of his presence with his people.

In Psalm 48, it says, “Beautiful in its loftiness, the joy of the whole earth, like the heights of Zaphon is Mount Zion, the city of the Great King.”

That’s the vision Nehemiah paints for his people. “We will once again be a great city. We are in disgrace now, but let’s build the walls again,” and they say, “Yes! Let’s do this! Together we can do great things.”

They began rebuidling at the Sheep Gate, which has tremendous significance. It was the closest gate to the temple, through which the animals coming in for sacrifice would come. That gate represents salvation.

Jesus himself said this in John, chapter 10: “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. […] I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

You see, that gate reminds us of one important truth: salvation is costly. Salvation requires sacrifice. That sacrifice was done by Jesus Christ.

We see the city beginning with God, dedicating that gate, and then going around the city building all of the other gates, putting it all together. If I was going to build walls with big stone and wood and timber and make the city walls come back together, I would hire some big, strong, experienced men.

But God is not like you and me. God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Because of this, Nehemiah chooses priests to help build. He asks sons and daughters, craftsmen, goldsmiths, perfume makers to help. What does a perfume maker know about building a wall? Nothing! He gets governors, rulers, merchants, people who did not want to get their hands dirty, and servants, all to help build. This is the unlikely team Nehemiah puts together to do the work. God chooses ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

I wonder if you feel, perhaps, that you can’t be used by God to do something amazing. Read Nehemiah this week, and be reminded that God uses every one of us to rebuild our world and give him glory.


God is not interested in your ability or your capability. Do you know what God is interested in? He wants to know if you’re willing. Are you willing to let God use you to do great things?