“All Scripture is breathed out by God,” Paul wrote to Timothy, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
If you grew up in church, you may have been asked at some point to commit this verse to memory. You might even have a coffee mug or a t-shirt or a wristband with the verse printed on it.
But let’s be real for a second. God inspired every word in the Bible, yet he communicated his truth through a collection of human authors, whose diverse writings spanned diverse cultures over a period of over 1500 years. Naturally, we might find some parts of the Bible far more beautiful or far more useful than others. But Paul says that all Scripture is profitable. It’s easy to find “profit” in the beauty of the psalms or the clarity of Paul’s letters, but what do we do with the “boring” parts?
Today’s reading comes from Nehemiah 3. And yes, it’s one of those “boring” parts. You have my permission to skim it—but afterwards let’s talk about why we should rejoice that such passages are every bit as useful and significant as any other passage in the Bible:
13 Hanun and the inhabitants of Zanoah repaired the Valley Gate. They rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars, and repaired a thousand cubits of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.
14 Malchijah the son of Rechab, ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem, repaired the Dung Gate. He rebuilt it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars.
15 And Shallum the son of Col-hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah, repaired the Fountain Gate. He rebuilt it and covered it and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And he built the wall of the Pool of Shelah of the king’s garden, as far as the stairs that go down from the city of David.16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, ruler of half the district of Beth-zur, repaired to a point opposite the tombs of David, as far as the artificial pool, and as far as the house of the mighty men. 17 After him the Levites repaired: Rehum the son of Bani. Next to him Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, repaired for his district. 18 After him their brothers repaired: Bavvai the son of Henadad, ruler of half the district of Keilah. 19 Next to him Ezer the son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section opposite the ascent to the armory at the buttress. 20 After him Baruch the son of Zabbai repaired another section from the buttress to the door of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 After him Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired another section from the door of the house of Eliashib to the end of the house of Eliashib. 22 After him the priests, the men of the surrounding area, repaired. 23 After them Benjamin and Hasshub repaired opposite their house. After them Azariah the son of Maaseiah, son of Ananiah repaired beside his own house. 24 After him Binnui the son of Henadad repaired another section, from the house of Azariah to the buttress and to the corner. 25 Palal the son of Uzai repaired opposite the buttress and the tower projecting from the upper house of the king at the court of the guard. After him Pedaiah the son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on Ophel repaired to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east and the projecting tower. 27 After him the Tekoites repaired another section opposite the great projecting tower as far as the wall of Ophel.
28 Above the Horse Gate the priests repaired, each one opposite his own house. 29 After them Zadok the son of Immer repaired opposite his own house. After him Shemaiah the son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate, repaired. 30 After him Hananiah the son of Shelemiah and Hanun the sixth son of Zalaph repaired another section. After him Meshullam the son of Berechiah repaired opposite his chamber. 31 After him Malchijah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired as far as the house of the temple servants and of the merchants, opposite the Muster Gate, and to the upper chamber of the corner. 32 And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired. (Nehemiah 3:13-32)
Why are passages like these “useful?” Let’s examine four reasons:
- They anchor us to history. These are real people, with real names. The Bible is more than a history book, but it is not We can take comfort in knowing that for the ancient people, this was a part of recording actual history. And if God has been active in his people’s past, surely he can be active in his people’s present—and future.
- They anchor us to community. Because these are real people, we can rejoice with the “great cloud of witnesses” that experienced God’s blessings and saw him at work in their midst. We can find confidence knowing that our faith is not merely ours, but we are brought into a family far larger than we might have otherwise realized.
- They anchor us to Jesus. Every passage in the Bible points us to Jesus; the only question is “how.” Where do we see Jesus in today’s text? Simple, really. God used Nehemiah to strengthen God’s community, Israel. In the New Testament, God used Jesus to bring God’s people into Christian community—the body of Christ.
- They anchor us to God’s bigger story. Finally, there is a larger story into which every piece of Scripture fits into. God is ferociously committed to establishing his kingdom on earth. Here, we catch a glimpse—maybe even a foretaste—of that kingdom. Here the people were dedicated toward the building of God’s community. We, too, might find life in joyful anticipation of the day that God’s eternal city descends from heaven “like a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
So, yes, the Bible is useful, it is profitable, it is beautiful. Even the “boring” parts.
Are you a person of the Word? Does God’s Word shape your heart? Your life? Your story? If you’ve been reading our devotionals page, we’re thankful to be a part of your spiritual journey. But if this is your first encounter with us, or if you’ve simply been lax in your commitment to the Word in general, then we’d love for you to prayerfully consider how you might invest yourself in God’s Word, and make his truth a greater part of your walk.