Piling wood.

If we were to look at the Old Testament chronologically, in the order of the story it tells, Nehemiah would be one of the last two books. It may even be the last book, since Malachi, the last of the prophets, may have visited Jerusalem while Nehemiah was away for several years.

So the very last words of the Old Testament story may be these:

I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me with favor, my God.

Those are ordinary sounding words. “I took care of the woodpile.”

I could imagine my Swedish grandfather at the end of his life saying words like that. Living on Larson Road in the house that he built. After walking through the woods early Sunday mornings, I can imagine him looking at the chickens, the couple cows, the woodpiles. I can imagine him thinking about his four daughters and son, the grandkids. His long life. I can imagine John Larson saying, “I’ve taken care of the practical. I made provision for contributions of wood at designated times, and for the firstfruits. Remember me with favor, my God.

Some of you are like that, too.

Though Nehemiah wasn’t talking about just any woodpile. He was talking about the woodpile used to keep the altar burning. The altar of sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem. People took turns providing the wood. It’s like people bringing pies for a funeral dinner, like families taking turns cleaning a church.

At the end of his memoir, the last words written for the Old Testament are a man saying that he’s taking care the sacrifice of time and effort so that other people can offer their sacrifices. And he wants God to remember him, to pay attention to his service, even if no one else notices.

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More on Nehemiah in A Great Work

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.