My first job with a paystub was working in the greasy kitchen of a KFC.  Nothing can break you away quicker from the fast-food world than scorching your hands with spattering hot grease.  Nothing could motivate you more to get an education and training so you never have to work in such a place ever again in your life.  Add to it teenager pimples from all the grease on your face and hair and the motivation lights flash every time you look in the mirror.  While there were some great lessons learnt it certainly was anything but a preeminent life. 

I will admit, I had to look up the full definition of preeminent, go on admit it, you did not know either!  I will save you the dictionary lookup, it is a dominating quality – Definition of preeminent: having paramount rank, dignity, or importance: OUTSTANDING, SUPREME.

If being picked on and made fun of in middle and high school was not enough to wipe out your dignity, life itself has most likely reduced your self-esteem in varying degrees.  This uncovering begins on the day we are born when a doctor smacks us on the rear end to tell us that man is going to rob you of the joy that life should bring.  Imagine the excitement and joy of seeing life outside the womb for the very first time only to be rudely whacked by some dude that’s been tired of telling your Mom to push for the last 12  hours. 

KFC with the old crooked spinning barrel

Ok it’s not quite like that but when I first started my job at KFC I was so excited.  No more scraping for odd jobs of cutting grass on 90-degree days or shoveling snow off driveways on 20-degree days in Ohio.   Soon I would be able to buy a car and no longer have to ride my bike 5 miles back and forth to school to be able to attend baseball practices.  On day 1 I brought home a free bucket of the leftover chicken to share with my family.  Jobs were hard to come by in those days, thus my family shared in the pride of the moment while enjoying the taste of the colonel’s chicken.  Amazingly we never got tired of it.

But, reality hit the next day when I shared my experience with some of my friends at school – bursting the bubble.  ‘Ewwww gross, why would you want to work at an awful place like that!’  ‘God, you guys must really be poor!’  Laughter ensued from those whose parents would soon be providing them with their own car with all expenses paid, along with a future free ticket to college.  I was in a position to learn how to be internally strong and blow off those with an insensitive elite mindset.  And I needed new friends.

At KFC where I would be spending a lot of time for the summer, I found a few new friends.  It started on breaks and after work where I picked up some bad partying habits.  Some of the people had the work attitude complaining about everything.  I chose to hang with the positive ones instead who created contests for who could cook the chicken the fastest.  Who could make the floor covered in flour and grease spills the cleanest using a scalding hot powerful water hose to spray down the kitchen grease floor?  Who could fill orders the fastest?  Who could clean a batch of dishes the fastest and most efficient way?  Our boss gave out prizes to those who’d win various races.  It became a fun outlook on work and life.

I remember fondly our manager, Carroll Small, who was an older wiser gentleman.  He provided motivation and many pep talks.   He gave me extra hours and broke the rules when I asked for overtime beyond what was allowed by paying some in cash.   Carroll had noticed how I came in as an innocent never do anything wrong kid to becoming a regular partier.  While the assistants were trying to talk me into going to KFC manager’s school when I would turn 18 he pulled me aside. 

“I’ve been doing this for many years, it is not the lifestyle for someone like you!  No disrespect to what they are doing, but you have so much more potential to do much better.  I see big things for you, go find something way better and with a purpose!  Don’t let those with an I’m-better-than-you attitude shame you down, and don’t let the downtrodden bring you to their level either.  Find the inner ground to conquer and be strong!”

I never saw Carroll Small again after leaving KFC and heading into the Army, but will always remember what he said.  What I know now is life will always have us surrounded by people in similar positions to us and also those better or worse.  Some will use their power, position, and pride to try to belittle us.  Some will wallow in their outlook of doom and gloom and ask you to join their club.  

The secret to fighting off being destroyed by a dominant-therefore-I-can-be-cruel person or dragged to the bitter pit is how we see ourselves on the inside despite what is happening on the outside.

Who would think a guy with the last name of SMALL managing a fast-food chicken place could be so wise?  Names can have hidden meanings, if you aren’t dying to know about Neziah and Hatipha by now, go in peace and be motivated by my first job story.  For a deeper message, keep on reading…….

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the sons of Neziah and Hatipha.”   Ezra 2:54 must be a really important verse because it is repeated in Nehemiah 7.   There you have it, NOT!  Actually both full chapters are nearly identical describing the genealogy of all the exiles that had returned to Jerusalem and Judah after being captive in Babylon.  Nehemiah led the charge of rebuilding the wall, Solomon’s temple which included Solomon’s Portico of JoesPortico fame. Nope this verse has a deeper meaning but, it was not easy finding it.

First, How I got there –  Something I have done on occasions has revealed some amazing downloads in my Bible reading time.  In this case I awoke at 2:54 in the morning.  The online BibleYou app allows you to search on numbers like 2:54.   Only two verses matched on this search the other was another names list.  But I was prompted I say by the Holy Spirit to dig deeper, why stop and move on?  Over the years I have found God wants to have both fun and real conversations with us (go ahead and chuckle, but I believe He is real and speaks to us in many different ways) so I use a combo of thinking/prayer with modern technology and ask Him ‘what next?’  That has led to seeking, seeking, and seeking.  I found in a Google search that you can type ‘The Biblical meaning of the name ____” which brings up several sources that give the definition of names.  I look at all the multiple references to try to find the best and most accurate.   It brought on a great message worth sharing to you all that have read this far.

Revealed from Smith’s Bible Dictionary and other sources   – Neziah’s singular meaning is pre-eminent . The descendants of  Neziah were among the Nethinim who returned with Zerubbabel, ( Ezra 2:54 ; Nehemiah 7:56 ) (B.C.536.) .  Others add it also means Conqueror, Strong.  Websters defines preeminent as: having paramount rank, dignity, or importance : OUTSTANDING, SUPREME.

Hatipha simply means – Captured, seized.

One Bible version (WMV – World Messianic Version) spelled it out in one script, but complicated the names – ‘The children of N’tziach [pre-eminent], the children of Hatifa [seized].

I needed to know what Nethinim was also, so with more research  I discovered the Nethinim’s like Neziah and Hatipha are mentioned in 1Chronicles 9:2: Now the first of the returned exiles who lived again in their possessions in their cities were Israel, the priests, the Levites, and the Nethinim (temple servants).’

We find the Nethinim’s were a group of people that were actually slaves or servants to the Israelites. They were assigned to serve the Levites in the temple. The Nethenim’s existed as slaves or bondservants before the captivity, early in Israel’s history, and then chose to retain their position as servants in the temple when the Israelites returned to the land from Persia.  In this era they were, by choice, a dedicated people willing to be slaves to the God of Israel and servants to the Levites in God’s Holy Temple. The Priests and the Levites were the only ones allowed in the glorious portion of the Solomon’s temple.  When we think of the temple you think of an awesome setting like this gold one, which it was amazing.  A man-made place where God’s presence should be glorious and amazing.  But in Moses days, it was just a tent.  God is humble and does not need for His presence to be set up in an elaborate setting, in fact He is willing to dwell with us lowly people.  I cover that in other stories such as in ‘How to Worship at Home’

But the role of the Levites and priests was not always a glorious job.   God provided a way for man’s sins to be cleansed through the sacrifice of animals.  One of the jobs of the Levites in the temple area was to take an unblemished goat or sheep or cow and sacrifice it on behalf of the people that brought it to them.  Imagine a long line of people with their animals waiting for their animals to be slaughtered and brought to an altar and burned.  The guys in the white robes were the important ones carrying out these most important sacrifices.  Noting, this ritual was ended when Jesus Christ died and became the ultimate slaughtered Lamb (but powerful as a lion if it was necessary) for the atonement of man’s sins and a new covenant established by God for man.  This is another important topic previously covered that you can read here if you do not understand its importance

  The Levites in their white robes could not be troubled with the prep work beforehand of chopping wood for the fire.  They could not be troubled with the poop scooping of the animals that were waiting in line.  They could not be troubled with slopping up the blood that was everywhere and hauling off the unusable parts.  This is where the Nethinim’s came into play.

Unlike KFC they probably did not have a power hose with 180 degree water to spray it all off and wash everything up after the event was over.  They did not have chainsaws for cutting the wood and tractors to haul it in with.  No they had a wheelbarrow and buckets and an ax.  This was the job of the lowly bondslave Nethinim’s.   And if having a mindset like Hatipha’s sons of feeling ‘captured and seized’ it would be a miserable job and a miserable life.

But Neziah apparently had a completely different mindset and taught such to his son’s who relished the role.  Of all the 12 tribes of Israel Levi’s sons were different.  God chose them after they stood by Moses in the desert to carry out the most sacred role on earth of serving God in the Temple being as close as one could possibly be to God. Covered in great deal in the story 22,273 Choices 

I picture Neziah telling his sons, ‘boys, we have the opportunity as non-Jews to be as close to the presence of God as anyone.   Even the true genealogically set Jews cannot be near where we will be on a daily basis. To be this close to God is an amazing opportunity I think is worth signing up for, join me.  Yes our job to be in this position will have some challenges but, what other opportunity would we have to be in such a prominent position ever again?’ 

Neziah taught his grease cleaning (oops I mean blood cleaning), poop scooping, wood chopping sons that they should be strong and delighted to have the honor of serving God almighty Himself. How could they not be happy in every moment of this job being close to God for every moment of their work – for the rest of their lives?

To fully understand one must know what a bondservant is: This web-page lays out full details a few of which I highlight for you:

In the old testament: Doulos is a Greek word meaning bondservant. Many do not understand the role of a bondservant in relation to our Master Jesus. Americans instinctively cringe at the thought of servitude, slavery, or bondage. And no wonder since our country was founded on freedom, in the very act of  breaking away from servitude to the King of England. A dictionary definition of a bondservant is someone bound to labor without wages. A synonym of bondservant is slave.

The description of a Biblical bondservant of is one who chooses to serve his Master till death. He will forever wear the mark of this Master. He accomplishes all the Master’s will for his life because of a love called “agape”. There are no loose ends, frustrations, or indecision. Eternity for the bond- servant is marked with glorious rewards at the Mercy seat of the Master (Exo.21:1-6).

The first judgments given to the children of Israel (after the 10 Commandments) were the instructions about servants. But there is something interesting mentioned in verse 5: “But if the servant plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free ” This is a big decision, a choice for life. The judges were present to witness the servant’s willingness to become a bondservant to the master, his willingness to give up his freedom to the master, to work for the master and to do his will. Why would anybody not want to be set free? Who wants to be under the bondage of a master?

This is why. “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). This is freedom in the Spirit of the Lord.

It seems like such a waste to live a life by choice as a Bondservant – yet understand how God sees such a person, with the definition of Neziah/Preeminent –  Having paramount rank, dignity, or importance : OUTSTANDING, SUPREME. 

Few seem to understand what it truly means to be a New Testament disciple of Christ; perhaps this list also from the above link may shed light:   Jesus was a Servant – “To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:26)

Jesus’ Disciples became servants –  Jesus said,  “Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. “And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)

Jesus came to serve.  “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.” (Luke 22:27)

Jesus is our example. We are to do as He has shown us. Jesus took the form of a bond servant, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:7)

Peter, James, Jude and the original Apostles, Paul and Timothy, all identified as bondservants of Jesus Christ, to start their letters (2 Peter 1:1, Philippians 1:1, James 1:1, Jude 1:1)

The words written here are straight (but shortened, lol) from my journal entries the past month.  My wife and I had been talking about feeling totally defeated recently not just from illnesses which I have seldom dealt with in my life; 2021 had just a few small ones like a 4-week battle with simultaneously having both the flu and covid, a brown recluse bite on the butt producing a 3-day fever and permanent scars, and a severe near death stroke.  Spending time in God’s Word and researching the meanings of the difference between Neziah and Hatipha was soothing oil upon my head.  It brought on a deconstructing and reconstructing of our lives and a re-evaluating a lifetime of lessons in our 40+ years of relationship with our heavenly Father.  Being in the background is not a lowly position in God’s eyes, although others may not see it that way.

To me no words provide more confidence such as the meaning of the name Neziah than ‘You are Strong!  You are a Conqueror!  I see you as Preeminent!  You are of paramount rank with dignity and importance! You are OUTSTANDING and SUPREME in my eyes! 

As the author of one told to Fight Fear and Live Brave and speak out with ‘The voice of the Average Joe that is seldom heard these days, let alone daringly as it was portrayed in a place called Solomon’s Portico,’ I would be remorse to not tell why would we feel so defeated?  It was not the illnesses.  God showed His miraculous healing power in all of them, PTL!!   It was not the daily difficulties like E.R. and doctor bills we all go through.  No, it was from those who love the white robe.  Those who see themselves as preeminent while making sure no one takes their spot whilst ensuring the slaves “do, as they ought.”   But no, after going through some mourning and loss time, thanks be to God we have come through stronger than ever.  We took Carroll Small’s advice and erased from memory (well we’re trying) the words and sad actions of  several ‘dominant-therefore-I-can-be-cruel’ fakers in the ministry world.  We embraced Jesus words of what we know our roles should be whether with title or without –

Jesus humbly (and by example first) stated in Luke 17:10:  “So you too, when you have done everything that was assigned and commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants [undeserving of praise or a reward, for we have not gone beyond our obligation]; we have merely done what we ought to do.’” 

Unfortunately, a few bad apples in leadership twist His words and use them as a condescending sword acting as if volunteers are doing what they ought to do while stifling the total work of the body God so desires for His bride.   We as bondservants in any role should surely relish how God sees us, yet it should not dissuade another person’s standing with God.  Our job is to Glorify and Worship God and relish, with a respecting fear, the honor of being in His presence.   As bondservant leaders, we are to teach, encourage, motivate, and exhort others to do the same thing and set the example by pushing others forward not knocking them to the ground.  Every member of the body is as important as another, whether the head or a Nethinim.

I know many have felt the wrath of a government reducing our freedoms.  Meanwhile some churches or ministries for some has turned out to be a place short of grace –  when it is needed more than ever.  May the words of my journal encourage you to live as a son or daughter of Neziah and brush aside the temptation of feeling like you are a captured one like Hatipha. 

In addition, with his gracious gift of love may we share the good news of true freedom in Christ.  May we choose to be Bondservants like Neziah, and bring glory ONLY to God because God says – ‘You are Strong!  You are a Conqueror!  I see you as Preeminent!  You are of paramount rank with dignity and importance! You are OUTSTANDING and SUPREME in God’s eyes! 

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