NEHEMIAH – An excellent example of Leadership!
As I was reading Nehemiah, I began to marvel at what an amazing man, and leader, he was!
Nehemiah was called of God to rebuild the wall and city of Jerusalem, as in God’s Divine Plan, it was time for the Israelites to return from exile and resettle the city.
Nehemiah worked in a top position in the Persian Empire, as the Cupbearer of King Artaxerxes. Why would he want to leave this comfortable job to go and work re-building Jerusalem? It does not make any logical sense, other than that God had placed “a burden” on his heart.
Nehemiah wept for the Jewish people and the ruin of Jerusalem. He fasted and prayed for several days. He carried “a prayer burden” for his people.
As an intercessor, Nehemiah confesses the sins of the Israelites, sins that he did not commit. This is the first step of successful intercession – repentance.
The Israelites had been disobedient to their God, and so had received God’s Judgement and had been in exile. However, it was time for their return, and God had chosen Nehemiah, a man of strong character to do the job.
Through prayer, Nehemiah asks the Lord’s Favour, as he would approach King Artaxerxes for help in this matter.
When God calls, He also prepares the way! When Nehemiah shared his burden for Jerusalem with the King, the King was pleased to “send” Nehemiah. He granted him the time off to go and do the work. The King also “protected” Nehemiah by sending army officers and calvary with him! The King also gave him favour to get lumber, and a safe journey through the Trans-Euphrates!
God provided favour – the time, the protection and the provision to do the job! What a wonderful start to the project! Everything was in place.
And to be expected in every Godly endeavour, opposition arose through Sanballot and Tobiah who were against the Israelites.
Nehemiah walked in wisdom. He inspected the ruined city walls at night. He did not divulge his purpose for being there to anyone, until he was ready.
When Nehemiah speaks to the Israelites about re-building Jerusalem, he gets a favourable response, as God had already prepared their hearts!
It takes a lot of perserverance and determination to fulfill the call of God on your life.
The first tactic of the enemy was to ridicule, scorn and mock Nehemiah. Sanballot and Tobiah also spread false propaganda by asking, “Are you rebelling against the king?” (Neh. 2:19b)
Nehemiah’s response was to declare confidence in God, and that he would be successful.
The Israelites eagerly work on rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked will all their heart.” (Neh. 4:6 NIV) This is the kind of service God expects, whole-hearted service.
Meanwhile, more opposition continues against the work of God. The opposition
plots to fight and stir up trouble. So the Israelites prayed and posted a guard to
watch against this threat. This echoes the job of the intercessor who is to watch, and become aware of demonic assignments in the Spirit realm.
The Israelites become weary and discouraged – their strength giving out as there
so much to rebuild!
This too is interesting. How many Pastors could testify how the work starts out enthusiastically, and then, weariness and discouragement sets in, or the workload seems to be too much!
The opposition declares that they will kill the Israelites and put an end to the
work. Isn’t this the plan of the Devil all the time – to “kill” off the Christian workers
in some fashion, and to end God’s work in the earth?
Fear and intimidation creep in, as the Israelites feel threatened. However, Nehemiah in God’s Wisdom, strategically places men to fight at the vulnerable areas of the wall! Excellent battle plan – to reinforce your weakest areas.
Nehemiah speaks faith and encouragement to the Israelites. Faith is the opposite of fear. Don’t we all need leaders like this?
The opposition finds out that God has revealed the enemy’s plan, and frustrated it! This is so true of the Holy Spirit, as He will bring revelation of demonic assignments to the watchful intercessor.
Nehemiah works a new strategy against the enemy. Half the men work, and half the men remain armed, and prepared for battle.
A battle strategy was planned. At the sound of the trumpet, the Israelites knew it was a declaration of war.
The men were ready for battle, day or night. They even slept within Jerusalem’s walls to guard the work at night. They were so battle-ready that they did not even change their clothes! They were not concerned about comfort, but focussed on the job ahead.
At this time, there was a famine in the land, and the people were heavily in debt, with fields mortgaged and daughters being sold into slavery and so on.
Nehemiah was appointed Governor, a position which he held for 12 years. As a Governor, he could have imposed a tax so that he could have been paid, but he had compassion on the people, and He was not motivated by personal greed.
He did not burden the people but paid for his food out of his own pocket. He fed, at least, 150 Jews and officials daily. Nehemiah was a Giver, and made personal sacrifices to do God’s Work. He also must have been quite a wealthy man.
The opposition then comes with additional tactics. The plan is to wear the people down, and discourage them.
They plan an “ambush” for Nehemiah, but Nehemiah does not fall into it!
Then Sanballot stirs up a rumour that Nehemiah is planning a rebellion against the King. Nehemiah rebukes this lie, and prays for strength from God to do the work.
These passages of Scripture indicate that leaders will go through all sorts of personal attacks doing the work of God. There is the corporate attack on the Body, and personal attacks on the Head or Leader.
The opposition then hired a false prophet to give Nehemiah a false prophecy. Nehemiah saw through it!
So too, with us, the Holy Spirit should give us an inner witness to the accuracy of the prophetic Word being uttered.
The wall around Jerusalem was rebuilt in 52 days! This must have been a record! The surrounding nations realized that God was with His People and had helped them! This broke the back of the enemy assault against Nehemiah, and the enemy lost its “self-confidence”. (Neh. 6:16)
However, some minor attacks still continued. Tobiah continued to send Nehemiah letters of intimidation.
With the wall rebuilt, and the doors in place, Nehemiah sets up the Governmental structure of Jerusalem. He appoints gatekeepers, singers, Levites, guards and the leaders. He chose Hananiah, because “he was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do.” (Neh. 7:2b NIV) Nehemiah appointed people on the basis of character and not personal favour.
Nehemiah then does a national registration of the returning exiles. Some people re-settled in their own ancestral towns, but not many settled in the city of Jerusalem, as the houses had not been rebuilt as yet.
Ezra, the priest, reads the Book of the Law to the people. This re-establishes the Word of God in Jerusalem, the foundation of faith in their lives.
When Ezra opened the Book, everyone stood up! This was an act of reverence to God. The people worshipped God! The Levites taught from the Book, and made sure everyone understood. The people wept as they heard God’s Word. They rejoiced, and shared their food in fellowship.
Ezra read the Book daily for 7 days. There was great feasting, “and their joy was very great”. (Neh. 8:17b NIV) The Israelites had returned from exile, and were in their homeland again. They were free to worship their God… it must have been a glorious moment for them.
The entire Book was read, and on the 8th day, they gathered as a corporate assembly. The Word was read. The people repented of their sin, and their ancestors’ sins. Then they worshipped God. Corporate repentance before God brings cleansing and healing.
The priests take the people through their history, starting with Abraham. There was public acknowledgement of their sins, and understanding of why they were in their condition at that time.
Then, the most awesome thing happened! The people made “a binding AGREEMENT” before God! (Neh. 9:38 NIV) The agreement was to obey the Law of God, as given through Moses. There were other areas of commitment, such as not marrying outside the faith, various responsibilities for running the Temple, tithes and offerings, and so on. The Agreement ended with a promise – “We will not neglect the house of our God
“. (Neh. 10:39b NIV)
This was absolutely incredible! The Word of God was re-established, and an excellent level of commitment was shown!
As the houses were rebuilt in the city of Jerusalem, it was re-populated. Everything was done to honour God in every way. The wall around Jerusalem was dedicated. The Levites led the worship. Two choirs gave “thanks” to God. Musical instruments were included in their extravagant worship. “And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy.” And “the sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.”
(Neh. 12:43 NIV)
Some men were put in charge of the storerooms for tithes and offerings. And the people brought their allotted portions, as they were pleased with the Levites and priests. And everything was done, and established as per King David and King Solomon before. Absolutely everything was done in right order as God would want it!
This is what makes Nehemiah such a great leader. He did everything God’s Way!
Nehemiah fulfilled his calling. He rebuilt the city of Jerusalem and re-established the Governmental structure according to God’s Word.
Nehemiah then returned to serve King Artaxerxes, having fulfilled his purpose. He must have felt such a great sense of achievement.
Sadly, when Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem for a visit, he found that the system had fallen down. He had to rectify situations, such as Tobiah using a storeroom in the temple for his personal use, and that the Levites and worshippers had not been paid and had to return to work in their fields. He had to put “trustworthy” people in charge of the offerings and their distribution. The people were desecrating the Sabbath by working, and by allowing commercial traders to ply their trade on the Sabbath. There was inter-marriage with people of other beliefs, and this occurred even within the priesthood!
This must have been such a disappointment for Nehemiah, and for God!
This is a reality that still occurs today. We have leaders who are godly and are committed to doing everything God’s Way. The people make a total commitment to serve God 100%, yet in practice, they do not live by God’s Word. Even within the Church Leadership, are those who compromise God’s Word.
The Israelites were easily tempted away from godly living. Their promise of commitment to God ended up being empty and meaningless. They were only good intentions.
We, too, have to watch ourselves. We need to make a 100% commitment to God. We need to honour God daily, by making sure that our words and our actions live up to God’s Word.