NEHEMIAH THE LEADER
Lord, thank You for effective leadership in our churches.
Read NEHEMIAH 2:11–20
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
17 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.” 18 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.
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”
20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
a Nehemiah 2:13 Or Serpent or Fig
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Effective leaders have to do multiple things well, but in crisis situations, three things must be done exceptionally well: absorb chaos, give calm, and provide hope” (Eugene B. Habecker, The Softer Side of Leadership, 17).
After his 900-mile trek from Shushan, Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem. The accompanying military retinue (9) would have underlined his imperial authority, yet he is cautious rather than officious. He waits three days, possibly to rest after his 14-week journey, possibly to gauge local morale, and almost certainly to pray. Then he makes a secret nocturnal survey of the walls to see for himself the extent of the damage. Only then does he share with community leaders and available citizens what God is prompting him to do. Up to this point in his memoir, Nehemiah has told us how he has approached both God and the king (Neh. 1:5–11; 2:1–10). Now he begins to share how he deals with the rank and file.
Paul tells us that there are lessons for Christians in Old Testament incidents (Rom. 15:4). Those today engaged in revitalizing weary and dying churches can find encouragement and hope in Nehemiah’s rehabilitation project. Rejuvenating churches that have lost their sense of vision and mission is no less challenging than the task Nehemiah faces in Jerusalem.
Nehemiah is both decisive and diplomatic. He persuades rather than dictates (17). He stresses his Jewish identity more than his imperial authority. He doesn’t underrate “the trouble” which had brought “disgrace” upon the people of God. He inspires trust among ordinary citizens (18b). He publicly acknowledges God’s vital role in the rebuilding project (18,20). He leads well, because he himself is a follower of the God of heaven (20). Nehemiah majors on what today are called the “soft” skills of leadership, but when the occasion demands firm action, he doesn’t hesitate to exercise his “hard” skills (19,20). He has much to teach those of us who are in positions of leadership in church and society, as well as our younger aspiring leaders.
Pray for the leaders of your church as they practice the soft skills of servant leadership and also, when appropriate, the hard skills of conviction and authority.
Lord, thank You for supplying the right leader at the right time so that the work of God can continue.