Our Wednesday Bible Class at West Main is studying the history of the Old Testament this quarter. Last night we surveyed the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah led the third group of Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity in about 445 B.C. His mission was to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Although he was the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, he demonstrated tremendous wisdom and leadership in his role not only in rebuilding the walls but in spiritual and moral reform.
The qualities of Nehemiah’s character serve as a great example to spiritual leaders among God’s people today. Consider these attributes we ought to emulate.
(1) He Manifested Genuine Concern for the Welfare of the People.
In chapter one we read about his empathy for those in his homeland. The state of his people caused him to weep for many days. He expressed his concern and petitioned the King to return so he could help.
Leadership begins with feeling a burden for the needs of people. To serve. To help. To guide. To make a difference in their lives.
(2) He was a man of intense, heartfelt prayer.
For Nehemiah, prayer was not an exercise for a certain time, but an integral part of his everyday life before God. His fervent prayer in chapter one demonstrated his attitude of reverence toward God. He praised God with thanksgiving. Acknowledged the sins of the people. Manifested a humble spirit. And based his prayer on the scriptural promises God had made.
Leaders are people of prayer. J. Oswald Sanders said, “In nothing should a leader be ahead of his followers more than in the realm of prayer.”
(3) He exhibited keen Foresight
The narrative describes the specific things he did before the project. He secured the favor of the king. He asked for letters to the governors whose territory he was to travel. He requested letters to the keeper of the king’s forest to obtain timber. Nehemiah did not go back on a whim, with no idea or plan. It is obvious that Nehemiah possessed a vision of what he wanted to accomplish.
We need leaders today with foresight and vision. If you are going to be a great leader you must learn to think ahead, to plan, not just fly by the seat of your pants. As E. Paul Hovey said, “A blind man’s world is bounded by the limits of his touch; an ignorant man’s world by the limits of his knowledge; a great man’s world by the limits of his vision.”
(4) He demonstrated proper caution before beginning his project
Alexander Pope said, “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Nehemiah used good judgment in not prematurely beginning the work. Upon returning to Jerusalem he spent 3 days surveying the situation. He did not announce his plans to anyone. He only took a few men to help. And then they do so under the cover of darkness. (Neh 2:11-12).
Leaders today can learn from this. Too often we get excited about something and rush in before checking out the situation. Think. Study. Plan. Prepare. Before beginning a big project.
(5) He displayed courage in the face of opposition and great danger.
The book relates how his enemies opposed through ridicule, the threat of force and then tried to arrange a meeting that would have resulted in compromise (Neh 4:3; 4:8; 6;2). Nehemiah responded: “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
When his enemies threatened to kill him because of would not give in to their threats he said, “But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” (Neh. 6:11)
We need leaders today with the courage to withstand opposition. We may be opposed by criticism. Pressure. Ridicule. Or passive attitudes. Yet, we must stay focused on the work and remain faithful to our spiritual commitments.
The study of Nehemiah from the standpoint of leadership is fascinating and enlightening. He was a man of moral excellence. Decisive action. And steadfast endurance. As a result, the Jerusalem walls were rebuilt in only 52 days.
The success of Nehemiah’s return and role in the restoration reminds us of the words of James S. Stewart “God does not mock his children with a night that has no ending; and to every man who stands resolute while the darkness lasts, there comes at length the vindication of faith and the breaking of the day.”
In a world where so many are seeking to tear down and destroy, Nehemiah’s motto ought to be the cry of every great leader today: “Let us rise up and build.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman