Monday, May 21, 2012

Nehemiah: A Godly Leader

I love reading the book of Nehemiah. It's the perfect inspirational story for the working man. The book of Nehemiah records the story of how this guy named Nehemiah is called by God to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls, which have turned to rubble. See, when the Israelites returned home from being exiled to Babylon as punishment for their sins, their walls had been torn down and their gates were burnt to the ground. So the city had no protection from invading armies, and it was considered disgraceful and shameful for such a prominent city as Jerusalem to be stripped of its protective walls. But God burdens Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls.

In Nehemiah 1 and 2, Nehemiah talks about how he got permission from the king of the country he lived in to return home to Judah to return it to its former glory. And in Nehemiah 3, he goes to Jerusalem and check out the situation. After touring the entire perimeter of the city, he approaches the officials and nobles and tells them what he is about to do. He writes, "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.' I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, 'Let us start rebuilding.' So they began this good work."

I love the simplicity in Nehemiah's approach: he saw a need, he prepared and planned for what it would need to solve the problem, and then he motivated everyone else to help out. It's so simple, and yet so effective. And they rebuilt that wall. It wasn't easy. In fact, it was incredibly challenging. A lot of people tried to stop Nehemiah and his crew. Chapter 4 shares all of the opposition and troubles they faced.

People came and mocked them. They made fun of them. They ridiculed their work. Even the Israelites began to doubt that the workers would ever get it done. And they received death threats from their enemies. They continuously were threatened by enemies and people who wanted to see Jerusalem continue to lie in ruin.

So what did Nehemiah do? Did he sit down and pout? Did he lose his vision? Or his patience? Or his endurance? No. In Nehemiah 4:13-18, Nehemiah writes, "Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, 'Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.' When our enemies heard that we were aware of their plot and that God had frustrated it, we all returned to the wall, each to his own work.

"From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked."

I think that's incredible. Nehemiah stood so boldly in the face of opposition. He didn't cave in. He did the exact opposite: he dug in. He fought even harder to complete the vision God had given him.

Nehemiah was the type of guy who knew how to lead. He wasn't a self-serving or self-absorbed man, but he did demand respect. He was good at delegating jobs and coordinating a large amount of people to accomplish a big task. He could definitely motivate people, and this is evidenced by his ability to get so many people from so many different regions of Israel to rebuild the wall. And he was a committed, determined individual; he didn't back down in the face of death threats and he stood strong when the city of Jerusalem began to doubt him.

I have a lot of respect for Nehemiah and the way he led. I see his persistence, his integrity, his determination, and his passion for God's chosen people. Nehemiah was a man who loved God and who loved his country. He wasn't afraid to do whatever it took to follow God. And that's the type of leader that I want to be.