The book of Nehemiah is a great book full of leadership wisdom and godly example, and is certainly worthy of far more reading and study than is generally given to it. Today’s reading is focused around the actual completion of the wall in an amazingly short period of time, despite the opposition of enemies. Let’s take a look at just a few great lessons here.
Purpose — “The people,” 4:6 tells us, “had a mind to work.” Anyone who has ever had the privilege of leadership knows how invaluable this factor is in accomplishment of any real goal. Much of this may have been due to Nehemiah’s system of work assignment — build in front of your own house; but however the workers got motivated, this was key. These folks had purpose! There was no question about what they were about, when they arose in the morning. It’s also key in the church, too. What if your whole congregation really “had a mind to” evangelize, to do mission work, to care for one another, or be a light in the community. Imagine how much might get done for the sake of the Lord’s kingdom!
Prayer — But despite the Jews’ admirable mind to work, they still had obstacles to overcome — enemies who wanted so see them fail. And these weren’t benign enemies who simply wished them ill, they were people who were inclined to lie, sabotage, or actually physically attack. Nehemiah and his fellow Jews understood how vulnerable and militarily weak they were against such devious and hateful enemies — which forced them to become more dependent on the LORD. Someone has well said that when life sometimes forces us to our knees, we discover that that’s where we should have been all along. So it was with Nehemiah, “But we prayed to our God, and because of them [their enemies] we set up a guard against them day and night.” Nehemiah 4:9, NAS95.
Preparation — Which leads me to my next point, their preparation; Nehemiah prayed but he also prepared for defense. It’s important to pray, and then it’s important to do what you can — put legs on your prayers, as it were. Sometimes we treat prayer like it’s “room service”: place your order and wait for things to come to your room. Or in Nehemiah’s case, pray for protection and then act as if there were no danger. God expects both prayer and our obedient, faithful action. It’s not enough to pray that the church grow, but never reach out to the lost with the Gospel.
Pattern — Here’s a great principle of Christian leadership and how it differs from typical, secular, worldly leadership; Nehemiah provided the right example — what he expected of others is what he was willing to do himself. He refused to do the usual supervision of the arduous work, while living in the lap of luxury, which was typical of Persian governors (see 5:14). Sometimes churches are not so evangelistic, caring, involved, committed, or even biblically knowledgeable, because their leadership sets the pattern, the wrong example. It works the same way with families, too. Example of leadership is crucial.
Payoff — The end result of the mind to work (purpose), the prayer, the preparation, and the pattern (example), is the payoff: a defensive wall around Jerusalem in an amazing 52 days — a little over 7 weeks. What great Kingdom payoff would you like to see? What do you need to do?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.