Nehemiah: His Example of Leadership


Nehemiah: His Example of Leadership

(Nehemiah 2:11 – 20)

Those who’ve been here for the past 2 weeks, and have come back again – well done! There’s been so much to cover I fear your brains have been overworked, but thank you for not giving up! So here we are for the last in this three-part series on Nehemiah, and this morning, as you already know, we are looking at Nehemiah’s Example of Leadership.

I know we’ve only read chapters 1 & 2 of the Book with his name, but otherwise we would have had to have read it all, over three Sundays, and … well, I thought that was a bit over the top!

When we looked at Nehemiah’s Doctrine of God we thought about 9 statements that illustrated His belief and understanding about God. This morning we’re going to look at 13 statements which describe his example of leadership, and this will take us into various chapters of the Book.

  1. INFINITE COMPASSION.

On hearing of his people’s needs in Jerusalem, he ‘sat down & wept … mourned & fasted & prayer (1:4).

A literal translation of the word Compassion from the original is: ‘Caring till it hurts’, and this is clearly a picture of Nehemiah. Even though Jerusalem was 1000 miles away, he expressed great anguish over their plight, because he loved his people and Jerusalem so much. Love really matters in leadership.

  1. UNDER GREAT AUTHORITY.

Yes, he was under the authority of The King of Persia, in Susa, the capitol, but he was under the greater authority of the Living God. What was the right course of action, in this crisis? He sought God directly (1:5 – 11). Leaders must also be followers, and for all Christian leaders they must follow Christ. Nehemiah was used to receiving orders from the Persian King, as his cup-bearer, but his greater priority was to stand as a submissive servant in the audience chamber of God. Much more important to patiently discern God’s will, than to rush to help God’s people.

  1. TRANSPARENT INTEGRITY.

Coming before God’s throne, he didn’t merely acknowledge the sins of his people – the Children of Israel – but he lingered in God’s presence to identify his own, and his family’s sins (1:6). He was not only honest before God, but also towards others. When Judah’s deprived people complained of injustice, he didn’t act as if he was totally detached and free from blame. Whatever his involvement in money-lending (5:10), he did nothing to conceal his personal involvement in an issue which had to be put right.

  1. VISION FOR SOMETHING GREAT.

One writer has said that ‘Believers with vision have a deep dissatisfaction with what is, and a clear grasp of what could be.’ God planted in Nehemiah’s heart (2:12) a strategy which could transform Jerusalem’s destiny. Nehemiah was appalled by the city’s degradation, and couldn’t be at peace until an alternative prospect began to form in his mind.

  1. AWARE OF HIS OWN VULNERABILITY.

Leaders are not perfect. They all have points of weakness that can undermine them or their work, and Nehemiah discovered his potential for crippling fear (2:2). Many a good work has been damaged, if not ruined, because the leaders have been so busy instructing others that they have ignored a primary leadership obligation: “Keep watch over yourselves” (Acts 20:28).

  1. THE ABILITY TO INSPIRE OTHERS.

To rebuild the walls of Jerusalem could not be attempted without a unified team, so Nehemiah spoke realistically of the problems, convincingly of the answer, and confidently of the resources available (2:17, 20).The people were ready to work with Him.

  1. THE NECESSITY AND ADVANTAGES OF DELEGATION.

Nehemiah could oversee the project, but was totally incapable of carrying it all out himself. He made sure that responsibility for each section of the wall was entrusted to responsible co-workers (3:1 – 22), and they in turn recruited their own partners who ‘worked with all their heart’ (4:6).

  1. DID NOT BAULK AT ADVERSITIES.

He knew the necessity of perseverance. Difficulties were bound to arise, and within a very short time, external hostility as matched by internal pessimism (4:1 – 12).

  1. SENSITIVE ADAPTABILITY.

Things do not always go as we hope they would, but effective leadership doesn’t see them as intimidating deterrents, but as creative opportunities.

After hearing the complaints of despondent and endangered workers, Nehemiah came up with a five-point plan: a) he brought together local protection groups (4:13); b) reminded them of their spiritual defences (4:14); c) divided the team into builders and protectors (4:15 – 18); d) organised a plan whereby a mobile company of troops could be rapidly despatched to any vulnerable part of the wall (4:19 – 20); and e) ensured that everyone in the city was guaranteed 24 hour protection (4:21 – 22).

  1. PREPARED TO MAKE PERSONAL SACRIFICES.

He surrendered his (no doubt) luxurious lifestyle and personal safety when he left Persia, and once in Jerusalem he had to forfeit the comfort of necessary relaxation and undisturbed sleep (4:23). He continued to be harassed by: i) known enemies with their insidious schemes to destroy him (6:1 – 9), ii) treacherous friends who valued money more than loyalty (6:10 – 13), iii) corrupt religious leaders intent on misusing spiritual gifts (6:14), iv) and community leaders whose allegiance to their governor was neither whole-hearted or sincere (6:17 – 19), v) He never took the full allowance of food that he was entitled to, as the governor (5:14).

  1. THE ABILITY TO ENLIST DEPENADBLE COLLEAGUES.

Once the wall was rebuilt, practical arrangements had to be made for the oversight of its spiritual, social and military needs (7:1 – 2), and so the governor, Nehemiah, wanted people alongside him who feared God, more than people who wanted please other people – utterly trustworthy colleagues (13:12), who were not corrupted by materialistic ambitions.

  1. ANTICIPATED THE NEXT CHALLENGE.

Any achievement for the Lord will tested in some way or another. The governor knew that the newly secured city had to be adequately defended, and quickly populated (7:3 – 5; 11:1 – 24). He had to implement protection for the residents; and a sparsely populated city could easily be attacked.

Good leaders have the ability to think ahead to consider possible difficulties, and alert enough to develop new ideas.

  1. ENVIABLE TENACITY.

Nehemiah overcame many daunting discouragements which might have ruined another man, but God enabled him to endure when things seemed to be at their worst. Not time to list them all, but if you read through, or have read through the Book, the evidence is there of his various hardships. Dedicated leaders never give up.

Listen to how one person sums up Nehemiah, the person: compassionate concern, disciplined prayerfulness, spiritual confidence, resourceful service, moral integrity, resilient faith, Biblical principles, and exemplary lifestyle.

Wow! When we look at Nehemiah many of us would shrink from leadership, but if God calls us to lead He will also equip us – however small or large the leadership role.

Whether we are called to be leaders or not, let all of us be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose example of leadership is far greater than any of us could ever aspire to.

Let’s pause, and reflect on God’s Word in our lives.

Malcolm Brown