The beginning verses of Nehemiah chapter five are filled with outcries from the people who were poor and suffering with hunger, the loss of land and having their children taken into slavery; all these sufferings were for the benefit of wealth and notoriety of the nobles and officials. Verse six gives us Nehemiah’s emotional response, “When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.”
These events and the emotions pushed Nehemiah beyond just building the wall, Nehemiah had to stop and manage his team “So I called together a large meeting to deal with them” (vrs.7b). Nehemiah became aware of the problem and dealt with it, he didn’t shrug it off and return to the project at hand, he took action. Nehemiah had compassion towards the people and did his part to make things right.
Nehemiah had the opportunity to become one of the elite, he could have let his powerful position control his actions but he chose to honor God by not following in the footstep of those before him. Nehemiah models for us a great leadership quality that helped cultivate more loyalty from the people than the few that could have been in his close circles. Nehemiah’s relationship with God was the first priority and focus and through that he was able to rise up from a cupbearer to the king to a prominent leader among the people of Israel.
Passion for God, Compassion for People. This statement is a wonderful short summary of our mission and vision as a church in Departure Bay. Reading through the chapters of Nehemiah inspires me and encourages me to have the same passion for God and the same compassion for people as Nehemiah did.
As I read through Nehemiah’s account in chapter three of the designated tasks for the rebuilding of the wall I can’t help but wonder about the organizational “spreadsheet” he had to keep track of all the work and the workers. The rebuilding of the wall was a massive undertaking and like many of our modern day projects came up against opposition, questions, doubt and logistical issues.
Even though chapter three reads like one of the many tiring genealogies in scripture to me it was encouraging. Look beyond the wall and the gates, what else was going on? I see a picture of unity and support throughout these verses, there are priests and leaders coming together with their brothers and getting their hands dirty in the construction of the gates and walls. We see sons and daughters working along side their fathers to complete their tasks. Banding together through the provisions the Lord had provided through Nehemiah the people completed the project in 52 days.
I have never been a part of a massive building project but have had the opportunity to be involved with projects that have required a team of people to come together and work side by side to accomplish their goal. When I relate this to our church today I see the “building project” as our mission and vision, each of us has been given a gift from God to help accomplish the work set ahead of us. As a leader it is part of my duty to help people (the church) work together in unity toward fulfilling the mission that Jesus has commanded us through the great commission.
“Therefore Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Armed with my highlighter and pen I started to read thorough the book of Nehemiah reflecting on how Nehemiah accomplished the huge undertaking of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem. Twelve times I highlighted the places where Nehemiah took the time and space to pray to God for direction as he and the people worked together. Each time Nehemiah finds himself in a place where trouble arises he takes it before God and trusts in his direction. As we follow through the book we have prayers that move from Nehemiah’s personal struggles to the struggles of the people, prayers for the poor and prayers of protection from their enemies.
Chapter 9 of Nehemiah holds the longest recorded prayer in scripture, a prayer from the people of Israel. This prayer from the Israelites in an expression of confession, a request seeking forgiveness for the sins they committed in their unfaithfulness in following God. Chapter 13 closes the book with 4 prayers all beginning with the same word, remember, three times Nehemiah asks God to remember him and once to remember the people. I don’t think God has forgotten anything of what Nehemiah has done or what the people have done; Nehemiah was putting his trust in God knowing that He will work through him according to His will.
Being willing and ready to pray in all circumstances is what I learn from Nehemiah. From the beginning of his journey Nehemiah sets for us the standard in which we can use as we work forward in ministry. Our ministry leaders need to be surrounded by and committed to prayer so we can give the glory to God for the work he is doing in our lives personally and in the life of the church.
In one of my previous entries I talked about the authority that Jesus gave the disciples in Matthew chapter 10, I would like to revisit this topic again in light of the last few verses in the book of Matthew in the great commission.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus was very clear that He had all power and authority in both heaven and earth, this is the same authority he empowered the disciples with to go out and fulfill the mission of the great commission, the same mission that we as leaders in the church have today. As a leader Jesus gave them a clear and well-defined purpose for their mission to make disciples of all nations. Jesus sets for us the standard that raises the bar for us as leaders to be on mission with our leadership teams. We as leaders have to allow those within our influence to experience a little of what the disciples did when Jesus sent them out; we have to empower them to lead in the areas where they are gifted.
“And behold, I am with you always…” This for me is the best part; we are never alone in our journey as leaders. Jesus told the disciples that he would be there beside them till the end of the age. We are living and breathing the same promise that they received, we have the same assurance that Jesus is with us until he comes again. As we have this assurance we have to model this and stand with those who lead alongside us. In doing so we can lead effectively together “to cause the name of Jesus Christ to be exalted, God glorified, and believers to be built up as together we reach out with the gospel to the lost.”
“Hypocrites… Blind guides… Blind fools… Full of wickedness… Snakes and brood of vipers…”
These are all strong words and declarations Jesus speaks to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Jesus presents for us some of the consequences and threats that sin and darkness have for leaders and more specifically to those whose positions are involved with spiritual leadership.
Matthew chapter 23 gives us some important reminders, we as leaders need help to understand the dangers of falling away from God’s leading in our lives. Our lives need to reflect the words we speak, we need to live the truths that have been given to us through the word. Attitudes of servant hood and humility should stand in place of seeking distinction and praise. When Gods people respond to His call we need to encourage and rejoice with them as they live a new life in Christ. God’s love for us is revealed through His justice, mercy and faithfulness in our lives, our efforts must reflect these things over the arguments and sometimes meaningless specifics. Leading with a righteous heart and living in an attitude of love of others will show that God has done a great work in our lives making us an example for others to follow.
Growing up I often heard this statement “hate the sin not the sinner”. Jesus despised what the Pharisees were doing but I do believe that He had a love for them as He did for all the lost people. Jesus “longed to gather” (to love and care for) the people of Jerusalem including the Pharisees and teachers. Even though some may choose to separate from him he is wanting and waiting for us to cry out “blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”