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LEADERSHIP IN ACTION: Why Study the Book of Nehemiah

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to workNehemiah 4:6

The challenges could not be greater. In fulfilment of the prophecy of Jeremiah, a minority of the people of Judah chose to leave captivity in Babylon and return to home. The walls of Jerusalem and the temple of God were rebuilt. Yet, they faced much opposition from the neighbours and over time the walls of Jerusalem came into disrepair. The people were greatly discouraged.

Then comes Nehemiah. A Judean who served in the Persian court as the king’s cupbearer, Nehemiah’s rise to leadership was birthed in crisis. When he asked about the welfare of his people back home, he heard most distressing news: The people of Judah are in great affliction and reproach. The walls of Jerusalem were broken down and the gates burned with fire.

Crisis can be the womb of opportunity.

Nehemiah rose up to be one of the greatest Hebrew leaders and indeed one of the great leaders of history. Yet he did not come into this position out of personal ambition or some sense of entitlement. Nehemiah’s leadership was birthed out of a burden for his city and people. From this burden, he devised a plan to motivate the people and rebuild the walls.

Sure enough, like the tares popping up with the stocks of wheat, opposition to Nehemiah came from the locals. While this can be annoying and grievous, it can be very strengthening - especially when you partner with God. Nehemiah, in the face of opponents, redoubled his efforts and the walls of the city were completed in a record 52 days.

Nehemiah is a wonderful account how through determination, a purpose, plan, prayer, and perseverance, stunning results of renewal, revival and restoration happen. The role of prayer in Nehemiah is indisputable: 1:4-11; also 2:4; 4:4-5,9; 5:19; 6:9,14;13:14,22,29,31.

HEBREW NAME

The Hebrew name of Nehemiah is ne-hem-yah, meaning ‘the comfort of Yahweh.’

AUTHOR

The book begins with the phrase ‘the words of Nehemiah’ (1:1). This means that Nehemiah is the author and this book is his memoir.

PORTRAIT OF CHRIST

Just as Nehemiah repaired the broken down walls of Jerusalem, so Jesus Christ is the one who repairs the breach in our lives caused by sin and shame.

THEME OF NEHEMIAH

Sound, God-ordained leadership helped to bring the physical and spiritual restoration of the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.

KEY VERSES IN NEHEMIAH

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God (6:15-16).

So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understanding the reading (8:8).


SUMMARY OF NEHEMIAH

Ezra was the priest, Nehemiah the governor. Ezra was the cleric and Nehemiah the secular leader. Ezra brought reformation and Nehemiah reconstruction. Ezra came in the second return out of Babylon and Nehemiah the third.

The events of the story happen in the reign of Persian King Artaxerxesx I (464-423 BC). After hearing of the deplorable state of the people and the city of Judah, Nehemiah appeals to the king to grant him leave to rebuild the walls. After exploring the city in his famous ‘night journey,’ Nehemiah utters the command ‘Rise and build’ (2:18).

The opposition to Nehemiah was not slow in coming: first in the form of mockery and then a conspiracy to hinder. He outwits and outworks them all. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt in record time due to the help of God (6:16).

There is more. Nehemiah wants to rebuild the people of Judah, which will prove to be more challenging that the stone-heavy walls of Jerusalem. Through Ezra the priest, a marathon Bible reading commences. People respond with tears, rejoicing, confession and commitment to obey. There is nothing like the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to build people up. The priests and Levites led people in prayer: a person of prayer is a person of power.

After a departure of several years, Nehemiah came back to Judah to clean house. He restored sabbath observance, cleansed the temple, and made the Judeans divorce their foreign wives
And I contended with them, and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair, and made them swear by God, saying, Ye shall not give your daughters unto their sons, nor take their daughters unto your sons, or for yourselves.Nehemiah 13:25

These may have seemed like extreme measures but it worked - reformation and restoration came to Judah, preparing the holy city for the coming of the Messiah 500 years later.

OUTLINE OF NEHEMIAH


I.         Walls of Jerusalem Rebuilt(1:1-7:73)

a.        Preparation to Reconstruct the Wall (1:1-2:20)

1.       Burden & Intercession of Nehemiah (1)

2. Nehemiah’s Night Journey in Jerusalem (2)

b.  The Reconstruction of the Wall (3:1-7:73)

1.        Record of Builders (3)

2. Opposition to Reconstruction (4:1-6:14)

a. Mocking, threats, discouragement (4)
b. Extortion Neh Ex. (5)
c. Compromise, treachery, slander (6)
Completion of Reconstruction

3. Registration  of Jerusalem (7)

II. People of Judah Revived (8:1-13:31)

a.       Covenant Renewed (8:1-10:39)

1.       Reading of the Law (8)

2. Renewal of the Covenant (9,10)

b.  Obedience to the Covenant 11:1-13:31

1. People resettled (11)
2.  Wall rededicated (12:27-47)

3.  People of Judah restored(13:1-31)

(Photo courtesy of blueletterbible.org)

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