Nehemiah – Lesson Eight
Nehemiah’s determined purpose in going to Jerusalem was to rebuild the wall. As we have seen, the entire project from beginning to end was beset by impossibilities and opposition. First, Nehemiah had to obtain leave from his important post in the Persian Court of King Artaxerxes. Then he had to secure supplies, plan the work and inspire the people to do the labor. Once the project was underway, he had to contend with opposition from without in the form of intrigue, innuendo, and intimidation. Then he had to contend with opposition, which arose from within the ranks of Israel as the wealthy oppressed the poor. Although the storms of opposition were fierce, Nehemiah stayed the course by refusing to be distracted until the job was done.
At this point, it is helpful to review some of the lessons we have learned from Nehemiah’s leadership. To begin with, we have learned that a leader cares about the things that God cares about and seeks to promote His glory in the world. A leader is also concerned about the welfare of God’s children. As Nehemiah has so wonderfully demonstrated, effective leadership begins with heartfelt prayer and continues by prayer. In addition, a leader must be willing to wait and make herself available to be sent wherever God determines. A leader is one who makes plans based on the careful assessment of the situation. And by her contagious passion, a leader is able to motivate others to join her in the work. Any work undertaken for the glory of God is going to have its share of opposition – the enemy will make sure of that. But a leader is one who has learned to focus, remain positive and push ahead until the job is done. These are just a few of the things we have observed about Nehemiah’s leadership. Today we will add a few more points to the list.
DAYS ONE, TWO and THREE: Nehemiah completes the wall despite continued opposition. (6:15-19)
A. Consider the fact that Nehemiah first heard about the disgrace of the wall when his brother, Hanani came to Susa in November/December 444 B.C. Four months later, Nehemiah received permission to leave the service of King Artaxerxes. Some time afterward, he arrived in Jerusalem and set to work on the wall on August 1, 443 B.C. On September 21, the wall was completed – a mere fifty-two days (6:15)! Only nine months had elapsed since he first heard about the disgrace of Jerusalem until the final stones were set in the wall. Amazing!
It’s thrilling to see the fruit of our labor and enjoy the satisfaction of a wonderful accomplishment. To know that your efforts have made a difference in the lives of people and brought glory to God is happiness indeed. However, more often than not, we don’t see the end result of our work as Nehemiah did. Many of you have labored long in a foreign field under challenging circumstances and have seen very little progress. It may be that some of you may read this account and feel somewhat discouraged. I can assure you that that feeling never comes from God.
1. What encouragement to persevere can you take for yourself from the following: Galatians 6:9-10; Hebrews 12:1-3, 7; James 1:12; 5:7-11; Revelations 3:11-12?
2. Record in your journal any encouragement received.
B. Cyril J. Barber gives a brief but accurate assessment of the reasons for Nehemiah’s success.
1. There are three noteworthy aspects to his person.
a. “Nehemiah’s character may be traceable directly to his willingness to live under the authority of the Scriptures. His knowledge of the Word equipped him with discernment, and this discernment prevented him from being deceived…We lose our character and our ability to discern the issues which confront us when we neglect the study of the Scriptures.”1
b. “[Nehemiah’s] confidence in the Lord released him from
the pressure of being ‘a success,’ preserved his objectivity, overcame the fears that others endeavored to instill in him and insured that he was free from undue concern…A man’s character is the inner dynamic that results in confidence. This confidence is contagious. Without it there can be no effective leadership.”2
c. “[Nehemiah’s courage]….His was the faith that moved mountains. His confidence in God gave him the courage to plod on in spite of the clouds of opposition that gathered around him. He boldly championed the cause of right and scorned the things that would inspire fear. Nehemiah’s courage helped him attain new heights of achievement. Armed with this fortitude, he turned obstacles into opportunities, and outward trials into personal triumphs.”3
2. Consider the above three aspects of Nehemiah’s leadership skills.
a. Which of these do you possess at the present and to what degree?
b. Which ones need improvement?
c. What specific steps could you begin to take to strengthen those which are less strong?
C. Who gets the glory? That is the question with which we must always be concerned in everything we do. In the record of this great accomplishment, Nehemiah gave glory to God by saying, “…when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God”(v.16).
1. Let us remember that Nehemiah came from Persian, which had previously been the Babylonian Empire. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had conquered Jerusalem. It is interesting to contrast the attitude of this great king with that of Nehemiah. Read Daniel 4:28-35 and draw a contrast between these two individuals.
2. Satan is the source of all human pride. Read Isaiah 14:12-15 and note the attitude of Lucifer.
3. What warnings are found in the following concerning self-exaltation and pride: Proverbs 16:18; Habakkuk 2:4; Matthew 23:12; I John.2:16.
4. Nehemiah chose to glorify God and therefore remained useful for God’s purpose as the rest of the book certainly proves. It is good to develop the habit of offering praise and thanksgiving to God for all that He allows us to accomplish in a day. Miss Johnson, founder of Bible Study Fellowship International, taught me to gather all the compliments I might receive in a day – especially on class day – and offer them as a beautiful bouquet to the Lord before retiring in the evening. In so doing we will be sure not take any glory for ourselves. What does God say about His glory in Isaiah 48:11?
D. The Jewish nobility and Tobiah continue to exchange letters with the intent to intimidate Nehemiah. In all likelihood, many of them still did not like the fact that Nehemiah had forced them to treat the poor with compassion and change their business practices – which cost them financially. Although publicly they had changed their position, privately they seem to be biding their time until they could regain their former status.
1. Read about the continuing problem Nehemiah experienced with Tobiah and the Jewish nobility in 6:17-19.
2. The following verses reveal an attitude similar to that with which Nehemiah had to contend: Proverbs 28:4; Isaiah 5:20; Malachi 2:17; Romans 1:32.
3. Nehemiah could have been bitter. He could have found ways to exact revenge. But he didn’t – instead he left the situation to God. How easy it is for us to be consumed with these kinds of provocations. How easy it is to allow such people to distract us from the cause to which God has called us.
a. Read Romans 12:19 and I Peter 2:23, along with Psalm 37. In what way are you encouraged? How are you challenged?
b. Psalm 37:5-6 are two of my favorite verses and the basis of much prayer in an ongoing personal problem. John Piper has said, “Remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell, or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be either double jeopardy or an offense to the cross…”4
4. In what way can you encourage someone you know who is dealing with this kind treachery.
DAYS FOUR and FIVE: Nehemiah prepares to repopulate Jerusalem. (7:1-73)
A. Admittedly, the present chapter is difficult to know how to approach. In
fact, I was tempted to skip it altogether. I would imagine some of you are thinking the same thing. At first glace, it certainly seems boring. However, we know that God never wastes words – there must be a good reason for including this information in the middle of the book. So let’s dig in and see why the Lord thought it was important to include this chapter in Nehemiah.
1. I think it is best to assume that this chapter is transitional. The preceding chapters show us how Nehemiah accomplished his primary objective – the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s wall. The remaining chapters all have to do with consolidating the work begun. Therefore, Chapter 7 acts as a transition by recording for us Nehemiah’s first steps toward strengthening the work that had been accomplished in the previous weeks.
2. One of the important steps towards consolidating the city was the appointment of new leadership.
a. Who did he appoint as leaders and in what positions?
b. What qualified each of these men as leaders?
c. How did these appointments quell the rumors of 6:6-7?
B. In addition to the outstanding qualities we’ve already observed in Nehemiah’s leadership, we now add another. Nehemiah was careful to ensure the success of his subordinates. Rather than being threatened by those under his authority, he sought to develop their potential and provide for their success.
1. How did he do that in verses 3-4?
2. How did Nehemiah delegate his authority to these men?
C. The Census (vs.6-69):
1. What situation precipitated the need to take a census of the people?
2. Scan Nehemiah 11:1-24. What do you think Nehemiah planned to do with the official record?
3. Note: the record listed in Chapter 7 is virtually the same as that found in Ezra 2. Some believe that differences between the two lists are reconciled by the fact that the list in Nehemiah 7, made years before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, gives evidence of having been compiled after the first returnees arrived in the land. The list in Nehemiah 7 reflects changes, which Zerubbabel’s list could not.5
4. Read through the list and note these categories in the margin of your Bible:
- Leaders (v.7)
- People by Families (vs.8-25)
- People by Cities (vs.26-38)
- Priests (vs.39-42)
- Levites (vs.43-45)
- Nethinim (temple servants) (vs.46-56)
- Solomon’s Servants (vs.57-60)
- People without Proper Documentation (vs.61-65)
- Total People (vs.66-67)
- Total Animals (vs.68-69)
- Support Gifts (vs.70-72)
D. The Exclusion of Some from the Priesthood (vs.61-65)
As we shall see in the next chapter, Nehemiah is not only concerned with safeguarding the city of Jerusalem, but the also the spiritual well-being of the people.
1. Why did Nehemiah insist that the priests listed in vs.61-65 be excluded from the priesthood?
2. From your previous Bible knowledge, why was the purity of priesthood important (scan Exodus 28-29)? How would disregard for this important aspect of Israel’s spiritual life affect the people?
3. Apply this principle to those who would teach and preach today who have no testimony of salvation by the shed blood of Christ on the cross. How do such people affect the spiritual well-being of those who sit under their teaching?
E. The Support of the Priesthood (vs.70-72)
1. How did Nehemiah ensure that the work of the priesthood would
be supported (vs.70-72)?
2. How did this action help to stabilize the establishment of the city?
3. Read through the following texts that detail the scriptural basis for a ministers’ support: Matthew10:10; Luke 10:7; I Corinthians 9:14; Galatians 6:6; I Timothy 5:18. Why is it important to support those who give their lives to full time ministry?
Some of the most important lessons in leadership provided by Nehemiah in Chapter 7 are:
- People in positions of authority are responsible for teaching and training those under their authority to maximize their potential (7:2-3). A good leader will seek to develop the abilities of subordinates and do all things necessary to ensure their growth and success. (Moms take note.)
- A leader must be in touch with God on a regular basis to receive guidance (7:5). The most clear thinking and decisive leaders are those who have a strong vertical connection. (Again Moms’ take note – especially if you have teens.)
- A leader must be above reproach. Moral laxity and compromise with Biblical standards of conduct damages the strength of one’s testimony causing confusion in subordinates. Such people disqualify themselves from leadership and should be removed.
- A leader will set the example for others in matters of giving by generously supporting churches and ministry organizations who promote the cause of Christ in the world.
1. Cyril J. Barber, Nehemiah and the Dynamics of Effective Leadership (Ross-shire, Scotland: Geanies House, 2004), p. 154
2. Ibid., p. 154.
3. Ibid., p. 155.
4. John Piper, Life As A Vapor (Sister, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2004), p. 39.
5. John J. Davis Biblical Numerology (1968).
About the author
Donna Jeffries has been involved in Women’s Ministries for thirty-four years. Her ministry responsibilities have included Bible Study Fellowship Teaching Leader, Director of Women’s Ministries and Bible Study teacher at Calvary Bible Church. Most recently, she serves with Campus Crusade for Christ and travels as a volunteer with the International School Project. She has also traveled with Women of the Harvest to several counties as a Retreat Volunteer and has served on the Board of Directors. Donna and her husband Don have been married 40 years and have three married children and seven grandchildren. They are business owners and reside in Bakersfield, Calif., USA.View all articles by: Donna Jeffries
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