Tuesday, May 26 2009
Chapter 8 of the book of Nehemiah centers around the reading of the law by Ezra. While Nehemiah was the political leader of the time, it was Ezra that was the religious leader. The divided leadership signaled to the conquering king that the people were not going to rebel.
Nehemiah was a religious layman. He was a great leader, but his "calling" centered around doing the secular work needed to fulfill the will of God. These types of people are needed within the church and often facilitate growth through their faithful ministry. The church is made up of many personalities, skill levels and talents. It is the responsibility of the pastor to get each of these people moving behind the same vision. There is an anointing in unity. Psalms 133 states...
1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
2 It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
The vision casted by the leaders in Jerusalem was once again introducing the Word of God to the people. The Bible states...
2 And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month.
3 And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law.
As a leader, it is my responsibility to introduce people to the Word and help them in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:16...
...woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
As a leader, there is no compromise. The Word must be taught in its unadulterated version with the promise to see lives changed at the altars of our churches. People are looking for what we have. Pentecostalism is growing and this is the time to stand up and declare the Word as Ezra did so many years ago.
Monday, May 18 2009
The seventh chapter of Nehemiah is mostly the "genealogy of them which came up at first". According to one commentary the document that Nehemiah found was most likely the one written or used by Ezra, but that is not my focus in my blog today. I want to concentrate on Nehemiah 7:1 - 2...
Now it came to pass, when the wall was built, and I had set up the doors, and the porters and the singers and the Levites were appointed,
That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many.
A leader is only going to be effective if he surrounds himself with other good leaders. It is essential that the one that is at the top to be self confident with an awareness that his subordinates may have more talents and abilities. The Bible states that Nehemiah appointed men to have "charge over Jerusalem". In appointing Hanani and Hananiah, Nehemiah was getting faithful men that feared God. These character traits should be essential for any church leader.
The old saying is "cream rises to the top". I believe that this statement speaks a great amount of truth and is the most effective filter in choosing leaders. Often times, people fulfill roles due to necessity, but the true leaders will eventually rise because of their actions not their resume'. As a leader, I want people to "charge the hill" with me because they know that I will get them to the top. As a follower, I want to charge behind those that I trust will lead me with Godly principles while taking me to the place I need to be. I do not follow those that compromise or waver, but those that remain strong in what I know to be true. It is essential for me to lead knowing that I continue in the path of those men that have gone before me that have waved the banner of truth without compromise.
Thursday, May 14 2009
Nehemiah was a good leader, but he was more importantly a Goldy leader. His prayers asking God for direction is recorded in nearly every chapter including Chapter 6. He states in verse 9...
...O God, strengthen my hands.
And in verse 14....
My God, think thou upon Tobiah and Sanballat according to these their works, and on the prophetess Noadiah, and the rest of the prophets, that would have put me in fear.
The prayers sent up in chapter 6 are not without reason. Nehemiah was under attack from his enemies. They were threatened by the wall built by Nehemiah and the children of Israel and began to spread rumors concerning Nehemiah's character. They stated...
6 Wherein was written, It is reported among the heathen, and Gashmu saith it, that thou and the Jews think to rebel: for which cause thou buildest the wall, that thou mayest be their king, according to these words.
7 And thou hast also appointed prophets to preach of thee at Jerusalem, saying, There is a king in Judah: and now shall it be reported to the king according to these words. Come now therefore, and let us take counsel together.58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.
The tactics of our enemies do not change. Revelation 12:10 calls Satan the "accuser of the brethren". There will always be those that stand against a Godly leader and their anointed vision, but a leader stands firm and pushes forwarded always being reminded of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 15...
Perhaps, the most frustrating enemy of all is the "it's God's will" people. I have no other term for them, but they always use God's will to manipulate their own agenda and Nehemiah faced one in the form of the High Priest. Nehemiah 6 states...
10 Afterward I came unto the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah the son of Mehetabeel, who was shut up; and he said, Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us shut the doors of the temple: for they will come to slay thee; yea, in the night will they come to slay thee.
Nehemiah "tried the spirit" and found it lacking. His response is as follows...
11 And I said, Should such a man as I flee? and who is there, that, being as I am, would go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.
12 And, lo, I perceived that God had not sent him; but that he pronounced this prophecy against me: for Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him.
13 Therefore was he hired, that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin, and that they might have matter for an evil report, that they might reproach me.
A leader must remain diligent and forever watching for pitfalls. I am not suggesting being paranoid, but wise to the enemy. If we study leaders such as Nehemiah, we will find the we will become more aware of our surroundings with a greater understanding of what God expects from His leaders.
Thursday, May 07 2009
The structure of any organization or following is its people. It is difficult as a leader to have a constant state of "happiness". Nehemiah's "organization" was no different and he wrote in chapter 5 verse 1 - 5 (Amplified)...
NOW THERE arose a great cry of the [poor] people and of their wives [driven to borrowing] against their Jewish brethren [the few who could afford to lend].
For some said, We, our sons and daughters, are many; therefore allow us to take grain, that we may eat and live! If we are not given grain, let us take it!
Also some said, We are mortgaging our lands, vineyards, and houses to buy grain because of the scarcity.
Others said, We have borrowed money on our fields and vineyards to pay the [Persian] king's heavy tax.
Although our flesh is the same as that of our brethren and our children are as theirs, yet we are forced to sell our children as slaves; some of our daughters have already been thus sold, and we are powerless to redeem them, for others have our lands and vineyards.The problems of the people were legitimate issues. They were being taken advantage of by those of great wealth and if continued would have created a division among the people. Often times, leaders must face issues head on. The solution may not always be satisfactory to both sides, but a leader must make decisions that are not popular and ensure that they are followed. A "wishy - washy" leader is not a true leader, but a pawn of those that have the current influence.
Nehemiah did what a good leader should do and attack the issue head on. Nehemiah 5: 6 - 11...
I [Nehemiah] was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
I thought it over and then rebuked the nobles and officials. I told them, You are exacting interest from your own kinsmen. And I held a great assembly against them.
I said to them, We, according to our ability, have bought back our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations; but will you even sell your brethren, that they may be sold to us? Then they were silent and found not a word to say.
Also I said, What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts and reproach of the nations, our enemies?
I, my brethren, and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us stop this forbidden interest!
Return this very day to them their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses, and also a hundredth of all the money, grain, new wine, and oil that you have exacted from them.Communication is the key to the success of any organization. Nehemiah communicated with the parties involved and found the solution was satisfactory to them in verse 12...
Then they said, We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say. Then I called the priests and took an oath of the lenders that they would do according to this promise.
I found what Nehemiah said in verse 19 encouraging to me as a leader. He ask God to think of good of him because he had done good for the people. This shows a personal side of Nehemiah. Every leader invests in their followers and Nehemiah was simply asking for a return. A blessing for himself for blessing others. Nehemiah said...
O my God, [earnestly] remember me for good for all I have done for this people.
Wednesday, May 06 2009
Nehemiah faced what all leaders will face and he did what all leaders should do. In Nehemiah 4:1 - 3, the Bible states...
But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.
And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall.Sanballet was the governor of Samaria with aspirations to govern Judah including Jerusalem. His ambitions were cut short by the arrival of Nehemiah, but he took the "low road" by riduculing and criticizing Nehemiah and the Jews. As a leader, being a recipient of criticism is found in the fine print of the job description. There will always be someone that in their mind thinks they can do better or that the leader should have done it differently. A leader must display "thick skin" and a passion for the vision given to them by God. It was Nehemiah that did what all leaders should do when facing a battle. He prayed the following in Nehemiah 4: 4 - 5...
Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity: And cover not their iniquity, and let not their sin be blotted out from before thee: for they have provoked thee to anger before the builders.
It is verse 6 that reveals the true leadership skills of Nehemiah. It simply says...
So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work.
Those that built the wall at Jerusalem had "bought into" the vision of building the walls. Therefore they were investing themselves into that vision. Despite what others were saying or doing, they "had a mind to work". The Jews were determined to build their city and became unified by the vision revealed to them by Nehemiah. They were enjoying the blessings and anointing of unity. The Bible states in Psalms 133:1 - 2...
Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;The life of a modern day leader parallels the life of Nehemiah. A leader must stand strong despite the opposition or criticism because the task of a leader is God given. Often times the critics will fall away, but it is not easy to deal with them while in your ear or worse...in the ears of others. It is in these times that a leader needs to pray and remember Psalms 46:10...
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.