He was a member of the Persian king’s staff who returned from the Babylonian captivity (with the Kings blessing) to organise the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls. Then, as governor, he assisted Ezra the priest in addressing some of the spiritual issues of those who had resettled in their home country. He didn’t isolate himself by taking advantage of his position but remained in constant working relationship alongside others. Through diplomacy he brought reconciliation to his people, hearing their complaints and arbitrating for fairness in place of exploitation (Neh 5:1-19).
The Jerusalem walls were completed in 445 BC. After 12 years, he temporarily returned to Babylon before coming back again to Jerusalem. His story is told in the book Nehemiah.
Lessons from his life: * Although Nehemiah had a comfortable secure job serving the King, his ultimate loyalty was to the Jews’ Holy city of Jerusalem – this was both the place of national identity and where God’s presence was in the temple (Neh 1:11). He was not just satisfied looking out for himself but was concerned with God’s reputation and the welfare of others. Could that the said about me?
* He didn’t just talk or complain about the situation. Through prayer, which included repentance and reminding God of His promises, he formulated a plan. He assessed the situation, developed a realistic strategy and became the catalyst that resulted in motivating his fellow Jews to rebuild the walls. It was a disgrace to have broken down walls , as they provided no security or protection from the enemy without. What areas of our lives have broken down defences that need to be repaired, so we are less vulnerable to the enemy’s attack? We are instructed to build ourselves up in the faith (Jud 1:20).
* He showed good leadership. He carefully thought the exercise through, and organised supplies in advance, enlisting the assistance of others (Neh 2:7,8). Teamwork is essential to accomplish anything of significance for God’s Kingdom. With the actual rebuilding each family group or unit worked in a specific area, being responsible and accountable for its success. Am I contributing my resources to, and involved in the work of God or am I expecting others to carry me? The Bible states that each part or member of the body of Christ should do its part for the mutual benefit of the whole (1 Cor 12:12-27; Eph 4:16).
* Nehemiah was persistent in the face of a seeming impossible task, coupled with opposition, injustice and discouragement. He was committed to fulfilling the task God had put on his heart. Not only did the work begin but it was also finished (Neh 2:18, 6:15). Many projects fail to be completed because those involved become discouraged and worn out by the spiritual opposition. Engaging in spiritual warfare and determination are required to see things to completion. Even after the walls were completed, Nehemiah put in place procedures for the ongoing safety of the city by following through on all the issues (Neh 7:1-3). Be on your guard, if you have out-maneuvered the enemy he will ‘counterattack’ when we least expect it.
* Nehemiah constantly referred to God’s hand in all this, the “God who keeps His promise...it is your reputation that is at stake and by the way don’t overlook me for my efforts” (Neh 1:5,11, 2:18,20, 4:5,14, 5:19, 13:14,22,31). Because he involved himself with God’s purpose, and acknowledged Him working in the situations, he could confidently ask for His help and blessing. In humility, do I ask for His favour to be on my life to accomplish what He has asked me to do?
* Nehemiah confronted various wrong doings (Neh 13:6-31). He did not just address the physical broken walls but the relational issues with others and their spiritual fellowship with God. He challenged the people to rededicate themselves to God and follow Him. A good leader should be in touch with current affairs, confident and ‘living the life’ so they can adequately deal with any issue that needs addressing. Do I allow others to speak into my life without becoming defensive and resentful? We all have blind spots that need to be brought to the light and rectified so we come into a greater degree of wholeness.
See also: commitment, Ezra, leaders/leadership, opposition, Nehemiah (Neh), walls.