I hope you enjoyed your reading and reflecting through Nehemiah over the past nine days!
Here are the results of a character study I did in 2006. Try not to look at it until you have completed your own study.
Nehemiah’s General Character Qualities: Compassion, Humility, and Boldness
Nehemiah exemplified the quality of compassion. He mourned over the distress and reproach of the remnant and ruin of the city. He cared about the wall, but he also cared about the people inside the wall. His response was to sit down and weep and mourn for days (1:3). He not only felt compassion but also lived out his compassion by praying and fasting and then putting God’s plan into action with passion. His compassion led to his passion of pursuing the building of the wall.
He also exemplified the quality of humility. He went straight to God in prayer in humble dependence on Him for his every action. Nehemiah was humble enough to realize that this was a God-sized task, and he needed God’s direction and strength to accomplish it. He did this in fasting and prayer at the beginning of his concern (1:5-11) and in an “on the spot” prayer when he had to speak to the king (2:4). He continued to humbly rely on His God even in opposition.
Nehemiah also exemplified the quality of boldness. He went to God boldly in prayer, and He reminded God of His promises:
Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, "If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples, but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them . . . I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I was chosen to cause My name to dwell." (1:8-9)
This is a direct promise from Deuteronomy 30:1-4. Essentially, he was “praying the promises” back to God in His prayer in Nehemiah 1:5-11!
In addition to boldness before the King of kings, he was also bold in asking King Artaxerxes if he could go to Judah to rebuild it (2:5). He is also bold in the face of opposition (4:4, 5, 9).
18 Specific Qualities and Actions That Made Him an Effective Leader
· Passionate – He had the heart passion to do the impossible despite the obstacles.
· Dependent on and confident in His God – He prayed to his God every step of the way; and in the end, his enemies “lost confidence for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of [their] God” (6:16).
· Cautious – He did not tell others what God had put on his heart until after he had inspected the wall and looked at the task before him (2:12-16). He assessed the situation before talking to people.
· Wise – He elicited support from the key "changemakers" in the culture. He went to the Jews, priests, nobles and officials to cast a vision for rebuilding the wall. Consequently, they said, “Let us arise and build” (2:18). These people were the best people to influence others to do the job.
· Confident – “I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me" (2:18). He was confident that God had directed him. Consequently, he could go with confidence to these leaders in the society with his vision.
· A team gatherer – He gathered those leading Jews and had them “buy in” to the vision so that when they were mocked by the pagans around them, Nehemiah could confidently say, “The God of heaven will give US success; therefore WE His servants will arise and build” (2:20).
· Persevering – He did not let opposition keep him from the task. When they were mocked by Sanballat and Tobiah, he went directly to God to ask for justice, “. . . Return their reproach on their own heads . . . they have demoralized the builders” (4:4-5). He went right back to building the wall to half its height despite the opposition (4:6)!
· Motivating – The people had a “mind to work” (4:6) despite the obstacles. Nehemiah was passionate, and he passed that passion on to the Jews working on the wall. He also motivated them to return to work when they were fearful (4:15).
· Strategic – He set up defenses in strategic places (4:13).
· Encouraging – When others were fearful, he encouraged them to “remember the Lord” (4:14) and look to Him and not at the dire situation.
· A Sacrificial Servant – He was there day and night with the others in the protection of the wall (4:13). He did not eat the Governor’s food allowance “because of the fear of God” (5:15) and “applied himself to the work on this wall” when he could have just delegated the “dirty work.” He modeled servant leadership.
· Peaceable – When there was conflict within the Jewish community, he resolved it peaceably by contending with the “nobles and the rulers” (5:7) and providing a solution.
· Non-controlling –When negotiating resolution with the Jews he said, “May God shake out every man . . . who does not fulfill this promise" (4:13). He left the follow-up to God.
· Focused – When Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to meet with him he replied, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” (6:3) He kept the goal in mind continually.
· A finisher – He never gave up and finished the wall in fifty-two days!
· A Delegator – When the wall was finished, he put men “in charge of Jerusalem” because they were “faithful and God fearing men” (7:2).
· Not a Self-Promoter – He returned the hearts of the people back to God and gave the glory back to God. Nehemiah could have created a following that worshiped him, but He gave God the glory. He had Ezra read the law and the Feast of Booths was reinstituted (Nehemiah 8). In addition, the people confessed and worshiped God (9:3).
· Goal-oriented – He kept the ultimate goal of reestablishing worship in Jerusalem in mind!
Comparing and Contrasting the Leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah
Ezra was a priest, descendent of the Levites. He was the "most learned interpreter of the Law, and the man, more than any other, who shaped the returned exiles into the 'people of the book'" (NASB Open Bible, Ezra Introduction). While he did not have a part in the rebuilding of the temple or wall, he did lead the rebuilding of the worship life of Israel. He was a priest who got a special call to rebuild people by establishing them in the Law and restoring them in covenant. he specifically dealt with the problem of mixed marriages. His primary mission for was religious purposes.
In contrast, Nehemiah held a "secular" job as cupbearer to the king and could be called a "layman" in today's language. He was a Jew with a regular job who received a special call to go and rebuild the wall. He was a rebuilder of a wall and organizer of people. He displayed leadership by getting a specific task done despite opposition and motivating others to rely on their God and complete the task. His primary mission was the task which might have also carried political connotations because he eventually became governor of Judah for twelve years before returning to Persia.
While there are many contrasts of the two in their leadership styles and tasks, the men had much in common. Both men held an unswerving devotion to a covenant-keeping God. They both practiced fasting, prayer, and praise. They relied on their God in their decision making process and in the face of enemies. They also did not hesitate to give glory to God when their specific missions were completed.
"God enriched His people with protection by the wall Nehemiah rebuilt and by the law Ezra reestablished" (Holman Bible Handbook). They both worked as a team in God's reestablishment of His people in Judah.
Which Leadership Style Do You Most Relate To?
God confirmed the answer to this question as I walked and prayed through Face to Face: Praying the Scriptures for Intimate Worship today, this prayer came on the page:
"Like Ezra, I want to set my heart
to study Your Word, to obey it and
to do it, and to teach it to others"
I had to laugh! This is the passion of my heart! I want others to know God through His Word! There is no question that I relate much more to Ezra than Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a great administrator, and I would love to work with someone like Nehemiah because I do NOT have those kinds of leadership skills!
If you want to find out more about your leadership style, here is a great test:
Final Conclusions on Nehemiah’s Life and Leadership
The biggest lesson that we can learn from the life and leadership of Nehemiah is the fact that he led by following God in every action. He followed God by continually praying and praising. His inner life was an integral part of why he succeeded because his plans were not really his plans; they were God’s plans. Nehemiah chose to get out of God’s way and simply be a vessel for His purposes. He chose to stop and pray and praise rather than rush ahead with his fleshly plans. Because he knew they were God’s plans, he could go forward with confidence despite the opposition.
I'll just share my own personal application, but I would also love to hear yours!
There are many personal applications from the life of Nehemiah. I am confirmed in my desire to prayerfully go through every minute of my day, in every challenge, listening to His voice and allowing Him to direct my steps on a moment-by-moment basis rather than just during the times set aside for “devotion.” My prayer time has been consistently strong for many years, but it has been my heart’s desire to also experience the “pray without ceasing” kind of prayer life in every waking moment of my day.
I first journaled about this desire in 1983 when I first read The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. It is easy to disconnect from our Power Source when things get busy or stressful. Thankfully, I have seen growth in this area to a point where I am communicating with Him when I first wake up and through most of the day even in the middle of stressful times. Nehemiah encourages me to excel still more in this area. I will do this by setting aside focus prayer point times throughout my day to evaluate my communion with Him.
I also am challenged by Nehemiah’s ability to confidently go on with his work regardless of opposition. He continued to pray and allowed God to be His defense. This aspect of his life and actions has been so encouraging to me, and it has reminded me of a time in 2001 when God led me in meditation through the book of Nehemiah in the midst of spiritual attack and opposition. God encouraged me to keep working at “building” up women and to not give up. He told me to be strategic by putting on my defensive weapons as I worked regardless of what the “Sanballats” may say. I want to grow more in fearlessness and perseverance and Nehemiah definitely encourages me to do this.
Another possible application is to take the test I linked above and discuss it with your friends!
Thank You for this rich study of Your Word. Thank You so much for teaching us through the life of Nehemiah. May we be compassionate, humble, and bold as we lead. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.