Nehemiah: Lessons in Leadership (Chapters 1-5)

My pastor outlined a challenge this week, read the first 5 chapters of Nehemiah and find the leadership lessons, here’s what I found in Chapter 1.
First, I ask, what is leadership? I don’t think this is rocket science, especially when seeking wisdom from the bible.
I sum leadership up as: A person, involved in a process, of influencing and developing a group of people, in order to accomplish a purpose.
Are you a leader? Am I a leader? Fact is, we are all leaders! We are all people, we all make decisions and our decisions ultimately have impact.
Ok, so we know what leadership is, we know we are all leaders, what can Nehemiah teach us (I had to read up on “who” Nehemiah was a bit because, I’ll confess, I hardly knew about the guy besides having an Old Testament book named after him)…here’s what I found after much research and looking through notes, here’s what I found through the help of others:
Nehemiah is both an insider and an outsider. He is a humble slave who is ALSO the cupbearer to the king. But like Nehemiah, we can find the path for ourselves within this disparity between who we are and what we do. It’s about maximizing the capacity that God has instilled in us.
Ok cool, I can relate to that! I serve in some places, I am served in some places and I have thoughts, prayers and potential just like you all!
God’s description of WHO you are makes man’s opinion irrelevant.
If the world defines you, it OWNS you. Find your path in God because you are in the world but not of it. Your identity in Christ matters far more than your role in this world.
As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.
Freedom, confidence, success…everything is internal to external. If you are missing something in your inner world, your external world will always feel incomplete.
Do you know who you are? Do you know why you are alive?
All of this is because we have put our faith in Jesus and we have been transformed and redefined in that relationship with him. We have a new identity. We just have to embrace it.
More lessons from Nehemiah:
Passion propels pursuits.
When you are passionate about things, you pursue them.
Sometimes we can be too comfortable, and we end up missing what God has in store.
Do you care what people think or what heaven thinks?
Nehemiah saw the need for walls to be rebuilt in the city. He was a cupbearer to the king. What qualifications did he have to build a wall?
The success of our pursuit necessitates faithfulness in our present season.
Where are you serving today?
Be the best cupbearer that you can be, so that God can work through it.
Search for your passion.
Too often people go for a passion but settle for a paycheck. They are so busy making a living, that they don’t have a life (ouch, Nehemiah, you’re killing me)!
Ok ok, so what do I do now, what do I start applying to be an effective leader??
I haven’t learned much having only read the first chapter, but here’s my takeaway – Pray without ceasing: Nehemiah prays and prays all the time. Along with prayer you will find courage! Courage is an essential leadership trait, cool!
How can I be a casual Christian when Jesus is coming soon? I must have passion, courage, a thirst and willingness to pray bold prayers, this is what Chapter 1 has taught me, more to come with Chapter 2!
Nehemiah 2
Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem
2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before,2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”I was very much afraid, 3 but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”
**Ok, so I had no idea what the “month of Nisan” was so I looked it up…Judaism 101…Chapter 1 took place in the month of Kislev, November–December. Nisan is March–April. So if I’m reading this correctly, Nehemiah has been praying for roughly 3-4 months!
• Ok, lesson number 1, pray persistently and faithfully…it may take a while!
4 The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”
• Ok, lesson number 2, have the courage to “manage up”. Nehemiah was just a cupbearer but he’s asking the big boss man to go and REBUILD A CITY! Bold!
6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time. 7 I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? 8 And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. 9 So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
• Lesson number 3, be specific, calibrate on expectations and get permission on your project for full support!
10 When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
• Lesson number 4, know how to deal with opposition because you will have haterz, I mean, doubters!
Nehemiah Inspects Jerusalem’s Walls
11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. 13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate,examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool,but there was not enough room for my mount to get through;
15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate.16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
• Lesson number 5, INSPECT WHAT YOU CAN’T EXPECT! Research, study, plan, prioritize and keep your strategy secret until it is time to reveal!
17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.
• Lesson number 6, MOTIVATE! As a leader in any capacity, you will get different results when people join in on your work. You will have those that do the work simply because they’re told to and you will have some that do the work because they believe in your cause because you believe IN THEM! Value your employees, crew, familia, whoever you depend on. Investments in appreciation are not to be taken lightly and, most of the time, this is FREE! But the repercussions for ignoring this simple task are demotivating and devastating!
19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”
• Lesson number 7, remember what I said about doubters? They will be watching, waiting for you to fail. BELIEVE IN YOUR MISSION! If you believe in your mission, your work and your purpose and this is something you can proudly stand on as you and your employees know that this is the right thing to do, you will succeed in that mission! There’s a famous guy out there that founded a computer company, was fired from the company he started and went on to do great things he believed in and proved the doubters wrong! Sound familiar?
**So in summary, pray unceasingly, listen to God and be ready to act when he calls in His timing. Be ready to obey, communicate and work in faith! Like I said, this was a fun chapter, I included it here so you could read it too, let me know what you get out of it as well and see you for Chapter 3 tomorrow!
Leadership lessons in chapter 3. I found three main themes throughout this chapter: People, Purpose and Participation.
This chapter illustrates all of the people from different walks of life and skill sets to help rebuild the city walls. It took great talent and planning to put these teams together and outline your vision so everyone could understand it. Identifying and utilizing the right talent helped rebuild the city in record time. In fact if you read throughout the chapter the people in surrounding cities were amazed at how quickly they completed this project (when God is on your side, watch out)!
Incorporating the right people, building the right teams and getting full participation out of everyone are essential traits to leadership. Nehemiah wasn’t looking for glory or fame with this project, but he knew it had a higher purpose, His purpose.
This is the “surface” takeaway from this chapter, you can glean further if you read studies on this chapter, the people’s backgrounds, rebuilding the walls of your life, etc. I encourage you to check it out!
Day 4, Chapter 4, lessons in leadership with Nehemiah: Types of people:
Be prepared and expect an attack. Build a defence. Rally your supporters. If you listen to the critics, you won’t accomplish anything. We have a tendency to feel alone. That’s when you need to seek out those that support you. Reach out and ask for prayer. When the opposition comes, remember that you aren’t alone.
Never tire of doing what is right. From the passage: “Our God will fight for us!”
Lessons in Leadership – Nehemiah Chapter 5
Throughout the past 4 chapters, we saw bold and courageous Nehemiah…successful Nehemiah…prosperous Nehemiah! And he was still all of these things but, as it inevitable, your success will come crashing down one day, how do you deal with it? Let’s take a look at what Nehemiah did:
Verses 1-5
“And there was a great outcry of the people and their wives against their Jewish brethren. For there were those who said, “We, our sons, and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain, that we may eat and live.” There were also some who said, “We have mortgaged our lands and vineyards and houses, that we might buy grain because of the famine.” There were also those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children; and indeed we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have been brought into slavery. It is not in our power to redeem them, for other men have our lands and vineyards.”
Ok, the people have been working for a while now and it seems there are some problems with resources (food and money). People had money problems because they worked hard on the walls and did not spend the same time on providing for the needs of their household. If you want to spend much time directly ministering to the needs of God’s people and in spreading the gospel, in most cases it will affect your ability to provide. Ministry takes time, and time spent on ministry is time you aren’t making money. If one gets to the place where the ministry is your way of making a living, one should be used to not making a lot of money – or the transition will be rather difficult.
Nehemiah’s reaction? Anger.
Verses 7-11: “After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers, and said to them, “Each of you is exacting usury from his brother.” So I called a great assembly against them. And I said to them, “According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?” Then they were silenced and found nothing to say. Then I said, “What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? I also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain. Please, let us stop this usury! Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them.”
I love that first phrase, “after serious thought”. Nehemiah had the makings of an experienced leader to not act on his reaction but rather to listen and think before acting. He confronted some and told them they were wrong and he told the truth. Essential leadership traits. He faced these problems head on, made everyone own up and make things right!
Verses 12-13: “So they said, “We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say.” Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise. Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.”
Nehemiah did the right thing, he set the example so now what do his followers do? The same thing! Influential, impactful leadership!
Verses 14-16: “Moreover, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year until the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, twelve years, neither I nor my brothers ate the governor’s provisions. But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people, and took from them bread and wine, besides forty shekels of silver. Yes, even their servants bore rule over the people, but I did not do so, because of the fear of God. Indeed, I also continued the work on this wall, and we did not buy any land. All my servants were gathered there for the work.”
Nehemiah did was right. Not from fear of man or for the world but for a higher calling.
Verses 17-19: “And at my table were one hundred and fifty Jews and rulers, besides those who came to us from the nations around us. Now that which was prepared daily was one ox and six choice sheep. Also fowl were prepared for me, and once every ten days an abundance of all kinds of wine. Yet in spite of this I did not demand the governor’s provisions, because the bondage was heavy on this people. Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.”
Hmm…struggled with this one for way too long…I was reading it as Nehemiah sure lost his humility and is trying to get to heaven by his own works but I’m not seeing it that way any longer. After researching where this book came from, it is Nehemiah’s diary. This is personal. I don’t believe he meant for this to be published when he was writing it. Coupled with the fact he was not looking for favor from man but from God gives me comfort with these actions (not 100% but I’m still seeking). Regardless, if your diary were to be made public without your intent, how would it paint you in the light of man? I think this is incredible that the author of the bible made it so to include Nehemiah’s personal diary and here we receive amazing, transcendental examples of leadership from a lowly cupbearer!!

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