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Nehemiah: Recognizing ruin

—recharging, rebuilding and reviving - all true!

by Diane Eaton (WordAlone Board member)

May 11, 2004

The past two weeks we have been studying the book of Nehemiah. I have heard that some in our church don’t believe Nehemiah existed.

I think that gets to the heart of the issue in the church today. Do you believe that the book of Nehemiah is true? Did our powerful God, who created the universe, hand off a Bible with central characters that are fiction? After studying Nehemiah the last two weeks I would be convinced Nehemiah were true even if it were a book not in the Bible. Nehemiah was an exiled Jewish leader in the Persian Empire. He heard about the ruin of Jerusalem and was granted permission by the king of Persia to go to Jerusalem and lead the rebuilding of the wall.

Many of us have studied (and tried practicing) leadership. We have immersed ourselves with books and courses like Jim Collins, “Built to Last” and Stephen Covey’s “Principle Centered Leadership.” We have spent countless hours in workshops and programs on leadership and teamwork. We have gleaned some truths from these opportunities all the while really learning the hard lessons “on the job.” Principles of leadership are necessary whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a mother or father leading a family.

I am here today to tell you that these lessons of leadership and teamwork are all in the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is true. His account isn’t a made-up story. From my experiences (success and many failures) with leadership, objectives and opposition, I believe Nehemiah. My company could have saved millions of dollars in leadership training by having us study Nehemiah’s faith, organizational abilities, discipline, courage, self-control and tenacity.

It’s ironic that today we can get more confirmation about the reliability of the Bible from reading it and our own life experience than we can from some of our “teachers of the law.” Nehemiah’s faith and obedience to God were fueled by his reliance on God through prayer, studying God’s word and the faithful teaching of Ezra. Listed below are some of the characteristics of Bible study in Nehemiah that are all relevant to us today.

People demand the Word (Nehemiah 8:1) I pray that we will demand that the word of God be proclaimed and a covenant will be renewed, “When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate. They told Ezra to bring out the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded for Israel.” The Holy Spirit must implant within us a hunger to know God’s word. If we don’t have this hunger we need to pray for it and take a step in faith and join a Bible study. We need the encouragement and accountability provided in group study.
Teachers help in understanding (Nehemiah 8:8) “They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.” Leaders and teachers who have the fear of the Lord help us in our understanding. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. ” (2 Timothy 2:15). Those that don’t believe the word is truth should not be teaching in our schools and seminaries.
Family leadership takes responsibility (Nehemiah 8:13) “On the second day of the month, the heads of all the families, along with the priests and Levites, gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law.” This is the priesthood of all believers. We can’t just rely on our pastors and teachers, we need to engage and take responsibility ourselves. It is great that Word Alone has a Theological Advisory Board and faithful pastors and leaders but God expects everyone to read and study.
In Matthew 22:29 Jesus said, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” If we have been given the gift of literacy we don’t have an excuse for not studying.
Quality and quantity (Nehemiah 8:18) “Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly.” I am finally learning this lesson of reading “day after day” after years of avoidance (sin). Jesus said," I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” So if that’s his bar, I’ve got a long ways to go to know and follow every promise and command. The result for me is just like the Israelites, Üthey wept” (Nehemiah 8:9) for the wasted years. But then their mourning turned to joy!

The results for the Israelites were repentance, revival, celebration (Nehemiah 12) and backsliding (Nehemiah 13). If you have a challenge ahead of you, a project that has gone awry or a family that is more focused on basketball than God’s ballgame, read the Book of Nehemiah. Read for yourself and be able to answer the question, “Is the Book of Nehemiah true?”

God bless you!

P.S. Here are a few questions for those of you that take the challenge to read Nehemiah

  • What were Nehemiah’s characteristics of leadership? (Chapter 1-13)
  • List some principles of teamwork in Nehemiah. (Chapter 3, 4)
  • What kinds of opposition did Nehemiah encounter? (Chapter 2 ,4)
  • How did Nehemiah counter the real threats he faced? (Chapter 4, 6)
  • Where do I see opposition to our work?
  • Where do I listen to taunts or threats?
  • In my work are there clear assignments of responsibility?
  • Am I encouraging others that may be facing opposition?
  • Am I communicating clearly with others when there is a job to do? Do I communicate to be understood or communicate so that I can’t be misunderstood?
  • When we finish a job do we dedicate God’s work and celebrate? (Chapter 12)
  • Where have I held people accountable and where have I let things slide? (Chapter 13)
  • When I listened to opposition what were the results?
  • When I kept my eyes on God, despite opposition, what were the results?