Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Nehemiah - A Lesson in Leadership & Revival

I stepped out of the office this afternoon, to peak in on the ladies bible study.  I was curious what they were studying, and learned they were going through the book of Nehemiah. I decided that I would reacquaint myself with that book, the following is what I surmised.

The book of Nehemiah is a continuation of the book of Ezra, in fact originally it was all one book. It is a story of Jerusalem's restoration and renewal resulting in revival.  I consistently hear the cries and prayers for revival and I, as much as anyone desire to see that come to fruition. The conclusion of the book of Ezra demonstrates that revival is a result of the convicting of the spirit, through the remembrance of both God’s grace and justice, which results in a commitment to worship, confession, repentance and resolve to serve the one true God. 

While the books of Ezra and Nehemiah can be used as a case study in revival, the book of Nehemiah also serves as a wonderful example of  leadership.  Nehemiah himself, was a man of integrity, courage, and boldness yet at the same time tenderness and prayer.

Nehemiah’s heart is burdened with the responsibility of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and seeing it's people restored.. The first thing Nehemiah does with this burden is to take it to the Lord in prayer, seeking His will, guidance and direction. He did not act abruptly or rashly but waited, months for God to provide an opportunity for him to proceed. Nehemiah faced opposition and defamation and yet he pressed on and found strength in the Lord to complete the task he was called to. ~A leader of prayer & patience

One of the things that struck me initially in the book of Nehemiah was his practice of praying the word and promises of God as evident in verse 1:8-10. Praying the promises of God is not something I have done regularly as part of my prayer, but as result of reading this, I am reminded to make it a more regular prayer practice. The overall form of Nehemiah’s prayer documented in verse 1:5-11, stood out for me, not sure why it was, but I was attentive to the elements included, such as addressing the nature of God, confessing to God, praying the word and promises of God. I found it a very enlightening and endearing prayer. ~A leader of prayer & confession

I loved what Nehemiah is quoted as saying in verse 2:2 “I was very much afraid, but I said to the king…” emphasis on the "but".  Though fear could have held him back he pressed onwards, he was humble and authentic in documenting his fear, and thus giving God the glory. ~ A leader with Boldness & Courage

I loved that Nehemiah continually sought God’s leadership in his life and efforts.A man of prayer, trusting in God, wanting to ensure he is doing God’s will, Nehemiah prayed to God for direction as he stood before the king, before answering his question. "The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven," ~2:4 Yet though he was a man of prayer, Nehemiah was also a man of preparation, he played His part as evident in verse 4:9, where yes, he indeed prayed but he also took responsible action by placing a “…guard day and night to meet this threat”. It happens perhaps too easily and too often, that as Christians we fall into a pattern of prayer, without taking the responsibility of being a people of preparation and action. When we are left wondering why it is that God has not moved among us, or provided for us, perhaps we need to evaluate if we were prepared to accomplish what God had for us to do,or maybe we are praying for God to act, when in fact God is calling us to move, to get off our knees and do that which he has provided and prepared us to do. I love the balance that Nehemiah presents as a man of God – a leader of both prayer and dependence on God, but action and responsibility as well.

Though Nehemiah was mocked and ridiculed, though he faced false accusation and criticism he refused to be discouraged, he went to God in prayer and he continued to rebuild the wall, and he did so with all his heart.

Nehemiah was a leader who led by example, he was not above the people, but was right there alongside them, working with them, in the thick of the labour, working as hard if not harder than each man to ensure the work was completed. [4:23] When Nehemiah recognized a problem, he did not complain about it or give it to another to address, he took it upon himself. Take for example the exacting of usury by the nobles and officials, before even addressing the perpetrators, he first assisted the victims by “…lending the people money and grain” and then sought resolution and restitution. Nehemiah also focuses on community. The cooperative work of the returned exiles made it possible for them to come together and form a tight community. ~ ~ A tender leader with integrity

Like Ezra, Nehemiah also focuses on the fact that Scripture is the driving force that brings the exiles back to the Lord, particularly the Law of Moses. The importance of the word of the law, and obedience to God’s word is again imperative for revival. If we want revival in our own hearts, churches and communities I would suggest we would do well to return to the word of the Lord – to teaching God’s word, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. I have often heard it said, especially by my generation and those younger than I, that they are no longer taught the word of the Lord, the fear of the Lord. Instead it has become a self-help book of divine proportions. As a matter of fact, I just recently had someone tell me that the reason they attend a Christadelphian bible study is because though they do not agree with the doctrine, and attend a mainline church, it is the only place they have found a true, deep study of God’s word.

If one was to document a formula for leadership, it could be taken straight from the pages of Nehemiah. While the formula for revival based on the evidence of scripture, at least from the Ezra-Nehemiah experience, would include conviction of disobedience based on the teaching of God’s word, a confession of sin, an admission of God’s sovereignty, faithfulness and righteous justice, a repentance from sin, a covenant to be set-apart as God’s people to do God’s will, a dedication of our lives to God celebrated with rejoicing and praise to God for his mercy, grace and goodness. Revival is a result of more than just prayer - it requires our repentance and action - let us be and train up leaders like Nehemiah who will guide us to this end.

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