Character Sketches » Nehemiah
One of the most inspiring and authoritative examples of leadership and management in all of scripture is Nehemiah. It would be well for us to consider the reasons for the success of this eminent man of God and draw comparisons and give applications for our own daily Christian walk.
Of utmost importance in anyone's life and in any sphere of time and activity is a trait that was exemplified in this man; that of prayer! His prayer wasn't a perfunctory exercise but
a part of his living and working. This is verified in the following verses:Nehemiah 1:4
a heart without prayer than to have prayer without heart." Fenelon has said, "Pray simply from the heart, from pure love, and not from the head, from intellect alone." What an encouragement to pray as we ought and not carelessly as we sometimes do with little thought to who we are speaking to. Leonard Ravenhill, a modern day prophet, states unequivocally that "No man is greater than his prayer life." Can this be the reason we
are so lacking in spiritual power and strength in our generation? Have we forgotten how
to pray or have we ever really learned? Another prominent man of God, E. M. Bounds is quoted as saying, "Every preacher who does not make prayer a mighty factor in his own life and ministry is weak as a factor in God's work and is powerless to project God's cause in this world." Everyone who ever was anything for God counted prayer to be the foremost of considerations in their lives. Failing to pray we fail in every area of our lives. It is obvious that without communion with He alone who enables us; all else is vain and fruitless. Nehemiah was not ignorant of this need and obviously took full advantage of it. Much more could be said concerning this subject, but all we could write would still be insufficient to stress the importance of prayer. "Practice makes perfect!"
Nehemiah also honored God's Word. He believed it and acted upon it as observed in Nehemiah 1:8 & 9, 8:1-10, and 13:1-9. He reminded God of His word in Chapter one verse 8. I believe that he was thoroughly convinced of its validity and the power behind it because through it he accomplished much. Martin Luther has stated, "The saints, indeed, know God's Word and can discourse of it, but the practice of it is another matter; therein we shall ever remain scholars. He who loses sight of the Word of God falls into despair; the voice of Heaven no longer sustains him; he follows only the disorderly tendency of his heart, and of worldly vanity, which leads him on to his destruction." How terribly important it is that we adhere to God's Word and how utterly devastating it is for those who depart from it or reject it altogether. We must emulate Nehemiah in this respect also! We must thoroughly acknowledge and greedily consume God's Word to grow in Him and serve His purposes! There is a further note of caution necessary here because of a practice which seems all too common among us today. Arthur T. Pie rson in his book "Godly Self Control" expresses this thought about honoring God's Word, "Thoughtless, irreverent quotations of scripture and punning upon texts are profane, for the fun lies in connecting a ludicrous association with the utterances of he Holy Spirit." We would do well to consider how we use God's Word. We are to read it, study it, believe it and obey it!
Nehemiah was not only a man of prayer and the word but also a witness of God's faithfulness and one who gave God the glory due Him as shown in verses 1:5, 2:18, 4:20, 6:16, 7:15 and 8:10. Management is substantially improved in any area of life as we seek God and His Word and credit Him for His work. No man or woman of God can ever manage to his or her fullest capacity apart from these three things.
Glorifying God and witnessing of Him in all things good is of extreme importance, and Nehemiah did this well. I believe aside from the above traits that no man can possess any other characteristic of true and lasting value toward God or man. Because of these three things Nehemiah was also a man of many other necessary attributes of leadership and management. The second part of this treatise will examine and consider them.
Nehemiah was a man of courage in the face of great danger. He withstood Sanballat, ridicule, loose marriage laws, Sabbath desecration, laxity in tithings, and even rubbish. He was filled with "holy boldness." He said, "Should such a man as I flee?" and "I will not go in." (6:11) He would not go into the temple to save his life. He confronted nobles and rulers and even threw an evil man's belongings out of the temple of God. (5:7, 13:8,11 and 17) We must be prepared to stand firm in our convictions and die if necessary for the cause of Christ!
Nehemiah was a humble man who wrote of himself, "I was the king's cup bearer." (1:11) He was not too proud to weep. (1:4) He didn't claim glory for himself but glorified God even though a great work was being done through him. Pride is an ever present tempter and, at times, an awesome antagonist and very subtle deceiver. Jeremiah 17:9 clearly tells us that, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Anyone who is in leadership must deal decisively with this enemy of our souls! "Pride makes a man self-sufficient and unteachable. It blinds him to his own needs. It causes him to ignore the good counsel and advice of others." - Leroy Eims We often hear the phrase "proud as a peacock." People love to see peacocks because their plumage is so beautiful, but the sound of a peacock's voice drives men away. Many men and women are also beautiful in outward appearance but filled with the stench of pride, and when they speak their words and tone betray them. We desperately need God's help in dealing with our pride. He alone can help us as He helped Nehemiah to be clothed with humility and true godliness.
We could go on to discuss Nehemiah's persistence, fear of God, dependency, independence, and inter-dependence, keen foresight, consideration for others, impartiality and generous appreciation and encouragement of others which are all so vital to management, but these would comprise a book. Instead I have chosen a few things that must be discussed, in my opinion, because they are very important.
One which may surprise some readers is that Nehemiah was a man quite capable of intense anger. Seldom is this considered a good attribute, but properly controlled and directed it is! Harry Emerson Fosdick states, "A good Christian is a man of wrath. His wrath is the negative electricity at one end of his life, caused by the positive electricity of his love at the other end, and by a law of eternal necessity the two are equal." Dwight L. Moody said, "That very word anger in the scriptures is one of the very strongest evidences and expressions of God's love.", and Arthur T. Pierson wrote, "Anger may be dangerous, but the absence of it is a greater danger still; it leaves man to be a mere jellyfish; Hence the Bible does not say, 'Be Not Angry', but 'be angry' and sin not." A good leader would be a man of great love and great wrath. Nehemiah sets forth this example for us also in verses 5:6-7 and 1:2-4.
Another quality that Nehemiah showed that is essential to good leadership and management is unselfishness. He showed this at the very beginning when he renounced luxury, position and salary to undertake a tiring and dangerous trip to attempt an extremely difficult job and risk his life among some bloodthirsty enemies. He continued in encouraging and defending people, by intense intercession and in many ways being a fine example to them. Fosdick says, "The inevitable expression of real Christianity is a life of sacrificial service." Oswald Chambers states, "Never look for justice, but never cease to give it." Even Christ pleased not Himself, and a man of God whose life paralleled his preaching J. Oswald Sanders stated, "Example is much more potent than precept." So we can know that Nehemiah's example surely shows us the need for unselfish service.
Finally it must be noted that Nehemiah was a very good organizer. He got letters to the governors through whose territories he was to pass (2:7), a letter to the keeper of the king's forest so he could get the required timber for his project (2:8), and he made a careful survey and appraisal before making detailed plans (2:11-16). He also made a detailed list of all persons available and dispensed the responsibilities (13:30). He mentioned subordinates by name and the place they worked giving them recognition and a sense of being important. He was wise in delegating responsibility (7:2). This verse also showed the high standards he set and expected from his subordinates. Quite clearly Nehemiah was always aware of the complete situation and knew how to handle it.
In summary, he was a man of prayer, God's Word, humble, a faithful witness, a courageous man, persistent, impartial, generous, encouraging, angry and self-denying man, and with all these, a very good organizer. Above everything else, he was a man who loved and was devoted to God!
A final statement in God's Word measures the capability and success of this man of God. His objective was finished - "So the wall was finished." (6:15) May we, like Nehemiah, hear our Lord say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant!"
C. R. Lord © 1980