Leaders Are Discerning (Nehemiah 6)
Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “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?” (Nehemiah 6:2-3 ESV)
Nehemiah wasn’t fooled by the tricks of the enemy, they were offering now to help with the rebuild and cease opposing its progress. Most leaders may have been excited to see the new change in the opposition, but not Nehemiah. Nehemiah discerned their true and ultimate intention was to harm him, not to help him. I enjoy what Warren Wiersbe says on this matter:
“Once the enemy gets a foothold in a ministry, he starts to weaken the work from within; and ultimately, the work will fail. While cooperation in the Lord’s work is a noble thing, leaders must take care that they cooperate with the right people at the right time for the right purpose; otherwise they may end up cooperating with the enemy. Satan is a master deceiver and has his servants ready to join hands with God’s people so he can weaken their hands in the work (2 Cor. 11:13–15).” (Wiersbe, 1996, pp. 71-72)
There is great strength in the denial of help, when we can discern the outcome of such partnering. This reminds me of the city of Pittsburgh and the casino they allowed to be built. The thought was that it will boost the economy, which it has. Yet, the leaders failed to see further down the road than just “the now”. We now have gambling as a city addiction. Once casinos roll in, soon other things begin to creep in like: more drug use, sex trafficking such as prostitution, gambling addictions and more alcohol consumption. In the long run, this casino may in fact be the assistant to helping the City of Pittsburgh go south.
Nehemiah could tell that these old enemies although they were playing nice now would soon become his enemies again after they “help” rebuild the wall.
“And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me”(Nehemiah 6:12-13 ESV).
Nehemiah was a discerning leader in more than one instance, here we see him seeing the true person who sent a person to him. He saw that this certain man was not indeed sent by God and that what his words were false. Leaders need to know which people to listen to because it could spell disaster for us in the future if we listen to the wrong people. Here we see Nehemiah discerning the voice to be not from God and we should pray for the same discernment in our own lives. I’ve seen a lot of leaders listening to “Wormtonuge” and not listening to God and in so doing have shipwrecked their leadership roles and the churches they were leading.
Here, I think the illustration of counterfeit money comes into play. The police force in charge of detecting counterfeit money in order to determine what is counterfeit and what is real study the real money closely. They spend time learning it, understanding it and they have a deep rooted understanding of the real thing. This deep knowledge of the real deal helps them to easily spot that which is fake. When we spend intimate time with the Lord and get to hear His heart beat and allow His Spirit to speak deeply into our lives, we, like Nehemiah will be able to very quickly determine or discern that which is fake. This thought and idea challenges me to become intimate more and more with my Lord, so when a person “not from the Lord” appears in my path with some “direction” I will be able to quickly determine whether or not they are from the Lord.
Nehemiah’s intimacy with the Lord was directly connected to his intimacy with the Word of God! Warren Wiersbe says: “Nehemiah rejected Shemaiah’s proposal because it was contrary to the Law of Moses. It was forbidden for a layman to go beyond the altar of burnt offering at the temple. “The outsider who comes near shall be put to death” (Num. 18:7, NKJV). When King Uzziah tried to invade the holy precincts, God smote him with leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16–21). Nehemiah knew that Shemaiah was a false prophet because the message he delivered was contradictory to the Word of God”. (Wiersbe, 1996, p. 76)
Leaders Remember God’s Goodness (Nehemiah 9)
Nehemiah chapter 9 is all about repenting and remembering the goodness of God. After rediscovering the Word of God in Nehemiah chapter 8, the people realize their own sin and the Goodness of their God. The Law spoke so deeply to their hearts that they realized just how sinful they have become and they had no more reason to be confused about God’s seeming have abandoning them, which of course he didn’t…he simply removed his blessing and allowed them to become captured. This deeper understanding of God’s Word then turned them back to their God and chapter 9 recounts this beautiful turning back. All of this, the Law reading and the repenting were led by Nehemiah. Nehemiah was a man who knew his faults and sins and realized his complete and utter dependence upon the Lord. The entire book is littered with Nehemiah confessing his dependence upon God and how it was God (not himself) that was doing the work of rebuilding and doing the work of allowing the rebuilding to happen. His dependence and confession thereof is a beautiful picture of leadership. We must recognize the goodness of God in gifting us with the abilities we have. We can’t claim our gifts…we had no choice in the matter, God chose and the Holy Spirit delivered those gifts. Nehemiah recognized this and his example caused the entire nation to confess their own junk and in turn remember the goodness of God by recounting aloud his wonderful works!
Leaders Sign First (Nehemiah 10)
After the repenting and remembering the goodness of God, the leaders decided that they were going to make a covenant to follow the law. This they would declare to the people of Jerusalem and sign a document in front of them all proving the seriousness in what they were about to undertake. Seeing the severity of their sins and the great goodness of God convicted them to change their lives and the leaders decided to go first. The great thing I notice in chapter 10 is that at the top of the list, #1 is Nehemiah…he signed the document first! This may seem like a small principle of leadership or a small gesture by Nehemiah, but I think it speaks volumes! If God is calling for a change and the leaders feel convicted about the need to make the change…the leaders step up and change first. This is so not only to let the people see that it’s possible, but to assure the people that they as leaders aren’t asking of the people anything that they themselves aren’t willing to do.
When I was in college and for a time after I worked in the restaurant business as a server and had many managers above me. The managers that worked at Chili’s with me were men who would ask their staff to work harder or do more stuff, or pull their weight more but they themselves were unwilling to do that themselves. Many servers lost respect for these “leaders” and in so doing became lazier then they were before! Leaders who call for change, whether radical or not must be willing to make the change first and like Nehemiah sign the covenant of change before anyone else does.
Leaders Celebrate Wins (Nehemiah 12)
“And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres.” (Nehemiah 12:27, ESV)
Lastly in the book of Nehemiah I see a leader who celebrates wins. Leaders need to show emotion when things go right, there must be a celebration when we come to the completion of a project and see what the Lord has done. It’s really cool to see the excitement that Nehemiah and the people have at the end when the wall is successfully rebuilt. Not only was the wall built, but God changed the hearts of the people through the building of the wall…that’s something worth celebrating! I have experienced in the church a lack of celebration for what God does, too often we chock it up as normative and ignore the wins that God sends our way. I think this is wrong and I enjoy seeing the recognition here in the book of Nehemiah! I believe that we as leaders need to be more positive and find wins (not making them up mind you, but real live wins) where and when we can and then celebrate them! When we start leading with celebration at what God is doing and has done the people will be spurred on and re-ignited and they will remember the God-task they are on while following the leader!
I always say to my youth leaders that I am so excited during youth group because I desire to spur my teens on through my excitement: if I’m excited they’ll be excited, but on the other hand if I’m not excited, they won’t be either. Celebrating wins helps us be excited and in turn our flame of excitement will ignite others around us and the work of God can advance all the more!
As can be seen, there are many leadership principles which come forth in the book of Nehemiah. This book has been an inspiration to me and I know that by the help of the Holy Spirit I hope to implement all of these leadership principles into my own life and leadership.