Workplace Devotionals

April 2, 2012

Lessons from Nehemiah

Filed under: Uncategorized — ejwcpa @ 4:53 pm

Nehemiah is one of my favorite books of the Bible, and a great book to learn about being a leader and conducting business.  While there are dozens of lessons to be learned from Nehemiah, I’d like to share a few that stood out to me as I studied.

  1. Before doing anything, you must have a vision from God (Nehemiah 1:4).  When Nehemiah heard the news that the people were in great trouble and disgrace, the walls were broken down, and the gates burned; he sat and wept then mourned and fasted for days.  This is a strong reaction.  Even more remarkable is that the fall of Jerusalem was in 586, the exiles with Ezra returned in 458 (128 years later) and Nehemiah has this reaction in 444, 142 years after the fall of Jerusalem, and 14 years after the exiles had returned.  This is a powerful reaction to news that is 142 years old.  This is like someone giving you the news that Lincoln has been assassinated and you mourning for days because of it.  Nehemiah’s reaction toward the news of Jerusalem’s current state can only be attributed to a vision from God to compel Nehemiah to react is such a way.  God gave Nehemiah the vision and mission to go back and rebuild the walls in Jerusalem.
  2. Action starts with prayer (1:5-11a, 2:4, 4:4-5, 4:9, 5:19, 6:9, 6:14, 13:14, 22b, 29, 31b).  Nehemiah prays early and often and throughout the book of Nehemiah.  He prays for little things, small things, wisdom, strength, protection, thanksgiving.  Nehemiah is a “prayer warrior.”  It is also interesting that most of the prayers recorded in Nehemiah are short, one sentence prayers, sometimes quickly added in the midst of conversation.  Too often I think we feel the need to have lengthy drawn out prayers, as if praying longer will make us more spiritual, or at least, make us look more spiritual in the eyes of others.  We forget that prayer is our conversations with God, and not meant for others.  Jesus takes this further in his teachings, when he explains prayer as recorded in Matthew 6:5-8.
  3. Join with others by communicating the vision effectively and appropriately (2:3-5).  Nehemiah’s ability to communicate his vision effectively at the appropriate time to the appropriate person allowed for God’s vision to be carried out.  Nehemiah boldly approached the king looking sad (at that time a good way to be killed, servants were expected to have a cheerful disposition around the king at all times) and then spoke to the king about what was bothering him, tactfully explaining the problem in a way that would appeal to the king (i.e. starting out the conversation by referring to the city as being the place where his fathers were buried, something that would resonate with the king).  Carrying out a vision of any kind always requires the help of others.  Getting others on board requires the vision to be clearly articulated.  People don’t like follow a poor vision, or a vision that they do not buy into.
  4. You will need contributions from those around you of time, work, funding, and supplies (Priests 3:1, goldsmith and perfume makers 3:8, rulers 3:9, daughters 3:12, Nehemiah himself 4:23, 7:70-72, 10:32-39).  Big visions need large amounts of people to carry out.  You can’t do it alone.  In tasks to change or uplift an entire church or business, it requires everyone to help out, not just a few, not just the leaders, but the whole body.  Rarely, if ever is there a successful person who did everything working on his own.  Because of the great help from all the people, the wall was rebuilt in just 52 days.
  5. Be bold (2:6-8).  Nehemiah displayed great boldness, first by approaching the king with a sad countenance, risking death, then by speaking his desire directly to the most powerful person in the land, and challenging the king to take part in the mission and challenging him with the queen sitting there.  One must be bold to challenge a man in front of his woman.  Nehemiah knew his calling and his mission, and was not afraid to step out and take the risks to accomplish that mission.
  6. Deal with critics appropriately and stay focused on the task at hand (2:10, 19-20, 4:1-5, 4:7-8, 3:5, 5:1-13, 6:1-8, 6:16, 6:17-19).  If you are doing something big, and are being successful, other people aren’t going to like it.  When doing God’s will there is almost assuredly going to be someone in your life that doesn’t like it or doesn’t understand it, or just wants to be an annoyance to you.  The case was no different with Nehemiah.  Throughout the book he is plagued with critics, most notably, Tobiah and Sanballat.  The critics responded with anger toward Nehemiah, mockery, trickery, gossip, and even tried to incite surrounding people to attacks.  Nehemiah responded with calm, with focus on his task, with the Word of God, and as necessary responded with physical defense.  But Nehemiah never sinned in his responses and never wavered from the task at hand.
  7. Know God’s Word (6:10-13, 8:1-9).  In Chapter 6, a false prophet tries to incite Nehemiah into disobeying God’s word and hiding in the temple, that he might be turned over to his enemies. Nehemiah, knowing the word and knowing that he was forbidden from entering the temple, refused and thwarted the plan.  Later, in chapter 8, in what might be the most amazing scripture in the Bible, the people all stand for several hours, listen to the reading of the word.  At one point in the narrative, verses 4:17-18, Nehemiah mentions that the people worked with a sword in hand on on their belt.  They worked with their tools in one hand and a sword in the other.  Later in the New Testament, the sword is compared to the Bible, the word of God.  We, likewise, should work with the tools of our trade in one had, and God’s word in the other.
  8. Success is not a one-time goal, its an ongoing project.  Throughout Nehemiah, the job is never really done, it’s a continuing process.  First the wall are built, then the gates.  After that the law is read and the people repent.  With the wall built the city is repopulated.  With new leadership in place, Nehemiah later returns to offer correction.  Success is ongoing, and work is required after the initial project is completed.
  9. Build good leaders to carry on the work (Chapter 13).  Starting the work requires a strong leader as we see in Nehemiah.  At some point that work will be carried on by someone other than the pioneer.  Some of the original leaders fail from in their original role and require correction.  One person, even Nehemiah, can’t do it all himself and requires leaders under him.  The ongoing success depends on these leaders, and thus the necessity for always building up new and better leaders.

Nehemiah has a lot to teach us, the list could continue for a long time.  These are a few points that stood out to me.


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