Read His Words Before Ours!
Leadership positions are challenging.
When people look up to a leader for guidance and direction, the leader may be tempted to think he’s better than his followers and become full of himself. On the other hand, if a leader is intimidated by the demands of his role, he may feel incapacitated and lead others to be ineffective. As leaders, if we depend on our human effort, we are likely to fall victim to one of these unhealthy scenarios, neither of which glorify God.
Whatever position of leadership God has given us, we are His ambassadors. The earthly life of Jesus Christ is our practical example; as He ministered, He said, “I do as the Father commanded Me.” (John 14:31) Likewise, before He returned to Heaven, Jesus asked Peter, one of His disciples, three times if he loved Him. At Peter’s positive responses, Jesus commissioned, “Feed my lambs,” and again, “Shepherd my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
Jesus’ emphasis indicates what biblical leadership entails.
As leaders, we are responsible for the people and accountable to God.
God calls us to care for His people and help them become who He made them to be.
As governor over Judah, Nehemiah modeled this type of leadership. He was confronted with challenges, both without and within, yet was not found wanting. He contended with enemies who were bent on stopping Jerusalem’s wall project. While he concentrated on rebuilding, Jewish nobles and officials compounded his problem by oppressing the less privileged.
“There was a wide outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish countrymen.” (Nehemiah 5:1) Their own countrymen had subjected them to poverty and slavery by lending to them with high interest and seizing their properties when they were unable to pay. Nehemiah described his response, “I became extremely angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints.” (Nehemiah 5:6) The unjust behavior of the Jewish nobles and officials prompted righteous anger in Nehemiah. He perceived their behaviour as contrary to God’s standard of caring for people.
Jesus acted with this righteous anger when He drove out money changers and sellers from the temple. He said they had turned His Father’s house into a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:12-13) As Jesus was passionate about doing the will of His Father, likewise Nehemiah was also passionate in keeping with God’s standard in leadership.
Nehemiah summoned the people after careful consideration. He accused the nobles and the officials of behaving reproachfully for lending to their fellow Jews with interest and seizing their properties. He asked them to stop charging interest when lending, and instructed them to return to the people their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses they had seized. (Nehemiah 5:7-11)
A quality worth emulating from Nehemiah’s leadership is not allowing emotion to be the driver. We may have good reasons for being angry with the actions of our followers, but when we are unable to control our emotions, we are likely to compound issues.
In fact, the Bible tells us Nehemiah considered the matter carefully before taking action, despite his anger. (Nehemiah 5:7) He composed himself and handled his emotions with maturity. When he rebuked the people with self-control, they became remorseful, and promised to do as he commanded. Nehemiah charged them with an oath to obey God or face His curse. Instead of becoming angry and defiant, the people praised God. (Nehemiah 5:12-13) Nehemiah’s rebuke led to willful repentance and restitution.
Like Nehemiah, as leaders, we are God’s instruments to ensure righteousness prevails where He has placed us to represent Him. In this regard, the Apostle Paul charged Timothy, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine[.]” (2 Timothy 4:2-3) We must lead those under us to God’s standard, even if doing so involves rebuke.
Nehemiah’s rebuke was effective because of the trust he’d built with his people through his genuine care for them. He loved his people and sacrificed much for them. He declined his privileges as a governor because he sympathized with their suffering, unlike his predecessors who “heavily burdened the people, taking from them food and wine as well as a pound of silver.” (Nehemiah 5:15) We can be inspired by Nehemiah’s approach to leadership, sacrificing when necessary for the betterment of those we lead.
A leader has a responsibility to care for his people and hold them to God’s standard, as Nehemiah did.
He expressed his anger against the unjust deeds of the nobles and the officials when they extorted the poor.
He was self-controlled and courageous; he rebuked them with maturity leading to their repentance and restitution.
He had compassion on the people and sacrificed his privileges as a governor.
His exemplary life challenged and encouraged Jewish nobles and officials to repentance and restitution, while leading them to reach their goal. Sisters, may we be challenged to learn from and emulate Nehemiah’s Godly leadership, partnering with Him in the fulfillment of His plans for our communities!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!