Summary: Nehemiah is a book about leadership. How do we get started?
In 2016 we had one of the most interesting presidential elections we have had in decades. Perhaps ever. Of course the win went to Donald Trump, a man with zero background in politics but he hit on several things that really spoke to the people and it got him elected. Finances. The economy. Because of his success in the world of finance, many believed he could help our economy. Healthcare. We have had a system that was completely broken and many believed he could offer a better plan.
There were several other areas of course but the central theme in his campaign was that of building a wall-a wall that would stretch across the entire border between the United States and Mexico. It seemed to propel him into the Oval Office-now he is faced with all of the difficulties of building a wall that is projected that it could cost up to $70 billion to build and $150 million a year to maintain.
This morning we begin a new sermon series in the book of Nehemiah called Biblical Leadership. Nehemiah was faced with a very similar situation. This is what was happening. Jerusalem had been in ruins for many years. In 586 King Nebuchadnezzar and his army captured the Jews; in the process Jerusalem was destroyed, the walls were torn down and the temple was burned. The people were taken out and they were forced into slavery. Now, it has all happened again. History had come full circle. They had already been down this path before-now here they were again. Jerusalem had been destroyed.
Now this wall was important. In fact it was more than important. It was necessary. For several reasons.
1. Without a wall they were subject to constant attack’. They ran the risk of losing everything they had worked for. It just was not safe.
2. Without a wall the temple was not really complete. This is really the work of 2 Leaders-Ezra AND Nehemiah. God led Ezra to build the Temple and He led Nehemiah to build the walls. But here’s the deal-if the walls were unfinished, the temple was considered to be unfinished as well. It was all considered to be one project. Without a wall no city in that day was considered to be safe. Robbers, gangs, even wild animals could all make their way into the city and so the people had no peace. Because there was no protection. At this point, remember, the temple is finished-very richly decorated and the greater the value of things in the city, the greater the opportunity or theft.
I would put it this way….
No wall means no city and no city means no temple.
Under King Zerubbabel, when the wall was built previously- get this- this took 94 years. Under Nehemiah’s leadership it was accomplished in 52 days. So this was nothing short of amazing. And that is why I want us to look closer at this book and learn what made Nehemiah such a powerful leader. Because this is what I believe. Our church will only grow as our leadership grows. If I am not growing as a leader, the church will not grow. If our leadership is not growing it basically puts a lid on the growth of the congregation. Today we begin our 19th year as your pastor and worship leader. This church begins their 19th year. So we have now turned 18. And when you turn 18, things change. Right? Here are a few things you can do once you turn 18. Buy a lottery ticket. Open a bank account. Enlist in the Army. Vote. Go skydiving. Jury duty. Buy fireworks.
So in some ways when you’re 18, you’re a bit of a grown up and I want to say to you that it is time for more of you to step into leadership positions here in the church. So let’s look at this man named Nehemiah. Chapter 1 tells us that Nehemiah had been appointed to the office of Cupbearer. The Cupbearer had a great responsibility because he was charged with the job of making sure the king was safe and that no one could poison his drinks. So Nehemiah would guard him from being poisoned. At times he would be required to test his drinks personally before serving it to the king. So not just anyone could fill this position.
The story opens and things are just not right with Nehemiah. He is burdened and for a good reason. Look at verse 3. Then Nehemiah responds in this way verse 4.
1. Leadership begins with a burden. A calling. You don’t simply wake up one day and you’re suddenly a leader. We often say that leaders are born, not made but no one is born made. Leadership must be developed. Not everyone becomes a leader but those who do must start right here. They start with a calling. Nehemiah did recognize that God was preparing him to lead. He had been 1000 miles away, he was comfortable, had a good paycheck... He was able to feed 150 people a day. And here’s this news. And this is his response. The Bible says he sat down and wept. He grieved. He fasted. So the building of the wall didn’t start with mixing cement; it started with a burden. A calling to build the wall but before it all started-he mourned-he fasted-he wept. People weep about a lot of things. Right? Weddings. People cry when their children leave home. We cry over the birth of our children and grandchildren. Cry at sad movies. Nehemiah cried over a broken wall.