Summary: If I were asked to point to a great leader and the Bible (other than Jesus), I would point to Nehemiah. This sermon series will show many reasons why this is the case.
If someone asked me what I believed the best book in the bible on Leadership is, I would tell them to go straight to Nehemiah. Every single chapter in this book gives us great characteristics of a godly leader. In this lesson, I would like to look at the first 2 chapters of this great book, to show just a few characteristics of this great man of God.
But first, let’s look at the historical context surrounding this book:
Around 586bc, the southern Nation of Judah went into Babylonian captivity as was predicted by Jeremiah & the prophets for many years. They were in captivity for 70 years until Cyrus, the King of the Persian Empire allowed them to return to Judea to rebuild Jerusalem. They went to Jerusalem and started to build the temple. They laid the foundations for the temple, but the work stopped because of their enemies.
LATER Haggai and Zachariah came and encouraged them by the word of God that they should get back to work on the temple, to stop building their own houses and to build the Lord’s house that was still not built. Later Ezra led people back to Jerusalem and made many religious reforms due to teaching of the Law. Then around 445bc, about 13 years after Ezra returned and about 70 years after the first Jewish captives returned, we read about Nehemiah.
WHO WAS NEHEMIAH?
Nehemiah was the cup-bearer of the Persian King, which was a high position of influence. Only a man of integrity would be given this duty. We see just in his position that he was a highly trustworthy and dependable man. The cup-bearer was the one who would taste the wine and the food before the king did so that the king would not be poisoned. You don’t want someone that you cannot trust doing that job. This was a significant position.
In Nehemiah we see a great man who led the people to do great things. We are going to look at in this lesson some principles that made Nehemiah a good leader and servant of God. Hopefully we see a few things in this lesson that we can apply to our own lives as disciples of the Lord. I would like to answer 3 questions: why was Nehemiah was a great leader? What motivated Him to lead? and why did the people follow him?
The first thing we learn in this book that made him a great leader is:
1. That he cared for the people of God.
Read Nehemiah 1:1-4
He cared about the people of God. One of his brothers comes and he asks about the welfare of Jerusalem, but first of all he asks about the people. His first concern was the people. When he found out that they were in distress and that the walls were broken down and that they had no protection from their enemies, he mourned. He wept, he prayed, and he fasted for many days. That is the first sign of a great leader. A great leader cares for the people of God. In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul describes all of the sufferings that he endured, and just as we saw in our “Greetings and Salutations” class, Paul had the daily concern, a deep concern about the welfare of the churches.
That is what Nehemiah felt. Nehemiah cared, and it showed, just as with the apostle Paul; it showed in ACTION. He ended up leaving his comfortable life and significant position for a mission of leading the building of the walls of Jerusalem. He left his comfortable life because of his concern for his Jewish brethren.
Read Nehemiah 2:10
What a great comment that is said here about Nehemiah’s leadership. He sought the well-being of the children of Israel. That is where true leadership begins. This is what motivated him to lead!
Nehemiah wasn’t motivated by a lust for power, or authority. He didn’t want a position of importance or wealth. He was motivated by a passion for the people of God.
Back to ch 1
2. Another reason that Nehemiah was a great leader was because he was a prayerful leader. Nehemiah was a man of prayer. Let’s take a look at his prayer.
Read Nehemiah 1:5-11
We see here that Nehemiah was a humble man in prayer. He tells God of His greatness, and then He tells him of his own corruption. He asked God to hear his prayer, even though he had sinned against him. We must see that praying to the Creator of the Universe is a privilege that we are given by the grace of God. We don’t deserve the privilege. We must, just as Nehemiah, honestly examine our own hearts before the Lord. We are talking to the Holy God. It should be a humbling experience to us.