Summary: Willing Leaders Are Followed By Willing People
Willing Leaders Are Followed By Willing People
While it’s always easy to find people who want to be “in charge,” it’s far more difficult to find people of character and ability who will step into roles of leadership. Israel faced a chronic crisis of leadership during the days of the judges, when “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg. 21:25). Few could be found who were willing and able to offer moral and spiritual direction.
Perhaps that’s why Deborah, in her song of praise composed after Israel’s victory over Jabin and Sisera, celebrated willing leaders followed by willing people (5:2, 9). Apparently the people were willing to follow if they could find leaders who would lead rather than despots who would dominate or rule with absolute power and authority, such as Abimelech (ch. 9).
Deborah and Balak were good models of leaders willing to lead. Their stand for God and integrity before the people were profoundly inspiring—so much so that even common people such as the woman Jael were emboldened to grab whatever was at hand, be it but a tent peg and a hammer, and strike down their enemies (4:17–22; 5:24–27).
Will you be a willing leader for God today? Whatever your sphere of influence—at your job, in your home, at church, in the community—will you accept the challenge to stand for God’s ways and encourage others to do the same?
Leadership Principles from Nehemiah
Scripture presents numerous role models for leadership. Few, however, are as fully developed as the example of Nehemiah. Under authority from King Artaxerxes I, he returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city, beginning with its broken-down wall. Numerous principles of effective leadership stand out in the account, including the following:Leaders Have a Sense of Mission (Neh. 1:5)
• Leaders Leverage Their Power (2:5)
2:4–7 The decree of Artaxerxes to restore and rebuild Jerusalem in the twentieth year of his reign (cf. 1:1, note) marks the beginning of the “seventy weeks” foretold by Daniel (cf. Dan. 9:24, note). The month “Nisan” corresponds to March-April. Nehemiah waited some four months in the confident hope that God would provide an opportunity for him to make his appeal to the king (vv. 2, 3). Note his brief prayer before answering the king’s timely question (v. 4), even though he had a definite strategy already in mind (vv. 7, 8).
• Leaders Conduct Research (2:12)
2:11, 12 The potential for both opposition from without and discouragement from within made secrecy essential to the initial development of plans (cf. also 2:16).
• Leaders Build Community (2:17–18)
2:19 “Geshem the Arab” (cf. 6:6) is known from several inscriptions as a powerful, semi-independent vassal of Persia. The alignment of Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem against the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah means that Judah was literallysurrounded by opposition: Sanballat (north), Tobiah (east), and Geshem (south). Cf. 4:1, note.
• Leaders Adapt to Adversity (4:8–9)
4:1 The opposition which was previously hinted at (2:10, 19) here reveals itself. A fourth adversary is named (“Ashdodites,” v. 7, i.e., Philistines), meaning that Judah was completely surrounded, since the Philistines occupied territory to the west (cf. 2:19, note). All of the adversaries, like Judah, were subject to Persia. But the reestablishment of the Jewish exiles in their homeland restricted the activities of these other governors (power is not easily relinquished). The opponents employed a series of tactics, increasing in severity from ridicule (vv. 1–3) to conspiracy (vv. 7, 8) and threats (vv. 10, 11). Nehemiah responded to each tactic following prayer or a call to prayer (vv. 4, 9, 14). The opponents never physically attacked, but simply lowered morale. Nehemiah urged the people to respond vigorously to the threats because God was with them (vv. 14, 15). An important theme in this chapter is that while God’s people must often act courageously and forcefully, they must do so only in complete dependence on God.
• Leaders Resist Underhanded Politics (6:5–9)
6:3 The oft-quoted “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down” demonstrates both the importance of the task which God had given Nehemiah, and his shrewdness. Nehemiah refused to be enticed by the deception of Sanballat into exposing himself unnecessarily to attack. Nevertheless, he did not question Sanballat’s motives openly. At length, Sanballat’s intentions were exposed (vv. 6–9).
6:10 With the prompting of Tobiah and Sanballat (v. 12), a prophet named Shemaiah encouraged Nehemiah to seek refuge “within the temple” from unnamed persons who planned to kill him. For Nehemiah, such an expedient would have run contrary to his nature and office (6:11a). As a layman, he was unqualified to enter in any case (v. 11b). Such an act would mark him as a rebel against divine commands, undermining his authority with the people (v. 13).
• Leaders Serve People (7:1)