by Colleen Donahue
If you are a businessman/woman OR in a leadership capacity you will appreciate our study of NEHEMIAH this month. He is perhaps the most significant businessman in the Old Testament and there is much to learn from his life about leadership.
To understand Nehemiah's life we must first understand the historical background. During the last years of King Solomon's reign there was so much compromise that God judged him. "Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, 'Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.'" (I Kings 11:11-12).
After Solomon died, his son witnessed a national split in 931 B.C. The 10 tribes of the north pulled away and formed Israel. Israel was indifferent to God and survived only 209 years before being destroyed by Assyria in about 772 B.C.
The two remaining southern tribes became Judah. They too were indifferent to God. Judah survived about 325 years at which time Babylonian troops marched into Jerusalem and took the citizens there and in the countryside captive.
For the next 70 years the Jews lived in Babylon about 800 miles East of their homeland. Meanwhile, Persia became a new world power and conquered the Babylonians. These new guardians felt sorry for the Jews. Under King Cyrus and later King Artaxerxes they began letting Jews return to their homeland which had been raped and burned by Nebuchadnezzar.
The first group to return was led by Zerubbabel in about 536 B.C. Almost 80 years later, Ezra led a group home in 457 B.C. then 13 years after Ezra in 444 B.C. Nehemiah led a final group.
In our study, we'll see Nehemiah in three distinct roles: working for King Artaxerxes of Persia, working as construction superintendent/builder and finally as the Governor. Our story basically revolves around the reconstruction of the walls about Jerusalem which were meant for the protection of the city.
Much of this month's study is about the opposition that Nehemiah faced in attempting to obey God and rebuild the walls. It runs exactly parallel to our own lives as we obey God in doing His will. There will always be opposition but it need not stop the work!
Knocked Down but Not Out! -- Nehemiah Part 1
The Current Situation
Day 1 What was the situation of the Jews and Jerusalem that Nehemiah's brother described to him on his return to Babylon?
Day 2 How did Nehemiah respond to the news?
Day 3 Had Nehemiah been a less mature leader he might have taken some kind of action immediately. But his first response (as should be ours) in solving the problem was to step back from it and take it to the Lord. What does the Lord promise when we do that?
Psalm 91:15/ Isaiah 65:24/ Matthew 7:7 / John 15:7
An Example of Prayer
Day 4 His prayer begins - not with the problem but with God. Nehemiah looks away to our great Lord in ADORATION.
Day 5 How often have we rushed into God's presence and dumped our problem without pausing long enough to recognise and worship the one we seek? Exodus 3:5/
Day 6 When we are taken up with the Lord of the universe, we cannot help but see ourselves in the light of God. This brought Nehemiah to CONFESSION of sin for the nation of Israel which included himself.
Day 7 Sin puts up a wall between God and ourselves and makes it impossible for him to hear and answer us.
Psalm 66:18/ Isaiah 59:2
Taking time to examine our heart and confess our sin dissolves any barrier with God.
Day 8 Then Nehemiah brings to mind GOD'S PROMISES which helps him to make a request according to God's word.
Day 9 When we ask God for the very things He has promised, in accordance with His word, then we can pray with confidence.
I Kings 8:56/ II Corinthians 1:20/ John 15:7/ Romans 4:21
Day 10 Based on what Nehemiah knew of God and His promises he spoke to God HIS REQUEST.
Unspoken in this prayer is the heart of the request. He was going to ask a heathen king with possibly no great sympathy for his people's situation to give up his faithful cup-bearer for perhaps months.
Note: The "Cup-bearer" was one of the most honoured positions of the court. He was responsible to taste all the food and drink that the king consumed. It was a relationship built on trust. Next to the king's wife this person had the most contact with the king.
Day 11 Prayer had moved the heart of the king to notice Nehemiah's sadness and to sympathise with his plight. Not only did he grant Nehemiah his request but he gave further aid to help him. Nehemiah 2:1-9
Day 12 Does someone in authority stand in the way of what you know God wants you to do? You need not lose heart. Proverbs 21:1
Qualities of a Good Leader
Day 13 ACCURATE ASSESSMENT OF A SITUATION OR PROBLEM is vital if a leader is to make good decisions. Nehemiah's arrival in Jerusalem is not marked by frenzied activity but rather by a three day period of assessing the situation, keeping his own counsel and undoubtedly getting God's mind. Nehemiah 2:11-16
Day 14 Once Nehemiah knew what the job entailed, who did he PRESENT THE CHALLENGE TO?
Nehemiah 2:17-18 (refer also to vs.16)
Notice the use of "us" and "we". It is necessary for a good leader to identify with the people. Nehemiah in fact hadn't been part of the problem but he was to be part of the solution.
Day 15 Once the leaders had been challenged Nehemiah then BROKE UP THIS BIG JOB into bite-sized bits so that everyone had a part but that no one was overwhelmed.
Nehemiah 3: 1-32
Dealing With Opposition
Day 16 Opposition to the will of God is Satan's plan in this world. Therefore every leader (and every Christian) must realise that he/she will DEAL WITH OPPOSITION.
Day 17 Opposition must be handled with the AUTHORITY OF GOD. If it is truly HIS work then He will be responsible for its fulfilment. Nehemiah 2:20
Day 18 Often because leaders are strong-willed, the first thing they do is retaliate and the last is to pray. But, when opposition continued Nehemiah went straight to God and then stayed at the task. Nehemiah 4:1-6
Day 19 Initially, the opposition was a small group criticising. Now, they were ready to fight. How did Nehemiah handle this threat? Nehemiah 4:7-9
Day 20 Sometimes Satan's great opposition to God's work does not come from the outside but from the inside. It's called discouragement. What caused the people to be discouraged? A) Loss of strength - Nehemiah 4:10A
B) Loss of vision - Nehemiah 4:10B
(the finished wall was nowhere in sight).
C) Loss of confidence - Nehemiah 4:10C
("we are not able")
D) Loss of security - Nehemiah 4:11-12
Day 21 With the people discouraged Nehemiah took quick action. He first rallied the people together toward the COMMON GOAL of protecting themselves while finishing the work. Nehemiah 4:13
Day 22 Then he pointed them to the Lord. Nehemiah 4:14A
Day 23 Discouraged people go to extremes. Nehemiah helped them to MAINTAIN BALANCE. Nehemiah 4:14B-18
Day 24 Nehemiah then developed a rallying point for safety. Nehemiah 4:19-20
Day 25 Finally, he got their EYES OFF THEMSELVES by being occupied in serving each other. Nehemiah 4:21-23
Day 26 Another form of opposition surfaced during this time -- again from the inside! The problem of building the wall was not the only one. What were the complaints being brought to Nehemiah? Nehemiah 5:1-5
Day 27 After hearing their stories and pondering them over, what did Nehemiah declare as the problem? Who did he accuse as the cause? Nehemiah 5: 6-7A
Note: The practice of usury was to exact exorbitant interest from a fellow Jew.
Day 28 The basis of Nehemiah's accusations came from his knowledge of the law. Regarding lending: it was wrong to lend money with interest to a fellow Jew.
Exodus 22:25/ Deuteronomy 23:19-20
Regarding slavery: it was absolutely forbidden amongst fellow Jews. Leviticus 25:39-40
Day 29 How did Nehemiah handle this problem and form of opposition?
A) He called a meeting- Nehemiah 5:7B
B) He summarised the problem - Nehemiah 5:8
C) He condemned the wrong and challenged them to right- Nehemiah 5:9
D) He clearly defined the solution - Nehemiah 5:10-11
Day 30 How did the guilty respond? Nehemiah 5:12A
To insure that the promise was kept, Nehemiah made their response official before all the Jews assembled.
Day 31 The people's response to this was surely a sign that they were serious about God. When we are serious about obeying God, then we become ready to do whatever and we don't care who knows it! Nehemiah 5:13B
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