A Leader Is Personally Concerned with the Need. Nehemiah went a step beyond recognition of the problem. He not only heard these matters, but he also sat down and identified with them.
Alan Redpath once wrote:
Let us learn this lesson from Nehemiah: you never lighten the load unless first you have felt the pressure in your own soul. You are never used of God to bring blessing until God has opened your eyes and made you see things as they are.
There is no better preparation for Christian service than that.
Nehemiah was called to build the wall, but first he wept over the ruins. “The walls are down. Oh, God! How can these walls be down and these people continue in safety?” But the normal response is, “Oh, the walls are down! Who fouled up? Who blew it?” Or, “They’ve been back there all these years and nobody has built those walls? Send me their names; I’ll deal with them.” These reactions are wrong. A leader must have compassion.
Before I go any further, I want us to learn a very practical lesson about a father who refused to recognize a specific family need. The story is found in I Samuel 3. All through my childhood, I remember being told in Sunday school about young Samuel who was asleep on his cot when somebody said, “Samuel! Samuel!” And he ran over to Eli and said, “What is it?” And Eli said, “Go back to sleep. It was not I.” Again, the voice woke Samuel, and the same thing happened. Finally, Eli said, “Listen, that’s God you’re hearing.” And the story always ended there.
I wondered, “Why in the world did God wake him so often? What was the Lord trying to tell him?” Later I found the answer in verses II and 12:
And the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle. In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.”
Don’t tell me God isn’t concerned about a leader’s home. Here was Eli, a spiritual leader in Israel, and God’s concern was over his home. Read verse 13:
For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever [notice] for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them.
Underline in your Bible “he knew” and “he did not rebuke them.” Are there times when you know something wrong is going on at your house, but you refuse to be involved in correcting it? We carelessly pull the shades on reason and say, “Well, somehow it’s going to work out.”
Listen, God has appointed the father to one of the most difficult leadership positions in all the world: to lead his home. He motivates, sets the pace, gives guidance and encouragement, and handles discipline. Eli knew all this, but he would not rebuke his sons when they disobeyed God. Maybe he figured the leaders at the temple would straighten out the kids. It’s tragic how many people leave the job of child-rearing to the church, and therefore the church lives under the constant indictment, “The worst kids in the world are the church kids.” The church gets the blame. But it’s not a church problem; it’s a home problem. The church can seldom resurrect what the home puts to death.
As we turn back to Nehemiah as a model for leadership, realize that we are not talking only about Nehemiah and some ancient city at the dawn of history. We are talking about today. The higher you get in the echelon of what the world calls success, the easier it is to fade into theoretical preoccupation and to leave the realistic “lesser things” to themselves.
Notice, in verse 4, that Nehemiah was “fasting and praying.” What does it mean to fast? It means to miss a meal for one major purpose:zeroing in on your walk with God. Some people fast one day a week.Some people fast a day a month. Some never fast. Interestingly, it is mentioned rather frequently in Scripture. When our motive is right, it is amazing what we can accomplish with the Lord when we occasionally save the time of fixing, eating, and cleaning up after a meal and invest it on our knees. The more responsibility we shoulder, the more time we need for contemplation before our Father.
Charles R. Swindoll, Hand Me Another Brick (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).
I have just completed a series of lessons based on the book of Nehemiah. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.