man laying brick September 19 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Nehemiah 1, 2, 3, 4

Leadership in Tough Times

It is tough to complete a building project with construction delays. These delays can be caused by the owners, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers or even by nature (so called, “Acts of God”). It is difficult sometimes to alleviate these challenges. It is easy to be a leader when things are going well. A person doesn’t even have to be a good leader; everyone is enjoying the ride and few people are complaining. How does a person lead in tough times?

The prophet Nehemiah led in tough times. Though, by the grace of God, many Jews had returned to their own land and rebuilt the temple, still Jerusalem was in danger. She was a city without walls, without any natural protection. Her walls had been broken down and charred when the Babylonian army destroyed the city and burned it almost 150 years previous to this time. During the early reign of King Artaxerxes of Persia the Jews had tried to rebuild the walls, but her neighbors, the people of the Trans-Euphrates area, sent a letter to Artaxerxes to get it stopped (Ezra 4:7-23). For twenty years they were successful.

In God’s providence, Nehemiah served as cupbearer to the king. That meant he tasted the food and drink before it was served to the king to make sure it was not poisoned. As one might imagine, Nehemiah was one of the king’s most trusted friends, though he was a Jew.

In the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign, Nehemiah received a bad report about his beloved people living in Jerusalem. The problem was vexing; the Jews still lived in a city with no walls and with no visible means of protection. Nehemiah believed this was because the people had again forsaken God. He wept and prayed and fasted over Jerusalem. He confessed his sins, the sins of his father’s house, and the whole nation of Israel. Then Nehemiah asked for God’s mercy. Nehemiah had a plan, but he needed God’s blessing. Do we earnestly seek God when we need his help? Do we seek to be right before we seek to do right? In humility Nehemiah sought the LORD and God heard his prayer.

When Nehemiah next served the king, he was sad in his presence. This was dangerous because the king is supposed to be kept happy; it was good for everyone. But Nehemiah was the king’s friend, and so the king wanted to know why Nehemiah was downcast. Nehemiah shared his concerns with him. Seeing that King Artaxerxes was anxious to help Nehemiah, he said a quick prayer in his mind (probably something like, “LORD, help me!”) and then shared his plan. It should be noted that Nehemiah knew what he wanted to do and what preparations were necessary to accomplish the plan. He did not waste the king’s time. Principle: If you are eliciting support, you are more likely to get it if you have worthy goals and a good detailed plan to accomplish them.

Nehemiah obtained official letters from the king to rebuild the walls and an armed guard to give him safe passage to Jerusalem. This was in 444 B.C. and was in fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecies ninety-five years earlier (Daniel 9:25)*. After he arrived in Jerusalem and before talking to anyone about his mission, he made a quick but thorough assessment of the situation, personally surveying the damage. This is another good principle of leadership: Be thoroughly acquainted with the problem before you share your plan to fix it. People will respect you for it.

The next day, Nehemiah shared his mission with the people and how the king gave permission for them to rebuild the walls. This was a complete reversal of a decision that the king had made previously. The Jews were excited and eager to rebuild, but their enemies were not happy. Nevertheless, the Jews began to rebuild. They did not go about it in a half-hazard manner. Nehemiah organized the workers so that each would build his part of the wall in front of the place in which he had the greatest interest. This was wise leadership. Do you have a project you need to start or complete? After inspiring workers with the importance of their tasks, place them according to their interests and abilities where they will be of the best use to themselves and to the organization.

When Israel’s neighbors found out the walls were being rebuilt, they were very angry. The Jews were constantly mocked and threatened by their neighbors. Would their enemies attack and destroy the walls before they were even finished? How could the Jews stop them? What did Nehemiah do? He prayed for God’s protection. He prayed, and they continued to repair the walls. Realizing the threat of an attack was real, however, he prepared for it. Half of the people worked and half served as armed guards. Was this faith? Yes. They realized that God might require them to defend themselves. With this plan they were able to continue the work. Do you have a plan if you expect adversity? Will you allow the work to stop, or will you find ways to encourage workers to continue? Inaction during tough times causes discouragement and abandonment. Pray and then act.

Lessons to live by:

  • If God has placed you in leadership, use that position for his glory.
  • Pray and plan before beginning a project.
  • Inspire people with what God is doing and challenge them to do the work.
  • Place people according to their interests and where they will do the greatest good for themselves and their organization.
  • Pray and act courageously.
  • Trust God to help you. Do you know him? He can give you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life. He can protect and bless you (more...)

*insight from The Bible Knowledge Commentary, by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p. 676

Today’s Bible memory verses:

Psalm 31:3 “Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” (NIV)

Psalm 144:2 “He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” (NIV)

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