Nehemiah

A Leader in Prayer, Perseverance and Organisation

At different periods in our life, God gives us certain principles from His Word. During the last year, the Lord repeatedly talked to me through the book of Nehemiah and showed me a variety of principles concerning organisation. Gradually, I became aware of a correspondence between so-called management principles and biblical truth. This truth was of great benefit to me.

In my opinion, there is no leader in God's Word like Nehemiah, in whom these principles of prayer, perseverance and general organisation are so easy to recognise. His effectiveness is already clearly expressed in the fast execution of his work.

The following explanations present his important organisation and leadership principles which we can personally learn from.

I. What is general organisation, and what are its results? Why do leaders have to organise?

General organisation is an "acting upon principles". It helps to avoid mistakes and, for both the individual and the group, it produces:

  • security during the work.
  • fulfilment in the job.
  • motivation to work.

Leaders must organise:

  • because God expects us to "run, not as uncertainly" (1 CORINTHIANS 9:26).
  • because we, as leaders, carry the responsibility before God for "the flock" (EZEKIEL 33:6; HEBREWS 13:17).

II. What are general organisation principles?

  1. Prayer (NEHEMIAH 1)
  2. Plan (NEHEMIAH 2)
  3. Organise (NEHEMIAH 3)
  4. Lead (NEHEMIAH 4-6)
  5. Control (NEHEMIAH 13)
  6. Delegate (NEHEMIAH 7)

1. Nehemiah, a Leader who prays (Chapter 1)

For the preparation of the building of the wall, Nehemiah needed four months, twice the amount of time required for the building itself. Only through constant prayer and devotion to God did he receive the perseverance he needed to lead the work.

a) Prayer starts with an interest and participation.

"...and I asked them concerning the Jews... and concerning Jerusalem" (NEHEMIAH 1:2).

To pray properly, it is important that we take time to enquire, or to inform ourselves about our concern. A concern which comes from the heart will produce a powerful burden for prayer.

b) In prayer, you come before God with your need.

"I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven" (NEHEMIAH 1:4).

Our misery can only be removed by God. Either He gives a solution to the problem, or He endows us with the ability to carry the problem through. Nehemiah didn't want to change God's will through fasting and praying, but wanted to express his seriousness, as well as his expectations that God would act.

c) A steadfast prayer of faith will be granted by God.

"...that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night..." (NEHEMIAH 1:6).

Jesus gave us an example in the persistent widow (LUKE 18:1,7):

"...that men ought always to pray, and not to faint..." and "...shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him?"

Especially in continuous prayer, our faith will be tested and confirmed through its persistency. We also find in prayer, the key to God's action.

d) Prayer, full of faith, means to hold fast onto God's faithfulness.

"...that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him..." (NEHEMIAH 1:5).

We do not look at the circumstances and doubts, but to the loving Father, who is willing to give. He will not disappoint us if we have a real motivation in our heart. He will give us everything for our life according to His will.

e) "Challenging" God in prayer always happens in humble confession of sins.

"...and confess the sins of the children of Israel... both I and my father's house have sinned" (NEHEMIAH 1:6).

God will move if we take responsibility for our own and our people's works in His presence. It is manly to stand before the mighty creator of the world, face to face.

f) The prayer of faith should be precise, without ordering God to a certain way of answering.

"...and prosper, I pray thee, thy servant this day, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man (the king)" (NEHEMIAH 1:11).

God loves it if we expect clear and specific answers from Him. His Word says: "Believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them" (MARK 11:24). Specific prayer builds up our faith, as the answer to such a specific prayer can no longer be a so-called "coincidence". Praying specifically gives God the chance to answer specifically.

2. Nehemiah, a Leader who plans (Chapter 2)

To plan, means to lay down beforehand, the method that will be used to put the desired action into practice.

a) Our plans should always come from God.

"...what my God had put in my heart..." (NEHEMIAH 2:12).

How often do we ask God to bless our fixed plans, once we have made them. One of God's most significant characteristics is His Holy Zeal; "...and my glory will I not give to another..." (ISAIAH 42:8).

Understanding this zeal, preserves us from our own planning.

b) Planning happens in quiet times, and only with "some men".

"...neither told I any man... And the rulers knew not whither I went..." (NEHEMIAH 2:12,16).

When God is doing something, He puts it into the hearts of only a few. Out of this mutual unity, His plan will be born.

c) In order to plan, you first need to evaluate the present situation.

"...and viewed the walls of Jerusalem, which were broken down..." (NEHEMIAH 2:13).

Only by exact enquiries can you achieve an oversight of the situation. God's will is best confirmed by our research work, be it from the Word or from archaeological evidence.

d) By planning with God we make ourselves "dependent" on God.

"...For what dost thou make request? So I prayed to the God of heaven" (NEHEMIAH 2:4).

"...And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me" (NEHEMIAH 2:8).

Planning with God means counting on God. How often do we plan according to the circumstances which are to be expected! Our plans should always include steps of faith. What's important is always to draw a line between:

  1. Our responsibility.
  2. God's responsibility.

If we know exactly how to keep these areas separate from one another, we will avoid many unnecessary worries. It is an "active passiveness" to wait upon the Lord, and what He will do. Our faith, our patience and our perseverance will then be tested.

3. Nehemiah, a Leader who organises (Chapter 3)

To organise, means to fit people into a certain structure, by taking into consideration their personal abilities and whether or not they can achieve the goal that they have been set.

a) Integrating into existing structures.

"...the men of Jericho."
"...the Tekoites..."
"...the men of Gibeon, and of Mizpah..." (NEHEMIAH 3:2,5,7)

Unity always begins in the smallest existing structure, be it in the family, leadership team or cell-group. It is like a stone that has been cast into the water; the circles always spread from the centre-point. Taking existing structures into account is an important factor for organisation.

b) Considering personal conditions before distributing the work to be done.

"...against their house."
"...over against his chamber."
"...over against the gate Miphkad..." (NEHEMIAH 3:23,30-31)

The motivation of a worker to accomplish his job begins at the very place that the organiser has put him in. When the labourer discovers that he has been taken into consideration and when the work has been divided, he will then find confidence and joy in it. Consideration of existing talents is not only necessary, but also makes the work more effective, as it motivates the labourer in his capacities.

4. Nehemiah, a Leader who guides (Chapter 4-6)

To guide, means to motivate people to act effectively and with perseverance, by claiming God's promises in faith.

a) To guide means to face attacks, problems and confusion by prayer and persecutions.

"And conspired all of them together ...to hinder it. Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them" (NEHEMIAH 4:8-9).

Nehemiah was not intimidated by confusion or discouragement (verse 8), but totally trusted in God and took practical steps. With every new start of a work, the enemy will try to intimidate us. God allows crises in our lives in order to strengthen us through them and make us more capable.

b) To be guided means to encourage people with the power of God.

"And I looked, and rose up... Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses" (NEHEMIAH 4:14).

The encouragement from the Lord was so strong that even the enemies became aware of its dimensions (verse 15). All fellow workers returned again to build the wall. Nehemiah did not train his fellow workers to trust him, but to trust God. This principle will always be honoured by God.

c) Effective communication is needed for leadership.

"In what place therefore ye hear the sound of the trumpet, resort ye thither unto us..." (NEHEMIAH 4:20).

The work was large and extensive, and the people on the wall were spread out and far apart from each other, so Nehemiah always had someone with him who sounded the trumpet. Proper communication, whether written or verbal, helps co-ordination and gives security.

d) Leadership through real example is indispensable.

"So neither I, nor my brethren... which followed me, none of us put off our clothes..." (NEHEMIAH 4:23).

Nehemiah gives an example of how the execution of the work was on his heart and that he wanted to be prepared, day and night. As an indication of his readiness, he slept in his clothes and full armour.

e) Leadership means to solve problems with consideration and wisdom.

"Then I consulted with myself..." "Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer" (NEHEMIAH 5:7-8).

Even though Nehemiah was very angry (verse 6), he held back and considered how his reaction concerning this matter should be. His answer was formulated in such a way, that the nobles and rulers did not know how to answer him.

f) Leadership with Godly authority.

"...ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God..." (NEHEMIAH 5:9).
"Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise..." (NEHEMIAH 5:13).

Nehemiah made the call to obedience very clear, by shaking out his lap. He imparted the fear of God in the correct way.

g) Leadership means discernment.

"For they all made us afraid" (NEHEMIAH 6:9).
"...I perceived that God had not sent him..." (NEHEMIAH 6:12).
"...that I should be afraid, and do so, and sin..." (NEHEMIAH 6:13).

In a critical situation Nehemiah keeps the overview and does not fall for any tempting suggestions. It is important for a responsible person to have a feeling for situations or people which are not sent from God. Satan's tactic is to force us to make wrong decisions using fear, time pressure or pressure from people.

h) Leading through serving and unselfishness.

"Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall..." (NEHEMIAH 5:16).
"...that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor" (NEHEMIAH 5:14).
"...because the bondage was heavy upon this people" (NEHEMIAH 5:18).

Mercy and consideration, combined with an admonishing attitude and holy anger at the right times, joined together to make Nehemiah's personality.

"...and cursed them, and smote certain of them, and plucked off their hair..." (NEHEMIAH 13:25).

Nevertheless, his nature was predominantly very humble and serene.

5. Nehemiah, a Leader who controls (Chapter 13)

Controlling means to make sure that the execution of the work co-ordinates with the plan. Chapter 10:1, tells us that the people were obliged to keep the Law and that three arrangements were made:

  1. The first fruits of wine, oil and all manner of trees had to be brought into the house of God (NEHEMIAH 10:37-39).
  2. The Sabbath should be kept (in honour), and there should be no trading (NEHEMIAH 10:31).
  3. No inter-racial marriages with other peoples (NEHEMIAH 10:30).

Twelve years after the building of the wall, it seems that Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem in order to control. He discovers that all three arrangements have been broken and re-establishes them (NEHEMIAH 13:7-26).

There you can see how important the task of controlling is. How often agreements are broken and the responsible people are disappointed. Instead of being disappointed, we have to overcome these grievances so that, through God's plan, God's aims are achieved. The responsibility does not stop after instructing the people, it continues through checking and delegating the work.

6. Nehemiah, a Leader who delegates his responsibility (Chapter 7)

Usually God lets His leaders start and organise a work. Then He demands that they delegate the practical responsibility and care for others, at the right time.

"That I gave my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the ruler of the palace, charge over Jerusalem: for he was a faithful man, and feared God above many" (NEHEMIAH 7:2).

By this, one observes that faithfulness and fear of God were the criteria for delegating the tasks. It is not only leadership talents that are decisive for God, but also faithfulness and heart attitude.

"Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land..." (PSALM 101:6).

While Nehemiah was following these six organisational principles, not only was his plan effectively put into practice, but God wrought a conviction for sin in the people, far above Nehemiah's aim. Repentance, restoration and a new devotion followed. Nehemiah prepared the ground for a Revival, through his determined and circumspect leadership.

by Rob Bots

Rob Bots was born in Holland and worked as an export salesman in Hong Kong for 6 years. In 1982 he joined "Youth With a Mission" and since 1983, has been a member of the 'Castle Fellowship' in Hurlach, where he works in administration.

Translated from the German: "Nehemia - ein Leiter in Gebet, Ausdauer und Organisation"

Source: 'Der Auftrag'