The story of Kofi Essien is a fascinating one. The economic hardship in their country convinced his parents to relocate to the United States of America with him and his younger brother, Mensah, when he was barely a teenager. Through hard work and determination, Kofi became the first African American Secretary of State. There were whispers within the corridors of power that he could be the first black President of the USA. Such was his popularity. A chance meeting with one of his kinsmen changed all that.
Can you guess which Bible character is represented in this fictional story? Not Daniel joor. Judas ke? No o. Try again. Ehen! You got it! It is Nehemiah. The man with a compassionate heart. The rebuilder. He is the character we will be learning about in this week’s installment of From the Royal Courts.
A Compassionate Heart – Nehemiah
Shall we pray?
Dear Lord, we thank you for the privilege of sonship. We thank you for a time like this. A time of unprecedented happenings. Lord, we ask that as we learn from your word, you will grant us insight. We pray that you will help us to see all that you have in store for us and to be all that you have in mind for us. Thank you for answering our prayers, for we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Nehemiah was not a king. However, he served King Artaxerxes in the royal courts. In Shushan the citadel. (Nehemiah 1:1). Does that name ring a bell? Exactly! It was the same place where Esther had her orientation camp and where her husband, the king ruled from. (Esther 1:2 & 2:8). Nehemiah served as cupbearer to the king. In ancient times, this means he was tasked with tasting for quality control and position prevention, whatever was meant for his master. He was also likely a confidant of the king by virtue of his position.
For our study today, we will consider three traits in Nehemiah’s life and four distinct features of his leadership style. For the traits, we will represent them with 3 Cs, while the qualities of his leadership style will be spelt out using B.E.S.T. We start with his personality traits.
Firstly, we see Nehemiah as someone who was concerned about others. Despite the benefits of royalty, he was curious about what was going on with his people and his home (Nehemiah 1:2-4) Does that remind you of someone? His name starts with M. You got it! Moses. (Hebrews 11:24-27). Comfort can lead to complacency, if care is not taken. Slowly, you get wrapped up in a world of your own and forget that there are people and causes that require your attention. Nehemiah did not allow this in his life. He was touched by the plight of his people.
The second thing we observe is that Nehemiah had a cheerful disposition. After he heard the disheartening news about his people, he had to serve the king. However, the king noticed something strange. Nehemiah was sad. Prior to this, Nehemiah had never been sad in the king’s presence before. (Nehemiah 2:1) Never! Last year, God was teaching us about homeostasis and the central idea is the importance of being steady irrespective of circumstances. Nehemiah exemplified that.
Finally, Nehemiah was a man who communicated with God regularly. It does not take long for us to realize this key attribute in his life. When faced with bad news about the state of Jerusalem and its people, he prayed (1:4). When he wanted to present his request to the king, he prayed (2:4). When faced with opposition, he prayed (4:4-5). Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He teaches us that prayer should not be reserved for a certain time and place, it should be a part of our lives. We should constantly talk to God about circumstances as they unfold.
So, to recap, Nehemiah was concerned about others, he had a cheerful disposition and he communicated with God regularly.
Leadership: The Nehemiah way
After seeking permission from the king, Nehemiah was redeployed to serve as governor spearheading the rebuilding of Jerusalem. As a leader, he performed admirably, ensuring that he exemplified B.E.S.T practice in everything he did. Leadership, according to Nehemiah, is done by:
- Balancing faith and works
Nehemiah was a man of prayer. A man of great faith. However, he was also a man of great works. In James 2:14-26, we see the importance of faith and works. Not faith alone. Not works alone. Faith and works.
When opposition came in form of Sanballat and Tobiah, Nehemiah’s response was to pray to God. However, he did not stop there. He also ensured they set a watch against the opposition day and night. (Nehemiah 4:9). As we lead in our various spheres of influence, we should not trivialize the importance of faith in God, as though we can achieve anything by our intellect. Also, we should not disregard the value of work, as it is a vital tool in succeeding in the assignments that God has given to us.
- Exemplifying the traits we expect
In the fifth chapter of the book of Nehemiah, he learns that the nobles and rulers had been charging usury (interest) on their loans to their fellow Israelites, contrary to the Lord’s instructions (Nehemiah 5:5-6). In response to this, Nehemiah called a great assembly where he rebuked the people for their wrong acts. Then, he plays his trump card. He presents his example. Nehemiah 5:10 – I, also, with my brethren and my servants, am lending them money and grain.
Followers find it easier to emulate a leader who practices what he preaches. After Nehemiah spoke to the people, they promised to restore all they had taken and subsequently require nothing in form of interest from their fellow Israelites. Would it have been easy for Nehemiah to correct what he was culpable of? No. To lead with distinction, it is important that we lead in an exemplary manner. It does not mean we act as though we are perfect. It simply means we show in our lives the things we expect to see in the lives of others.
- Sacrificing for the sake of others
Leadership comes with benefits, and rightly so, if I may add. The strategic roles that leaders play and the value they bring to the table requires that they are well compensated. It is important that this is explicitly stated. However, there are times when the benefits that leaders enjoy are a burden on the people. It is at times like this that leaders are called to deny themselves of those benefits for the greater good.
Nehemiah, as governor, was entitled to some provisions. However, because it was a heavy burden to the people, he did not demand it. For twelve years, he refused to take what he was entitled to, rather he gave to the people because he knew there were in need. (Nehemiah 5:14-19).
Should leaders enjoy the benefits that come with their positions? Yes. Should they do this when it is detrimental to the lives of others? No. Nehemiah exemplified sacrificial living.
- Taking decisive actions
The phrase, passing the buck, refers to the act of attributing to another person or group one’s own responsibility. It is sometimes called the blame game. There is another phrase, the buck stops here, which refers to the notion that a person is responsible for decisions to be taken and the consequences of these actions.
Chapter 13 of Nehemiah shows him tackling some major disruptions. We’ll consider two. Firstly, in Nehemiah’s absence, Eliashib the priest had given Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. That same Tobiah o. When he got to know about this, Nehemiah threw out Tobiah’s items and commanded them to clean the rooms. Secondly, Nehemiah discovered that the people were profaning the Sabbath day by transacting business. He responded by ordering that the gates be shut and not opened until after Sabbath. Also, he posted some of his servants at the gates.
Leadership requires decisive actions. When things are going contrary to the ideal. When laws are being flouted. When recklessness is reigning. Leadership is showed by standing up and taking the tough but necessary decisions for the glory of God and the good of His people.
Nehemiah was as a cupbearer to a great king. However, he sacrificed his comfort for the greater good of his people. As we walk away from Shushan the citadel, leaving Nehemiah in the palace, can you remember the 3Cs that we see in his life? What about the four leadership lessons we observed in his life? In your capacity as a leader, at home, in school, in church or at work, are there adjustments you need to make in order to lead effectively? Use this time to reflect and map out action points.
Our father, we thank you for insight into your word. We ask that you help us to be doers of your word and not hearers only. Help us to lead exceptionally. Help us to lead like you. Thank you for answering our prayers, for we pray in Jesus name. Amen.
You are encouraged to share the lessons you have gained from today’s Bible study. Also, you are free to share the study on WhatsApp or other platforms for people to learn. We will continue the study series next Monday by God’s grace.