(Today’s post by James Rooks)
As we come into chapter five, Israel is in the process of rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. They’ve got supplies, soldiers, the leadership of Nehemiah, and the blessing of King Artaxerxes. It appears to be the picture of forward momentum. This is a good thing.
What happens next in chapter five appears to be a bit of a de-railer on multiple levels. People start to complain about how they are being treated by their fellow Jews. They were being over taxed. Children were being sold into slavery. People were going hungry. What’s described is a pretty rough deal, and it was being done to them by their own countrymen.
So here they are at a three-way stop between progress, suffering, and usury. Nehemiah has been assigned by the king to govern not only this building project, but also this group of people. How would Nehemiah, the politician, handle this outcry? Would progress on the wall take the priority? Would the suffering of others be side stepped? Would usury by the wealthy and influential be ignored?
Having been appointed to a high position by the king and to the daunting task of rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls, it would have been very easy for Nehemiah to insulate himself with people and closed doors. He could have very easily turned a deaf ear at this point and kept marching on. Politicians really don’t have a reputation for getting down on the level with the working man, right? But Nehemiah was no bureaucrat.
Nehemiah became famous for his efforts in acquiring the supplies and rallying the people to accomplish so great a task that surrounding nations became afraid. However, it was how he handled this scenario that gains my respect for him as a humble, decisive, and authentic leader. He was one who, day to day, was in and among the people…not sitting behind a desk.
He didn’t allow the outcry to de-rail the building project, nor did he use the momentum of the project to plow over the people’s legitimate concerns. Chapter five serves as a ‘reset’ of sorts for everyone involved…serving them well in moving forward. Nehemiah (with a righteous anger) called out the nobles and officials, and they admitted their wrong and committed to making it right. Those who’d been done wrong were paid reparations.
Taking it a step further, Nehemiah also didn’t participate in the extra benefits that would have come from being one of King Artaxerxes’ appointed governors. Imagine a politician today doing that…done laughing yet?
Today’s passage makes it easy to look down on the leadership of modern day politicians. Everything we see about them typically makes us cringe, especially compared to the likes of Nehemiah. But for the men out there reading this, we should all aspire to lead like Nehemiah. When I hold myself to the standard set by this godly leader, I don’t stack up much better than some of today’s bureaucrats.
Am I accessible to my children or to those around me in need? Do I put the ‘project’ ahead of my family’s needs? Do I look the other way when I see people being taken advantage of when those conducting the usury might be someone who could help me? Some important and convicting questions to answer today.
How are you leading?