1 After the wall was finished and I had set up the doors in the gates, the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites were appointed. 2 I gave the responsibility of governing Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, along with Hananiah, the commander of the fortress, for he was a faithful man who feared God more than most. 3 I said to them, “Do not leave the gates open during the hottest part of the day.[a] And even while the gatekeepers are on duty, have them shut and bar the doors. Appoint the residents of Jerusalem to act as guards, everyone on a regular watch. Some will serve at sentry posts and some in front of their own homes.” 4 At that time the city was large and spacious, but the population was small, and none of the houses had been rebuilt. 5 So my God gave me the idea to call together all the nobles and leaders of the city, along with the ordinary citizens, for registration. I had found the genealogical record of those who had first returned to Judah. This is what was written there: 6 Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar had deported them to Babylon, but now they returned to Jerusalem and the other towns in Judah where they originally lived.
It’s here in chapter seven that Nehemiah gives us seven leadership principles. As we consider Nehemiah’s example, we see that life changing leadership requires both courage and grace. Over and over again, in the face of all kinds of odds, Nehemiah courageously led. Instead of caving to the opposition he kept his focus on what God had called him to do. Not only did he face the call courageously, but he did it graciously as well. It is crucial for leaders not only to lead with courage but learn to model God’s grace. Because if we don’t we will never recognize our role in the greater picture. We have all been called to a life of leadership and it is my prayer that as we learn how to lead well that we won’t just listen to the Word but that we will live out the Word. When it comes to leadership lessons Nehemiah reveals that the first leadership principle we need to pay attention to involves having clear:
- Priorities – Vs 1
In verse 1 Nehemiah establishes three priorities, the first revolves around providing:
- Physical protection.
Nehemiah posts guards to protect the gates because the gates were the weak link in the walls. So let me ask you where and what are the weak links in your walls, and are you posting watchmen to guard against those weaknesses where you are most vulnerable? As men, the gates of our city are our eyes, and one of the greatest guards we can employ are accountability partners who will ask us the hard questions. Don’t poison your life with pornography, great leaders lead with love, not lust. The antidote to worldly appetites is to develop a hunger for the things of God. Now as men we need to take the lead when it comes to providing for and protecting our families. Part of your mandate as a man is to be a gatekeeper for your family. But as guards, we are not just entrusted with physical protection but also spiritual protection. Later in chapter 13, we see Nehemiah calling the guards to close the gates on the Sabbath. The way to spiritual protection is to make God a priority. So what guards are you stationing at the gate to your heart? What gates do you need to shut so that you can protect your family spiritually? It’s not always bad things that we need to say no to because even good things can get in the way of God things. Something as simple as sports can take the place of the Savior. And before we know it we are raising our kids on a basketball court instead of in Christian community. Instead of the central focus being the cross it becomes a pole, we trade Him for a hoop. But we convince ourselves that it’s ok because after all, we think of all the families we can reach for Christ on that court. But what we forget is that before we go to war we need to worship, look we gather together to praise Him and to prepare our hearts to serve Him. Trading our time in worship for witnessing will never work because you can’t give what you have not received. Many of us are trying to pour out from a position of poverty because we are not spending time in praise. Look if you don’t guard the gates you will raise your kids to believe that other things are more important than the Savior. The second priority is:
Nehemiah appointed singers to lead in worship. Nehemiah understood that there was more to life than work. Our primary purpose is worship, and if we are not careful we will replace it with lesser things. All work and no worship leads to a life of worry. Many of us are living weary worn out lives because there is no worship. Worship provides perspective because it reminds us that God is our number one priority. The problem is that many of us are putting the Savior in second place instead of the preeminent place. So let me ask you are you giving priority to the problems or to the praise? Without worship, our witness will soon represent that of the world and it won’t be long before we are reduced to a city without walls. Worship reminds us of Gods faithfulness and forgiveness, worship reminds us that we can’t walk without Him. The third priority was to:
- Provide biblical teaching.
Here we find Nehemiah appointing the Levites as Israel’s teachers. It was their responsibility to teach biblical truth and impart the great realities of the faith. Sometimes we think we have learned all we can because we have read a particular passage several times. But I am reminded of the importance of the repetition and serious study because no matter how many times you have read a scripture you can always walk away with new insights because God’s Word is living and active. Are you making protection, praise and the study of scripture a priority? Are you giving time to trivial things or to the truth? Where are you receiving your training, is it from the word or from the world? Are you putting things in their proper priority or do you have a priority problem? Are you courageously leading as Christ has called you too or are you cowering to the culture?