Nehemiah Review

As was noted in prior blogs on the man Nehemiah, he was God’s change agent at a crucial time in Israel’s history.  He had the character and skill needed to facilitate change.  He was also a master at motivation, getting the people to do what was needed for the city, what was best for them, and what was a part of God’s bigger plan.  So please remember this as you read on.

When is comes to lasting change, Nehemiah was not so successful.  For 12 years Nehemiah remained in Jerusalem as the political head to assist the religious leaders with developing a society that would exemplify God-honoring principles.  Getting materials in place, whether for a temple or for walls, is a relatively easy process compared to getting people to live well with one another and in God’s way.  When Nehemiah returned to Babylon, he left seemingly good people in place to continue building a healthy community.  However in a short time, things turned bad and he felt responsible to return and exert his authority to rectify problems.

The only biblical record to follow Nehemiah historically is found in the book of Malachi.  Here we learn that the people living in Jerusalem fall into many problems and are once again scolded by God for their unbelief and sinful behavior.  Nehemiah performed his task well, but was unable to bring about the lasting change in the hearts of people for which the walls were built to facilitate.  Change is certainly complex.

Any and every change process is time bound.  Only salvation through Christ is eternal.  In our rapidly changing world, we should not expect our change efforts to last for years.  The second law of thermodynamics seems accurate for most of life: the quality of everything deteriorates over time while randomness and chaos increases.  So it was with the change that took place under Nehemiah’s leadership and so it will be with ours.

How can we labor knowing that our efforts will deteriorate?  This story of a famous hymn might help.

“In 1887, just following an evangelistic meeting held by Dwight L. Moody, a young man stood to share his story in an after-service testimony meeting.  As he was speaking, it became clear to many that he knew little about the Bible or acceptable Christian doctrine.  His closing lines, however, spoke volumes to seasoned and new believers alike: I’m not quite sure. But, I’m going to trust, and I’m going to obey.

Daniel Towner was so struck by the power of those simple words that he quickly jotted them down, then delivered them to John Sammis, who developed the lyrics to Trust and Obey.  Towner composed the music and the song quickly became a favorite.” (

Every change process is an exercise in trust and obedience.  How much of our personal change never reverts?  How much of the change we have seen in loved ones continues without relapses?  How much of our ministry efforts have continued without deterioration?  Sustainable change is only possible through constant prayer, through vigilant focus applying the needed energy to maintain progress, and through a realization that change is not an end but a never-ending process.

So, how regular are you in praying for what you are seeking to change?  How much energy do you continue to apply to keep the change momentum?  What change have you seen that needs to be allowed to deteriorate so you can focus on new change?  Effective leaders facilitate change—may you do so while understanding the process and like Nehemiah, ask God to strengthen the work of your hands (6:9).  Maybe Nehemiah was quite effective with change after all.





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3 responses to “Nehemiah Review

  1. Костя

    Neat observations on Nehemiah, Tom. I’m studying that book myself now. Your questions re: producing sustainable change are stimulating to think and encouraging to pray, especially being called to be an agent of change myself.

    • Thanks for sharing the help this blog was to you. I have been challenged more recently by what in Nehemiah enabled him to receive the bad news about Jerusalem and respond the way he did. There is not much in the text but I want to consider what would so move me to become so involved in a distant need when my life is rather stable. Think on my brother.

  2. — A dislocated heart for people —
    Nehemiah had a heart for people. Even being a cupbearer — highly positioned official in the palace of a king (close to the king), he had a heart for simple people in a distant land (Nehemiah 1), that caused him to weep.

    This is a strategic quality to pray into the lives of emerging leaders — developing a dislocated heart for people. A good leader needs to cry more, weep on his knees for the problems in the church, associate oneself with the problem before he can become a part of a solution.

    Questions to ask:
    What breaks your heart, man?
    How do I respond hearing of this or that problem in the church?

    Lord, grant me a dislocated heart for Your people, to weep and pray for that what breaks Your heart.

    Inspired by Howard Hendricks, “Leadership Dynamics”, SL305-03-01 Nehemiah, Part 1. A DTS course on iTunes University.

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