leader pulling his hair out September 20 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Nehemiah 5:1–7:3

Leadership Challenges—Do not be Dissuaded

It is not always easy being a parent, boss or ministry leader. Circumstances going against us can make us want to pull our hair out or quit. There are internal and external problems in leadership. How do we handle them? Today’s lesson may help us.

The Israelites were in exile in 538 B.C., when God moved the heart of the King Cyrus of Persia to make a decree, allowing any of them to return to their homeland. Immediately, the returnees built an altar to the LORD for worship. Then they rejoiced at the laying of the foundation of the temple. After many threats against them from neighboring nations, the work stopped. But, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged them, and so the work began again. The temple was completed in the reign of King Darius in 515 B.C.. Were their troubles over? No.

The Jewish people were almost wiped out under a decree of King Xerxes (or Ahasuerus) by his Persian nobleman, Haman. But, God turned the tables on him through Queen Esther and saved His people.

At the beginning of the reign of King Artaxerxes, the leaders of the Trans-Euphrates area (where Israel resided) tricked the king into believing the Jews were rebuilding their nation, would soon rebel against him, and pay no more taxes. The king ordered the work to be stopped.

Then, once again, the LORD began to work on the behalf of the Jewish people. Ezra the priest was well-respected by King Artaxerxes and was allowed to lead another delegation of Jews back to the land. Many spiritual reforms were made under his leadership.

Later, under King Artaxerxes reign in 444 B.C., Nehemiah led another delegation of people back to Jerusalem to rebuild its walls, which were still charred rubble, leaving it unprotected and susceptible to attack.* Again, the leaders of the neighboring nations in the Trans-Euphrates—Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab—tried to discourage the Jews in their work. Nehemiah would not be dissuaded. He prayed continually that God would remember him as he tried to lead the people through difficulties.

In today's Bible reading, we see some difficulties arise while they are working on the wall.

  • There was a shortage of food because of a famine.
  • Some had grain, but others had to mortgage their fields, vineyards, and houses to get it.
  • To pay taxes to King Artaxerxes, some borrowed money from their fellow Israelites at exorbitant interest rates.
  • To pay their creditors, some even sold their own children into slavery.

Nehemiah’s first response is anger. He is not angry because he has to deal with the problem when he is in the midst of an important project; he is angry at the injustice done. To ignore the problem would have discouraged the people, and the work might even have ceased. People need to know that their leadership cares more about them than their projects. Leaders must take time to care. Do we?

What does the prophet do? Does he react immediately? No, he takes a short time to pray and consider a wise course of action. Then he confronts them: “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” (Nehemiah 5:9, NIV). He rebukes the Jewish brothers for making merchandise of the financially challenged ones among them. Nehemiah encourages them to follow his example—have compassion and lend to your Jewish brothers without charging interest. Then he makes them give back what they took in pledge for their loans and makes them vow never to do it again. The Israelites are convicted in their hearts and agree.

Nehemiah is a leader, a governor of high integrity. He shares his meals, never using his position for personal profits, and he is open, accountable, and completely blameless in his dealings. Nehemiah is greatly respected by the people. How are we doing in this area?

When the governor returns to the work of building the wall with his Jewish brothers, external pressures also return. Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem scheme to harm Nehemiah. If they can get him away from his assignment for a “conference” they can kill him and the work will stop. They send four letters of invitation, but Nehemiah refuses to go. Finally, they send him a smear letter, accusing him of rebuilding the wall with the intent of making himself king and revolting against Artaxerxes. Nehemiah sends them this reply:

“Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.” They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.” But I [Nehemiah] prayed, “Now strengthen my hands” (Nehemiah 6:8-9, NIV).

And so, because of Nehemiah’s commitment to the work, his industriousness, his refusal to be dissuaded, and the help and protection of Almighty God, the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem is completed in just fifty-two days. Nehemiah gives this testimony: “When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God” (Nehemiah 6:16, NIV).

Now that the work is completed, Nehemiah appoints the gatekeepers, singers, and Levites. He leaves his brother Hanani, along with Hananiah the commander of the citadel (fortress) to be in charge while he is gone. Ezra the priest still remains in Jerusalem. Nehemiah returns to his duties as cupbearer and reports to King Artaxerxes.

There is great joy about the completion of the wall! It is a time of rejoicing at what God has done for His people!

Lessons to Live By

  • Let's not be dissuaded in our leadership when we are doing God’s will. We should pray to Him when we are distressed by opposition. Do we know the LORD who can save and help us? (more...)
  • People need to know that their leadership cares more about them than what they can do. Furthermore, leaders must take time to handle internal affairs within their families or organizations with care and diligence. This brings encouragement and will keep leaders from being deterred from their tasks.
  • To glorify the LORD, we must lead with the utmost integrity and diligence.
  • Good leaders set up wise administrators if they must be absent for a time so that their good work will continue unhindered.

*Dates from the Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., edited by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.654

Focus Verses

Proverbs 12:24 (NIV) “Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in slave labor.”

1Corinthian 10:31 (NIV) “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

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A Look Ahead: The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt in just fifty-two days! It is time to Praise God, especially for His Unfailing Love. What has God done for you? Join us in our Next Lesson praising Him.

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