Once Nehemiah has dealt with the oppressive infighting and division among his own people (Nehemiah 5:1-13), all the oppressors agree to repent and do good to their brothers.  Verse 13 says, “I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, ‘So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise.  So may he be shaken out and emptied.’ And all the assembly said ‘Amen’ and praised the Lord.  And the people did as they had promised.”  Here is another reminder of how much influence a good, wise, and caring leader has to change things and turn the hearts of men to follow him in doing right.

Beginning in verse 14 , we find even more proof of Nehemiah’s earnest love and care for his people.  During the 12 years that Nehemiah ruled Judah as their governor, neither he nor his men took the food allowance of the governor.  He did not take the pay due the governor.  He acquired no land for himself, supplied servants to help at personal cost, continued to work diligently for the good of the people, and fed 150 men including guests and help at his own expense every day.

This kind of generosity was unheard of from a governor.  Why did Nehemiah give so much and take nothing for himself in this undertaking?  Consider verses 15, 18, and 19.

Nehemiah gave to God’s people and did not take for himself because of the fear of God.  Nehemiah had not only a deep love for his people, but a conscience that led him to do what was best for them at all times.  He knew these people could not afford to pay him and give him extravagant amounts of food.  He, unlike other rulers in the past, did what was right rather than what would burden the people and be most beneficial to him personally.

Secondly, in verse 18 we find Nehemiah giving this way out of mercy.  Again, he sees his people burdened and he has compassion for them.  His compassion leads not to pity toward them, but personal sacrifice and tangible action to relieve their suffering.

Lastly, Nehemiah treated the people better than they could imagine because of his great trust in God’s ultimate rewards.  In verse 19 we see Nehemiah asking the Lord to remember his goodness toward his people.  Nehemiah’s faith leads him to forfeit temporary, fleeting pleasures and comfort in exchange for eternal, permanent rewards.  While not-so-great leaders do the opposite out of complacency and selfishness, here we find what a true, noble, and loving servant of God’s people would really do to help them during trying times.

All of these actions of Nehemiah just remind us of Christ.  He comes from riches to live with and save those suffering on his own volition.  He protects and fights for them in the face of their enemies while reassuring and encouraging them to do the same.  He makes peace among brothers when they are divided.  He takes nothing and gives everything to all who are under his leadership for nothing more than their help, support, and growth.

Nehemiah is an amazing leader.  Because of his success and a big dose of jealousy, neighboring leaders hated Nehemiah.  Those who aren’t looking to grown, learn, and keep getting better generally hate to be shown up – especially by the underdog.  They did all they could to discourage and bring down his project and his morale.  Next we will look at chapter 6 where Nehemiah deals again with those who despise him and his success.


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In Nehemiah chapter 5, Nehemiah takes a break from dealing with the enemies of God’s people in order to deal with some housecleaning.  Apparently the Jews were dealing not only with foreign oppression and opposition, but civil oppression and opposition as well.  It’s one thing when the world hates and injures us, it’s quite another when it’s our own brothers and sisters in the faith.  These people had both.

So what exactly were the Jews doing to one another that Nehemiah simply could not overlook despite his gargantuan mission to rebuild?

They were exacting interest, forcing one another to mortgage their homes and vineyards, and taking the children of their own people for slaves, using, and selling them.

Those suffering under the hands of their own brothers and sisters appeal to Nehemiah.  They recognize that Nehemiah is a good man with not only the power and position to help them, but the concern and love to attend to their needs.

Nehemiah is BUSY.  He already has the job of building this wall with every person in Jerusalem working under his leadership.  He wasn’t exactly looking for more responsibility.  Still, Nehemiah stops, listens, and immediatelyattends to the needs of his misfortunate brothers.

Men of importance are always busy doing what’s best and most beneficial in their own business and work.  Good men of importance are men of character who will stop, listen, and do all they personally can to correct situations where their workers are divided.  They will do so quickly, without delay, not waiting for time and inertia to allow a root of bitterness and despair to set in.  They will put a stop to all injustice and infighting quickly whenever they become aware of it.

Nehemiah knows what every good leader knows: No matter how great the work you accomplish may be, there can be no peace or happiness in a place where brothers are permitted to abuse and destroy one another without consequence.

Matthew Henry says, “Nehemiah was told of as bad a thing he kindled immediately, reproached the delinquents, incensed the people against them, and never rested til, by all the rough methods he could use, he forced them to reform; for he was a man of a hot and eager spirit.”  

How did Nehemiah deal with this civil abuse?

Firstly, Nehemiah gets angry.  A good leader will be angry at injustice and oppression, especially injustice and oppression against their own people.  The text says he consults with himself.  It is always good to take a good look at our own heart when we become angry and make sure we are righteously angry, not just mad for our own reasons.  Nehemiah was righteously angry about the injustice being done to his own people by his own people.  So, he rebukes them.  He rebukes the nobles, the rulers, and the leaders who are not only allowing these atrocities to take place, but committing these acts themselves.  Nehemiah gives them the specific actions they were guilty of doing.  He doesn’t just say, “You’re bad.  Stop being bad.”  No.  He tells them exactly what they had done and rebukes them for each specific oppressive action.

The men who were being rebuked were silent.  They had not a word to say in their own defense.  Clearly, they were wrong.  Nehemiah knew it, the people knew it, and they knew it.  He tells them again, “The thing that you are doing is not good…”  (Nehemiah 5:9)

Nehemiah called everyone together for this great assembly.  He reasoned with them. He’s like these are your brothers!  You have all just been redeemed and set free from your own oppressors.  This is a great sin you are doing, oppressing the poor!  This hypocrisy and injustice is causing disgrace to fall upon God and giving your enemies great opportunity to bring reproach upon the One True God of the Universe!  These are public statements being made by Nehemiah in the hearing and presence of everyone!  As the New Testament also teaches us, when leaders sin the rebuke is to be public.

Nehemiah doesn’t stop there.  He doesn’t just rebuke them and leave hoping they change.  No.  Nehemiah gets a promise from them.  He’s still not satisfied, though.  Not just with a promise to him or to man.  He calls in the priests and has these erring leaders take an oath and make their promise to the priests before God and the witnesses.  And if that wasn’t enough, Nehemiah goes so far as to lay a curse on those who would not comply or give oath of their repentance.

Notice that Nehemiah doesn’t fault the people who come to him asking for help.  He doesn’t tell them that they deserve the oppression or find reasons why, because they are not absolutely perfect people, they need to just sit down, shut up, and submit to their abusive leadership.  He also doesn’t accuse them of ruining the reputation of their brothers simply because they are telling the truth of the abuse.  Clearly, the oppressors were ruining their own reputation, and not only theirs, but God’s good name by calling themselves Jews and treating their own so poorly.  This was corruption at its worst level, that is, stealing and destroying the families and homes of their own people for dishonest ambition, lust for power, and greedy gain.

Now, there is the example of what a great, just, noble leader does when infighting, oppression, injustice, harm and division is present among his subordinates.  While many leaders today choose to ignore and avoid dealing with these kinds of delicate and difficult problems, their ignorance and cowardice aligns them with those who oppress rather than those who heal and restore.  By ignoring division and failing to deal with civil problems among believers, leaders further oppress, punish their cries for justice, and themselves abuse those who they ought to be serving and protecting.


Nehemiah 4:15 says that when the enemies of God’s people found out that God had frustrated their plans, the work to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem continued.

God frustrated the plans of those who opposed his people.  And the ones oppressing them found out he did so.  God caused these enemies to recognize that he was behind their inability to harm or stop these builders.  But how did God frustrate their plans to tear down and destroy the project of his people?

God used Nehemiah the prophet to pray, organize the people, arm them, and encourage them to be courageous.  The enemy was counting on intimidation, fear mongering, abuse of authority, and using their positions of power to oppress and arrest the good work of the Lord and His people.

Strong leaders who know they are in God’s will are not intimidated by scare tactics.  In fact, strong leaders who know they are in God’s will are not intimidated by anyone or anything.  Strong leaders trust in God and his promises despite all odds.

At this point the laborers had a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other.  We, too, must work and stay armed with God’s Word if we are going to succeed against our enemies.  It is not my opinion or authority over and above anyone else’s or theirs above mine; it is the Word of God over and above all men and it alone is our authority.

Not only that, but the text tells us in verse 16 that their leaders “stood behind them” protecting them and giving them reassurance and support.

Notice that it is a primary job of the leadership of God’s people to stand behind the faithful as they work for the Lord.  How many “leaders” today do just the opposite?  Leaders in the church are not called to discourage God’s people,  tell them they are standing alone, personally avoid the uncomfortable and difficult situations, and fail to offer any encouragement or support while the people are working diligently for the advance of the truth and God’s kingdom.  That’s not what good leaders do in the face of conflict and warfare.  That’s what cowards do.  Leaders in the kingdom are called to stand behind God’s people, encourage, love, and protect them at all costs.

Furthermore, God’s people had a plan.  Since the workers were so widespread and separated, they determined to use a trumpet to call everyone back together.  Not only were they told where to meet, but again the workers were reassured that God was fighting for them by their leader.

The people worked not from dawn til dusk, but from dawn til the stars came out.  That’s quite a workday.  There was great diligence in this building project.  Working so late served a dual purpose, though.  Not only did they get the work done faster, but the armed workers served as protection for their brothers and sisters who were travelling through the city at night.

The workers stayed fully dressed each night and kept their weapons in hand.

This is a great picture of good leadership, wisdom, and readiness.  In the service of the Lord we must always be dressed, armed, working, and ready for enemy attacks.  Leaders ought to always be praying, organizing, encouraging, protecting, and reassuring those who work for the Lord.  Nehemiah 4 gives us a perfect picture of what we are all to be – Christian soldiers.

“We must watch always against our spiritual enemies, and not expect that our warfare will be accomplished till our work is.” Matthew Henry

In Nehemiah chapter 4, we find the enemies of God’s people becoming increasingly angry.  The Jews have begun to rebuild their city walls and gates under the direction of Nehemiah, and have already made some significant strides in that work.  As soon as the neighboring Gentile rulers hear of their progress, their anger at these people becomes even more intense.

In verse 1 we find Sanballat, the governor of Samaria, become enraged and begin to mock and jeer at the Jews.  He tells everyone he knows including his army about the work of the Jews and pokes fun at them.  Funny how he tells everyone what a crappy job these guys are doing and how their wall isn’t strong enough for even a fox to stand on, yet he is angry about their progress.  Well, which is it?  Why would the ruler of an army be mad about a bunch of fools who aren’t accomplishing anything?  Apparently this guy was insecure and afraid that the Jews were indeeding succeeding…which they were, by the way.  He was jealous and angry so he set out to stop them anyway he could.  What he didn’t know was that he couldn’t stop them because this was God’s work.

Nehemiah realizes what is happening with his enemies and he prays.  He prays a curse on them and he continues to do exactly that which God gave him to do.

Nevertheless, Sanballet and his big, bad temper decides to try to pick a fight with these guys.  He calls on all his ruler friends to help him cause confusion and problems for God’s people.

Again Nehemiah and the Jews pray.  This time they pray day and night for protection against their enemies.

In verses 10-12 we see the odds stacked against the Jews.  They didn’t think they could accomplish the job.  Their enemies didn’t think they could accomplish the job, and just in case they could, they were doing all they could to make sure of it.  Even their friends urged them “ten times” to stop trying.  This is a sad scene for God’s people!

Good thing they had a good leader who was resolved to do what God sent him to do.  Nehemiah gave the people each specific positions with their families and their weapons, and he encouraged them to remember God and fight with honor for the things that are most important: God; family; community; home.

What do you do when you have a really hard job to accomplish?  When the enemy is mocking and making war against your success?  When you doubt your own ability to succeed and everyone is telling you to quit?  Consider what Nehemiah did.

  1. Nehemiah prayed.  If you know that what you’re doing is God’s will and God’s holy work for you, pray for help and protection in it.
  2. Nehemiah organized his people and his plan.  He put groups of families together in order to strengthen their morale and give them confidence.  If you are working for the Lord, don’t work alone.  Get organized and find a group of people who love and support, and help you and always have your defenses in hand.  Our weapons are the sword of the Spirit, the Word, and the promises of God.
  3. Nehemiah reminded the people to remember whose idea this work was.  He told them to remember God.  He wanted them to remember to trust God and to know that he was the one behind this plan so they would not doubt or get discouraged in the hardships.  When God’s work gets hard and you come up against obstacles and enemies, it is always helpful to remember whose work it really is.  When we are doing God’s work and God’s will, we have nothing to fear because Our God is trustworthy.  Remember that.  When we remember that, we also remember that there is great honor in striving, working, and fighting hard for the things that matter, namely, God’s glory, the good of our families and communities, and our homes.If you are leading a group of people like this one, pray, organize, and encourage them in the Lord.  This is a great model to follow in difficult circumstances…or any circumstances!  If you are part of a group like this one, pray, organize, and encourage yourself and others in the Lord.

    Pray.  Organize.  Encourage yourself and others in the Lord.  This is the way to defeat the Enemy.

    “…Do not be afraid of them.  Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.”  ~Nehemiah 4:14

The work the Lord burdened Nehemiah to accomplish finally begins in Nehemiah chapter 3.  There are quite a few things to note in how this work was carried out and by whom.  Let’s consider how the people of God began to rebuild their gates and walls as a unified community that we might glean some wisdom and insight for our own undertakings within our own communities.

Beginning in Nehemiah 3:1, we find the high priest and all the priests next to him begin the work.  Here, we have a picture of how godly men should lead.  Godly men ought to always lead by their good example.  When their is work to be done, ministers may indeed delegate it, but they must always also be willing to participate in it.  Far too many spiritual leaders today want to lead with their positions and power plays rather than by example.  A good leader will always do just that…literally lead in any profitable undertaking with his own two hands.

Secondly, we find that many men and women from neighboring communities came to help rebuild Jerusalem.  We find the people of Jericho, Gibeon and Mizpah, Zanoah, Beth-hacecerem, Beth-zur, and Keilah all coming together to help this effort.  Surely we should help those close to our community when they are in need in addition to serving our own.

In verse 12 we find a family helping.  Notice, too, that this was a father and his daughters.  Here was a man who was part ruler of Jerusalem coming, helping, and bringing his girls to help.  Not only did he not think himself above the effort because of his high position, he brings his whole family… of girls!  What a great picture of inclusion and unanimity among the builders of this wall.  Many a man with daughters and not sons may keep his girls from getting dirty and feel awkward to bring them along, but here we see just the opposite in God’s perfect Word.

Notice who else we find building in verses 8 and 32: the goldsmiths, the apothecaries, and the merchants.  These were the business owners; the blue collar men who made everything for everyone else to buy and use.  These guys didn’t use their businesses as an excuse not to show up.  They closed their shops or they went after hours to help this work get done because they considered it more important than making money or being open every single day of the year.  If shop owners can commit to the common good in their trade, they can commit to the common good as God commands outside of their trades as well.

Next, we find men working on this building project opposite their own houses.  How about that!  How many people do you know that would forfeit their time and money to work next door while they look across the street at all that needs done at home?  This is quite a testimony of the character and faithfulness these people had to accomplish God’s work first and their own needs second.

Finally, in verse 5, we find that not everyone was on board.  There was one particular group singled out as not being willing to serve their Lord.  The nobles of the Tekoites “would not stoop to serve their Lord.”  Here, the nobles were not noble, but full of pride which led only to disgrace for them and their name.  The reproach of being named here is shameful and it goes to prove how when we refuse to work with others in unity and harmony out of nothing more than sheer pride and arrogance we will be disgraced publicly for our stubborn selfishness…and rightly so!    Let that never be said of us!  If we cannot humble ourselves to serve God, we will never humble ourselves to serve anyone else.  Every good thing we do will always be self-serving thus rendering it purposeless and void of any wholesome “good.”

There will always be those who will refuse to do right even when everyone around them is working together toward a common goal.  There will always be dissenters and dividers among the true people of God.  But, by and large, when the people of God work together in love and obedience to Him, the work gets done, God is glorified, and we are blessed.  As Matthew Henry says, “If everyone will sweep before his own door, the street will be clean; if every one will mend one, we shall be all mended.”  

In Nehemiah chapter 2, we find Nehemiah arriving in Jerusalem with army officers and horsemen sent with him by the king.  Clearly, Nehemiah had great favor and protection from the royal court being sent off with such an entourage.

When Nehemiah arrives, the first men he encounters are the governors of the neighboring areas.  Sanballat was the governor of Samaria, the area north of Judah, and Tobiah was the governor of Ammon, the area east of Judah.  Just seeing Nehemiah show up was enough to arouse jealousy and disgust in these men.  They did not want to see anyone help the people living in Jerusalem and they hated Nehemiah from first glance.

Nehemiah stays in Jerusalem three days before going out to assess the wall.  He does not announce his arrival or share his plans with anyone.  He acclaimates himself to the area for three days and then goes out at night by himself to inspect the wall and consider what he will have to do to repair it properly.  No one knew or saw Nehemiah do this.

It is always important, anytime we are starting a new project – especially if we are leading it – to consider what must be done and how we might be able to accomplish it before hauling off and making any announcements about what needs done or asking for help to do it.  If we don’t know what’s in store and what’s necessary, how will those who agree to help and follow us know what to do or where to start?  Having a good understanding of what and how we need to do a project is essential to its success as well as our success at being a good leader.

After Nehemiah considers the state of his country and what needs to be done to correct it, he addresses the people living there.  He asks them to consider the damage and asks them to help him rebuild the walls and the gates.  He reassures them that God’s hand is on him and that he has been given much favor with the king.

When the people heard Nehemiah’s words, they cheered and agreed to help build with him.  One question we might ask is why had none of them sought to do this work previously?  They saw the ruins every single day.  They lived there; Nehemiah didn’t.  Yet Nehemiah’s heart was burdened to take action and theirs was just burdened.

God burdens our hearts not so that we might walk around melancholy and negative about our circumstances, but so that we might work towards solutions and be a help, a comfort, and a leader in them.  There’s a big difference between a person who is burdened with the problems they are facing and a person who is burdened to take action regarding those problems.

Notice how Nehemiah makes certain that the people know that God’s hand was with him and them for this project.  When you know God is with you and behind the work you are doing, it stirs up confidence and morale in completing it.

Finally, when the neighboring governors heard Nehemiah’s plans, the text says they jeered, despised, and slandered Nehemiah and God’s people.  They accused them of treason which couldn’t be further from the truth.  It was quite obvious the king had sent these men and they had the army officers, the horsemen, and the papers to prove it.  Yet some will do and say anything they can to hinder and hate those of whom they are jealous.

Nehemiah answers their ridiculous statements with the truth.  He says this:

“The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem.” ~Nehemiah 2:20

Firstly, haters, God is behind this project and he is going to make us prosper.  Secondly, we are going to do what God told us to, which is stand up strong and rebuild our walls.  Thirdly, you don’t belong here and you have no authority here.  This is God’s land and God’s business, not yours.

Wow!  What a great reminder of how confident we can be in the face of those who hate and despise us out of jealousy.  This is what a strong leader who is surrendered to God’s will is able to say to those who try to destroy and tear down God’s work.  Because, sometimes, even when you have permission from the highest authority (God), men will hate you, hate what you’re doing, and do all they can to stop your good and noble efforts.  Here is your reminder not to let them.  Amen and amen!

In Nehemiah chapter 2, we find Nehemiah still very concerned and dejected about the state of his homeland.  Four months have passed since men from Judah had come and reported to him the destruction and desolation in Jerusalem.  Now, he has opportunity to speak to his boss, the king, as he serves in the palace.  It is probable he had been in the king’s presence the entire time, but perhaps needed to pray and wait before being sure and ready to make his requests.

Regardless, four months is the time span between his knowledge of the problems at home and his request to help.  This time, as he goes in to serve the king, his countenance and disposition is different.  Apparently, Nehemiah was generally a jovial, positive person to be around while working for the king.  This day, however, the king noticed that he wasn’t acting like himself.  In Nehemiah 2:2, we find the king asking Nehemiah what’s wrong.  Being melancholy and out of sorts ought always and only be the exception, not the rule when we are being employed by another to do any job.

Clearly, the king and Nehemiah must have had a close relationship.  Being able to not only pick out Nehemiah’s despair, but also caring enough to ask his subordinate what was the matter proves the relationship between this king and his subject was favorable.

Before Nehemiah answers the king as to what is wrong, he again prays to God.  Nehemiah recognizes God as being the ultimate authority and the king being secondary.  Surely, he feels the need to invite the Lord into the conversation before he speaks so that he might not misspeak, miscommunicate, or otherwise hinder the words he is about to say.  So important is his request that he dares not say it until God is present with him.

After praying, Nehemiah answers saying, “Let the king live forever!  Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” (Nehemiah 2:3)  In other words, how can I not be upset, boss?  My home and my people are in a bad situation.  I am very concerned and distressed for their sake.

Notice how Nehemiah not only prays to God before sharing his heart, when he does start to share it he begins by praising his boss.  He doesn’t rush right into all his troubles the second he walks into work.  He waits to be asked.  He prays before speaking to his superior.  He shows honor and respect to the king when he is asked what’s wrong before sharing details.  What a good example of how we ought to behave in our own lives when we are in a bad way or in need.

The king then asks what Nehemiah wants.  There is usually an understanding between a subordinate and his master that one has resources that the other needs.  This king was willing to help his servant as a friend.  We, too, ought to consider those in need with whom we have relationships and concern ourselves with their needs when we come to know them personally.

The text informs us that Nehemiah was afraid to ask for what he needed.  This is the king he’s talking to!  He doesn’t want to seem ungrateful or greedy.  He just knows he needs help for his people.  So he answers despite his fear and he humbly asks to go and help them himself.

Notice that Nehemiah doesn’t say, “Send someone to help my people.”  He says, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Jush, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.” (Nehemiah 2:5)  How about that!  Send me, boss.  I want to go help them.  I am willing to leave this place of comfort, luxury, and riches to go rebuild my town.  The people I love need help.  I want to go help them.

Sounds like someone else, huh?  Jesus did the same for us.

God knows we are serious in our prayers when we are willing to do our part and do whatever we can to bring about that for which we are asking.  Remember, Nehemiah had been praying and fasting for his home and his brothers even before he knew that they were in trouble!  Here is a man who is willing to make personal sacrifices on behalf of those he loves.

The king answers Nehemiah favorably.  He asks how long it will take indicating that he wanted Nehemiah to come back and serve him again.  Nehemiah tells him how long it will take and then asks for the king to give him papers that would give him authority to travel safely to his destination and a letter for a lumberjack (Asaph, the keeper of the king’s forrest)  so he can get the wood he needs to build with.

Notice that Nehemiah is very specific when he asks for help.  He tells the king exactly what he needs.  Anytime we approach someone with a request, we ought to first know very clearly what we are asking for.  Making sure we do so ensures that others understand what we need and how to properly help us.  Always think through what it is you are asking for before you ask someone else to help.

Finally, we find the king granting Nehemiah’s requests.  Nehemiah credits God with this favorable outcome.  He didn’t say thank goodness for my friends in high places – he had them.  He didn’t say thank goodness I’m so special – he was.  He didn’t say good thing I have done such good service for the king – he had.  He didn’t say good thing I have this trusted position at work – he did.  No.  It is always and ever fitting to recognize and praise God first when given the opportunity to carry out his will.  Nehemiah does so and so should we.

“And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” ~Nehemiah 2:8