We hear of people wo have winning ways, people who seem always to succeed. What makes a person truly successful? What enables one to accomplish good things in God's service? I believe that we can find the key in the life of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah's people were in great distress. A remnant of them had returned from captivity with permission of the Persian King and under the leadership of Zerubbabel, and Ezra a little later. They had set to work to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem, but their enemies managed to get their work stopped several times over several years. Finally they had finished the temple, but the city was still much in ruins, with no protective wall around it. They were easy targets for their enemies.
Nehemiah was still back in Babylon (Elam) in Shushan, serving as the king's cupbearer. When certain Jews came from Judah and told Nehemiah (when he asked) about the sad plight of the remnant, Nehemiah's winning character began to come to light.
Nehemiah cared a lot about his people. When he heard the news, he sat down and wept and fasted for certain days. He cared enough to do something. The first thing he did was to pray to God for help. When he went before the king to do his duty, the king asked why he was so sad, and he told the king about the plight of his people. The king said: "For what do you make request?" Nehemiah prayed before he answered. When he responded to the king, he had a plan. He asked permission to go to Judah to repair the walls of Jerusalem and to rebuild its gates. He asked the king for letters of authority so he would have safe passage through countries whose rulers might be hostile toward him. He also asked that the king's forester provide timbers to build the gates. All this plus a military escort were provided: and, having set a time of return, he departed.
When he got to Judah, he surveyed the work to be done before he told anyone why he had come. Then he told the leaders, urged them to the work, and they made up their minds to do it. The work was organized, with different gates and portions of the wall assigned as tasks for different families. With his good leadership and encouragement, the people accomplished much, for they had a mind to work.
Three enemies, Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, tried to stop the work in several ways, but Nehemiah would not let them trick him or distract him. The tried threatening war, circulation of rumors that he wanted to be king, plot of treachery on the plain of Ono, and telling him to hide because his life was in danger. None of their efforts worked, because Nehemiah trusted in God, stayed alert, and refused to listen to their calls for councils to discuss things tht were none of their business. So the wall was finished in fifty-two days.
And last, Nehemiah stood for what is right. When some of the Jews oppressed their own people and took their property away from them, Nehemiah insisted that they give it back and stop charging their own people usury. When he discovered wrong marriages with those of other nations, he made them swear to stop such practices and cleansed them from all strangers. He stopped trade on the Sabbath. He cleansed the temple, throwing out Tobiah's stuff. He led in the restoration of proper worship and service, and assemblies for reading and hearing the law explained. He led a great thanksgiving celebration. Through all of this great work, Nehemiah prayed often.
Did you see the strengths of Nehemiah? He cared a lot. He prayed a lot. He
acted with a plan. He showed strong leadership. He trusted in God. He didn't
let his enemies distract him. And he stood for what is right. Can we not be
By Gilbert Alexander.
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