I think I’ve mentioned this before, and those of you who also grew up in the church may relate. I’ve had to refrain myself from treating people mentioned in the Bible as story book characters. Flannel graphs have a way of making someone seem like a Aesop fable. “Slow and steady wins the race”, don’t “cry wolf “, etc. Nehemiah and company are real historical figures. I think I said this when we were reading about David: Just because he’s a “man after God’s own heart” doesn’t mean he always does the right thing and is a reliable moral compass. If you’re looking for a moral compass, read Deuteronomy. That’s how Nehemiah knows the Israelites aren’t supposed to be collecting interest from each other. Much like David, Nehemiah has some great qualities and work ethics which foreshadow Christ, but he’s also flawed.
Luckily, today’s readings are mostly great examples of leadership. He doesn’t heavily tax the people so he can live large. He puts his own hands to the work, even though other nobles wouldn’t. He reminds me of the Apostle Paul being a tent maker, even though he had the right to be paid for his ministry. This is a lovely, Christlike, self sacrificing model, but not the requirements of the Law.
This reminds me of some great leaders I’ve seen throughout my life in ministry. Jeff Nelson is a YWAMer with an insane work ethic. The man is a machine and also full of grace and generosity. He and his wife rent a room to me when I live in Salem. I’ve worked with Jeff in the US, but also in Brazil, Argentina and Costa Rica. He is a man of consistent integrity, which I can attest to because I also live at his house. He is a also real person, not an Aesop fable character. His wife Sue also gives sacrifically of her time and resources. I am very blessed to have them in my life and I’m also incredibly blessed to say they are just one example among many godly leaders in my life.
Let’s thank God for these examples today. Share a story of someone who comes to mind when you think of a leader like Nehemiah.