A long time ago I learned that I might try to teach my children and others a great many things. If I was fortunate they might actually learn some of the things I taught, but I could guarantee they would nearly always learn things they “caught” from me. It was what I was doing, saying, and modeling that really had the greatest impact and that was especially true when my words and behaviors did not match. They would be more likely to “catch” my behaviors even if I would have wished otherwise.
As I have been walking through Nehemiah with you the past several weeks, it has been clear that Nehemiah was demonstrating excellent evidences of leadership, godly leadership. Up until now, we have identified six qualities:
- A godly leader prays
- A godly leader acts
- A godly leader faces opposition
- A godly leader cares
- A godly leader turns people to God’s Word
- A godly leader confesses sins
It has also been clear that time and again Nehemiah’s choices and behaviors, his attitude and his strategies were consistent as evident of his godly character.
As we observe those in leadership over us in any and all arenas, we will discover if they live out what they would ask us to be and do. Their words and rhetoric may woo us and persuade us to follow them; but if we do that the inspiration they elicit will begin to fade when we do not detect those same principles lived out.
Throughout the book of Nehemiah we have noted how well he has modeled the life of not only a godly leader, but first of all a godly person. By the time we near the end of the story and the people have confessed their sins, we see another aspect of godly leadership.
At the start of the story Nehemiah demonstrated a commitment to follow what he knew was significant as a godly man. He knew Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt so the exiles living there could be protected and be reminded of who they were and whose they were. From the time he arrived in Jerusalem, his commitment was on display for all to see. It was there when he assessed the condition of the walls and gates. It was there when he came up with a strategy to rebuild those walls and gates and to handle the opposition to those very plans. It was there when the physical rebuilding was done and he recognized the need to hear the book of the Law opened so the exiles would be reminded of how they were to observe all God had laid out for them. It was there when he joined the community in the confession of sins and a heart of repentance.
Such godly leadership evoked a godly response from the people. After the confession they made, now they made an oath to keep God’s law. They not only said it, but they put it in writing and the leaders, Levites, and priests affixed their seals to it as well. They had heard the truth and they responded. After all, they had watched Nehemiah modeling this type of commitment from the beginning.
Their oath showed their seriousness as well because it included a curse if they would not follow their commitment to their pledges. Throughout the ninth chapter of Nehemiah their specific promises are outlined. These acted much like a covenant for the people.
Pledges and covenant are words not so common in our vernacular and neither is the word oath. When we do see those words or hear them, it is most often when someone is appearing in court or being sworn into office or being married.
Perhaps we no longer value such commitments.
Could it also be that too often we have observed that leaders we are submitting to do not make them or keep them so we feel excused from doing so?
A godly leader leads people in specific commitments.