Nehemiah is a contemporary of Ezra, the high priest during the return of Judah from exile. Nehemiah was in the service of king Artaxerxes. He served as a cup-bearer in the king’s courts. During his time there, he got word that Jerusalem was in ruins, and God laid a heavy burden on his heart to lead the rebuilding project.
There is so much that I like about the book of Nehemiah, but one thing that struck me this time around is that Nehemiah was not a spiritual leader of the people. Well, not officially anyway. He was not a priest or a scribe or a Levite. He really was a regular guy with a burden for his people and the Lord’s work.
He was a planner. He took his time to survey the damage done to the city walls and appointed people to the work. He was aso a recruiter, finding a way to get perfumers and goldsmiths and merchants involved in the building of the wall. He was an incredible organizer and administrator. The kind of guy who every company would love to have.
But what was so amazing about this administratively minded social reformer is that he WAS a spiritual leader. This is evident in his incredible prayer life. Listen to his prayer after he hears the news of the state of Jerusalem:
4 As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the jGod of heaven. 5 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6 let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9 but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10 They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11 O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”
This prayer is filled with scripture, filled with humility, confession, repentance, faith, and hope. And all this from a regular business-minded guy.
Nehemiah saw his work (planning, organizing, and leading a building project) as deeply spiritual. He understood 1 Corinthians 10:31 and Colossians 3:17, that whatever we do, eating, drinking, working, sleeping, we are to do all for the glory of God in the name of Christ. We need to live as Nehemiah did. We need to see our jobs as spiritual. If you are an admin, you are an admin for Jesus. If you are a construction worker or nurse, you are those things for Jesus.
I am so inspired and convicted by the life of this man, and I pray that, for me, and for all of us, Nehemiah’s example will lead to Christians seeing every area of their lives as integral to their spiritual growth. No separation. No secular/sacred. Just lives lived fully for the glory of Jesus Christ.