Nehemiah’s able and inspiring leadership is shown in the way he rallies the people. First, he points them to the mess they are in (Nehemiah 2:17), something they are aware of but do not know how to resolve. We must note that Nehemiah does not give the impression that he is an important visitor who has come to Jerusalem to fix their problem. He uses the pronoun ″us″ when describing the trouble they are in, indicating that he stands in solidarity with the people.
Second, he mobilises the people: ″Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem″ (v. 17).
Third, he describes the method they will employ to do the work: they are to work together in a united and coordinated way. His use of the plural ″us″ indicates that this is a work for everyone to be involved in.
Fourth, Nehemiah provides motivation for the work. He tells them that when they have completed the rebuilding work, God’s city ″will no longer be in disgrace″ (v. 17). Jerusalem is the brunt of jokes among the surrounding people, and the honour of God is at stake. This is enough motivation for those who love God and revere His name to roll up their sleeves and get moving.
Fifth, Nehemiah reminds them that God is the Master Builder behind the whole thing; this rebuilding project is neither his own idea nor based on the strategy of the people. He gives his testimony of how God has led him and placed His gracious hand on him (v. 18). This is God’s work and God is with His people. Such inspiring words would have helped to remove all doubts from the people’s hearts and to encourage them to join hands in the work. They thus reply to Nehemiah, ″Let us start rebuilding″ (v. 18).
As the Jews begin their work, they encounter immediate opposition and ridicule from Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem, leaders of Judea’s neighbours. Mocking them, ″What is this you are doing?″ (v. 19), these enemies contrast ″this″ and ″you″, and laugh at the perceived mismatch. They also accuse the Jews of rebelling against the king, which is a lie since the king has authorised the rebuilding work. Undaunted, Nehemiah replies that the work is God’s, the people are God’s servants, and God will give them success (v. 20). As Romans 8:31 also puts it, ″If God is for us, who can be against us?″
Nehemiah is a godly mobiliser and motivator. He does not lord over the people, but works together with them. We motivate others when we roll up our sleeves to work with them. The greatest motivation is the glory of God, when we can point others to the fact that what we are doing is for the name of the Lord, and that He is with us and leading us in the work. Because God initiates His work and enables us to accomplish it, we should resist all temptations of offers by God’s enemies to assist us. Satan will use them to disrupt the work. Moreover, anything done without faith is not pleasing to the Lord (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).
What would be the right motive for doing God’s work? What lesser motives take away the joy and effectiveness of serving God?
Nehemiah refused to allow God’s enemies to have any share in the work (Nehemiah 2:20). What principle can we apply based on this, in our personal lives and in the church?