Up to this point in the book, Nehemiah had overcome many obstacles: external opposition from international coalition forces, internal social conflicts within the community, and the logistics of rebuilding the walls within two months! His answer to these issues were primarily prayer and dependence on God, while maintaining a focus on the immediate work before him.
But aside from the immediate objective, Nehemiah’s main purpose was still something higher—a purpose somewhat obscured from view until now. He was to rebuild, not only Jerusalem, but the people of Jerusalem. For what is a walled city without people to inhabit it?
Biblical leadership must always be concerned for people. While business, science, and politics focus on the objective leadership tasks at hand with values such as profit, progress, and power, biblical leadership always takes into account the people. We will discover that Nehemiah’s leadership sought restoration of the community and its connection with God.
While the first six chapters of the book focused on the material restoration of the walls, chapters 8 through 13 now pivot to the spiritual restoration of the people.
The initial verses of chapter 7 state that Nehemiah had completed his mission. Whereas in the previous chapter, the wall had been built but the doors had not been hung (6:1), now both were complete. The logistics of the wall and doors were over. Now that a mere administrative leadership was necessary for the upkeep of the structures Nehemiah delegated the task to others: Hanani and Hananiah (6:2).
Whether Hanani was a literal brother of Nehemiah is not surely known as relatives and kinsfolk were also referred to as brothers. The Bible continues to mention two prerequisite qualities to look for in a successor: competence (“for he was a faithful man”), and spirituality (“feared God more than many”). One could also include the prerequisite of having a burden for the work, which was likely shared with Hanani, whom Nehemiah initially met in 1:2.
In secular organizations, competence is measured by resumes, educational degrees, licenses, and certifications. Other metrics may be used, but the point is that competence and skill sets are the main criteria used in employment selection. Biblical leadership, however, goes one step further and includes the role of spirituality. Of course, this attribute is more difficult to measure, but the Bible interestingly says Nehemiah’s choice of successor “feared God more than many.” Rather than an objective quality, it is subjective and even comparative to those around. The point is not how much or even how much more, but rather, if the individual has a close relationship with God?
This latter quality may be laughed at by the secular world, but why would spirituality not be a key factor when it comes to spiritual work? For spiritual things are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:13, 14). Just as the description does not discount competence, neither does it disregard spirituality. Some in church and religious work assume that all you need is a relationship with God. But know-how, ability, skillfulness, and proficiency in the area at hand is just as necessary.
Once his successors were chosen, Nehemiah’s astute leadership caused him to look at other areas that needed to be developed. Some lessons that arise from these actions are: 1) Nehemiah knew when to step down and delegate responsibilities and duties to others; 2) true leadership transcends a position, but looks for any area that needs to be cultivated.
One area of concern was security. Nehemiah 7:1 records that he set up porters and Levites over the walls and doors. Possibly still wary of Sanballat and his friends, the threat of invasion, spies, and other breeches of security were a present reality. His vigilance and watchfulness is something to be emulated.
In verse 3, Nehemiah continued to create a system of subordinates and subsystem of security, in that the Levites were to open the gates at daytime (for surprise attacks could have occurred at dawn or dusk), while the inhabitants of Jerusalem were responsible for the walls at other times.
In verse 5, Nehemiah was impressed by God to take “inventory” of the people. Nehemiah’s scrupulous attention to detail shows the ideal meticulousness Christian leaders must exercise in their finances, social relationships, and responsibilities. The list from verses 6–73 contains names, families, hometowns, positions, goods, supplies, livestock, and finances. Good leadership includes organization skills, paying attention to fine detail, and accurate recordkeeping. The best leadership knows that the important factor is the people behind these facts.
A policy was enacted to assure that those living in Jerusalem were pure Jews and had to be registered by genealogy. This ensured the citizens had a genetic connection to the city, thereby preventing the enemies of God coming back in.
However, some groups could find no genealogical record of their ancestry, as stated in verse 61–65. Instead of incorporating them into the group, they were “excluded from the priesthood as defiled.” Later in the New Testament, 1 Tim. 1:4 and Titus 3:9 discourage the practice of checking genealogies. By this time, genealogies had become an “endless” and futile exercise, no longer being concerned with security but exclusivity. Rather, the theology of Ephesians brings out that Gentiles and Jews can now be one together, if they are in Christ (Eph. 2:11–22). This is a revolutionary thought! Paul speaks out against the divide that kept Gentiles and Jews separate for centuries, not on the basis of justice, but on the basis of Jesus Christ!
Jesus is the only One who has the right to be living in the New Jerusalem. As long as our “genealogy” is found to be connected to Christ, our citizenship, regardless of being a Jew or Gentile, is now assured in the heavenly city! So we do away with our earthly cultural records and replace them with our connection with Christ. The implications are that a new culture is being created in Christ, called the church! Two people of different nationalities, cultures, or races have more common with each other in Christ than someone from their own gene pool. This is the power of Christ’s blood!
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:27, 28).
No distinction on account of nationality, race, or caste, is recognized by God. He is the Maker of all mankind. All men are of one family by creation, and all are one through redemption. Christ came to demolish every wall of partition, to throw open every compartment of the temple, that every soul may have free access to God.
The religion of the Bible recognizes no caste or color. It ignores rank, wealth, worldly honor. God estimates men as men. With Him, character decides their worth. And we are to recognize the Spirit of Christ in whomsoever He is revealed.
Thus Christ sought to teach the disciples the truth that in God’s kingdom there are no territorial lines, no caste, no aristocracy; that they must go to all nations, bearing to them the message of a Saviour’s love.
The walls of sectarianism and caste and race will fall down when the true missionary spirit enters the hearts of men. Prejudice is melted away by the love of God.
Walls of separation have been built up between the whites and the blacks. These walls of prejudice will tumble down of themselves as did the walls of Jericho, when Christians obey the Word of God, which enjoins on them supreme love to their Maker and impartial love to their neighbors.
When the Holy Spirit is poured out, there will be a triumph of humanity over prejudice in seeking the salvation of the souls of human beings. God will control minds. Human hearts will love as Christ loved. And the color line will be regarded by many very differently from the way in which it is now regarded. To love as Christ loves lifts the mind into a pure, heavenly, unselfish atmosphere.