Nehemiah 1:7 – “…We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses…”
The book of Nehemiah reports one of the finest leadership initiatives in all of history, with the restoration of the city of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is a vital case study for leaders seeking to build churches as a countercultural city within cities. As Jesus said in Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” The calling of God’s people throughout history has not been to conform to the surrounding culture or expect unbelievers in the world to obey God. Instead, God’s people are called to live as a countercultural subculture, bringing the values of the Kingdom of God down to the people of God living as a witness to the world of a better way of life under King Jesus. This is the driving purpose behind the massive building project and spiritual revival in Nehemiah.
Nehemiah’s name means, “Yahweh is my comfort”. He is constantly hated, opposed, slandered, sued, lied about, and plotted against. Most people would break under such unrelenting and unfair pressure. Nehemiah, however, remained resolute because he continually met with God in prayer, worship, and journaling to receive the comfort and confidence he needed from God.
Nehemiah’s father was named Hacaliah, although we know virtually nothing about him or his brothers, including Hanani who is named (1:2). Nehemiah’s family was likely prominent and prosperous since the family burial tomb was in Jerusalem (2:5). In this family, we see that God not only uses the poor and unknown, but also the rich and known, if their hearts are devoted to Him.
Nehemiah loved God and was a seemingly average believing man working a government job and was not a religious professional. Much of the book are his journal entries (chapters 1-7, 13). Although he is recognized by many as one of the greatest leaders in all of Scripture for rebuilding a city (in a short 52 days after 141 years of prior failed efforts), he is never mentioned in the New Testament.
Does God’s people living in a countercultural world like in the days of Nehemiah sound familiar? How do you think this book can relate to your life today?
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