“Wasn’t this exactly what led King Solomon of Israel into sin?” I demanded. “There was no king from any nation who could compare to him, and God loved him and made him king over all Israel. But even he was led into sin by his foreign wives. How could you even think of committing this sinful deed and acting unfaithfully toward God by marrying foreign women?”
One of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest had married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite, so I banished him from my presence.
Remember them, O my God, for they have defiled the priesthood and the solemn vows of the priests and Levites.
So I purged out everything foreign and assigned tasks to the priests and Levites, making certain that each knew his work. I also made sure that the supply of wood for the altar and the first portions of the harvest were brought at the proper times. Remember this in my favor, O my God. (Nehemiah 13:26-31)
This book is about rebuilding the wall of a great city, but it is also about spiritual renewal—rebuilding a people’s dependence on God. Nehemiah was filled with righteous indignation at the blatant way the Jews were breaking God’s laws and disregarding the covenant they had previously reaffirmed (Nehemiah 10:30). During Nehemiah’s absence, the people had been intermarrying, breaking their solemn covenant with God. Nehemiah’s severe treatment of these people shows the contrast between his great faithfulness to God and the people’s neglect, disobedience, and disloyalty (see also Ezra 10:3).
Nehemiah’s life story provides many principles of effective leadership that are still valid today. (1) Have a clear purpose and keep evaluating it in light of God’s will. Nothing prevented Nehemiah from staying on track. (2) Be straightforward and honest. Everyone knew exactly what Nehemiah needed, and he spoke the truth even when it made his goal harder to achieve. (3) Live above reproach. The accusations against Nehemiah were empty and false. (4) Be a person of constant prayer, deriving power and wisdom from your contact with God. Everything Nehemiah did glorified God.
Leadership appears glamorous at times, but it is often lonely, thankless, and filled with pressures to compromise values and standards. How can you encourage the leaders in your church congregation?