An Enduring Legacy: "Leaders Who Pay the Price" – Nehemiah 11

leader2There is no need to convince any room of people who are passing this time in history together that leadership is desperately needed and vitally essential for the complex times we live in! In fact, we would readily agree with John Maxwell’s well stated axiom: “Any person can steer the ship but it takes a leader to chart the course”. The course of our nation, and the course of our community is surely in jeopardy, and we are crying out for ethical, moral and stable leadership.

We need humble, other-person-centered leaders, not self-aggrandizing and disconnected leaders. Our nation has some, and we have built some! I think of the Marine corps, that has experience in constructing men of character. This story encouraged me:

Several years ago, when our embassy in Beruit was bombed, several people were injured. One marine was injured physically and he was also blinded. A general who was the commanding officer of that area went into the hospital and commended this man for suffering. A few days later, the commanding officer was advised that it was the birthday of the young marine who had been blinded. The general said, “Cancel everything on my schedule this morning, I need to go over to the hospital.” He got insignia stars from his uniform and arrived at the hospital, where he sought out the blind marine. When he found him he said, “I understand it’s your birthday today.” And he said, “Give me your hand.” And as he held up his hand, the general put the stars in his hand and said, “these are for certainly more for you than I, young man, HAPPY Birthday.” The young marine then asked for the hand of general and gave back the stars and said, “Semper fie” which means “always faithful.” This young marine was simply saying, “I do not deserve anything extra. I was simply remaining faithful.” That young man understood what leadership and sacrifice really meant. He was trained well.

Key Principle: Leadership is both a gift and divine appointment. Though it is bestowed, it must be deliberately cultivated.

We are heading to Nehemiah for the bulk of the lesson, but on our way, I want to look at a man who understood the need to cultivate leadership… an example from the early church found in a man known for his ENCOURAGEMENT – Joses, whose surname was Barnabbas.

• Barnabas was born on the island of Cyprus of Jewish parents of the tribe of Levi, a appears to have come to Jerusalem because of his priestly connections (some have surmised he was a fellow-student with Paul of the sage Gamaliel).

• A “cousin” of John Mark, he became an early leader in the Jerusalem church and was given the nickname Barnabas (son of encouragement) by the apostles (Acts 4:36-37).

• When Jerusalem’s early Messianic community “had all things common” (Acts 4:32-35), Barnabas sold a piece of property and turned the proceeds over to the apostles.

• After the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, Barnabas found the Jerusalem believers so suspicious of Saul’s motives, that he took Saul “under his wing” and introduced him to the apostles (Acts 9:26-27).

• Sent by the Jerusalem church to supervise the burgeoning Christian work at Antioch, Barnabas found the enterprise so demanding that he brought Saul from Tarsus to help him, and the two labored together in Antioch for a year (Acts 11:22-26).

Look at how the story is relayed by Dr. Luke:

Acts 11:22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord. 25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

Stop and think about what God did later through the Apostle Paul. Thirteen letters from his heart fill your New Testament. Ten thousand land miles were traveled presenting the Gospel message. The defense of the completed work for sin in the Cross was chiefly defended by this servant of God. We understand many things because of God’s work in Paul’s heart:

• The coming place of believer’s in God’s work – even sitting in judgment over spiritual entities.
• The concept of the church as the “body of Christ” that is joined together with Christ as her head.
• The place of men and women in ministry and relationship to one another.
• The teaching of God to the church concerning the communion service.
• The reality and description of Resurrection bodies.
• The proper principles of giving for the believer… and many, many other truths.

We have these because God used Paul… but we have Paul’s words because God used Barnabas. He saw the makings of a leader in the thirty-something year old Pharisee. He invited Paul into the chamber of leaders. He invited him into the heart of the work at Antioch. He joined Paul in the call of God to the first mission journey work. God COULD HAVE USED OTHERS to bring Paul in, but Barnabas was open, and Barnabas was obedient. He saw potential where others saw only problems. That, in its essence, is the heart of a leader.

God chooses to use men and women who will be obedient, but also those who will keep their eyes on people and see possibilities. Two thoughts should push us forward:

1. People follow examples better than words! Because of that, God is looking for more than truth dispensers – He most effectively uses those who embody the truths they espouse. Time and time again Jesus warned that His words were not for mere memorization – but a call to obedience!

2. “There are rocky danger areas that every leader needs to be conscious of in deliberate navigation:

a. First, no leader can afford to think too highly of himself. A good leader is not worried about making sure he gets the credit for things – but rather they must not concern themselves with what is visible over what is truly important. Leaders do what is necessary, regardless of whether people see it, or whether they know who took care of the need. God sees. God remembers – and that is the only focus a godly leader need have.

b. Good leaders see potential, and constantly seek to recognize others who have helped in the work. They not only don’t SEEK the credit – they LOVE to bestow the credit for the work on others!

Let’s take those thoughts with us as we look back at the text of Nehemiah 11.

Nehemiah included a record of the contributions of those who worked to repopulate and reestablish the city of Jerusalem, and what they gave up to make the vision a reality! He WANTED to credit them with the work, and he recognized their sacrifice.

Essentially, Nehemiah made clear four truths about leadership that were recorded to help us:

1. The Problem of Leading – it requires sacrifice (11:1).

First, there is a PROBLEM with the role of leadership that one must recognize and accept – or they cannot effectively lead.

11:1 Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem, but the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while nine- tenths remained in the other cities.

To lead means to serve a greater purpose than self-satisfaction and to seek to place the needs of others ahead of personal comfort and convenience. In short, there IS a price to leadership! While it is TRUE that there are often great perks and affirmation involved in leading – these cannot and must not be the drawing factor to leadership. Let uis say it plainly: leaders who take on the task for what they can GET are not real leaders – they are self-interested people wearing the costume of a leader.

Add to that the reality that some in our day have misunderstood TROUBLE for redirection from God. Some believers have fallen prey to the false teaching that COMFORT is God’s chief form of CONFIRMATION. Craig Larson talks about being at a lunch party on a warm, Chicago day in early September with a dozen of his fellow workers. The windows were left open, and soon a bee found its way in. After buzzing around for a while, it landed on some food on the table. Then someone took an empty bottle of sparkling grape juice and put the mouth of the bottle near the bee. Without a moment’s hesitation, the bee flew to the mouth of the bottle and climbed inside the narrow opening. Immediately, Larson’s colleague put the cap on the bottle and screwed it shut. The bee spent the rest of the party drinking at the bottom of the bottle, and as far as anyone knew, the bee was never released. The people at that table were not concerned about the bee. Their purpose was not to make sure it enjoyed itself and had a good time. No! Their only concern was capture and control. That’s the way it is with Satan. He is not concerned about us. His purpose is not to make sure we have a good time. No! He despises us, and his only concern is capture and control. (From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Pitfalls of Leadership, 7/29/2010)

Sacrificial leadership is best seen in the choice to surrender the comfortable thing for that which will bring blessing to the group we serve. If you are called to lead – you are called to put those you lead ahead of yourself. Think about what would happen if:

• A boss decided to work in place of an employee that was exhausted from the overtime of the high pressure goal they had just attained for the company. Would that worker ever forget the sacrifice of the boss? Would they see their efforts as deeply appreciated and rewarded? Would they recognize that boos as specifically taking on the cost to make things work better?

• A father decided to recognize the low self-esteem of his daughter and began to set up a weekly date night with her to help her see how beautiful she truly was! Would the young woman grow in confidence and be more prepared to accept her identity in Christ?

• A husband chose to really listen to his wife, and asked her what would help her grow in Christ and be more fulfilled and happy. What if he really heard what she said, and made a careful and prayerful effort to bring into her life the things that would bless her?

• A community leader decided that he or she would take a difficult stand because they recognized larger principles involved. Maybe in the short term their popularity would suffer – but in the long term the community would truly benefit.

• A committee chairwoman decided to appoint the best people to a task even though she personally found those people difficult to deal with. Would her sacrifice yield a better outcome?

Leadership isn’t about comfort, it is about energizing people to move to the vision God calls them to. Not only is there misunderstanding about comfort and leadership… but there is also misunderstanding about the value of mistakes involved in leadership. Mistakes WILL happen. How a leader responds to them can be the difference between success and failure! We must be willing to take responsibility for leadership mistakes! I love this little example:

Several years ago, Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Bob Patterson described one of his pitches, which the Cincinnati Reds’ Barry Larkin hit for a game-winning home run: “It was a cross between a screwball and a change-up. It was a screw-up.” (Wall Street Journal, 7/9/96; Leadership, Vol. 17, no.3)

Nehemiah got the walls up, the guards in, the worship going, and now was calling on long term leadership to set Jerusalem on a course to full rebirth. The casting of lots filled Jerusalem with families, children, movement and life. It wasn’t a great place to be… yet. At the same time, leaders look ahead. They see, not simply what IS… but what CAN BE.

Malcolm Muggeridge was a very famous and highly respected British journalist who for many years was an ardent atheist. His opinions and thoughts were coveted by American publishers and he occasionally wrote the editorial page for Time magazine. Toward the end of his illustrious career as the Dean of British broadcasters, he became a Christian. Several years ago he was a guest at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. where he shared his life story. When he had finished his testimony, he made a number of comments about world affairs, all of which were very pessimistic. One of those present asked, “Dr. Muggeridge, you have been very pessimistic. Don’t you have any reason for optimism?” He replied, “I could not be more optimistic than I am, because my hope is in Jesus Christ alone.” He allowed that remark to settle in for a few seconds, and then he added,” Just think if the apostolic church had pinned its hopes on the Roman Empire!”(Halverson/ The Living Body). I love that story! It reminds me NOT to place my hope on my political system – even if I have lived in its benefits for a long time.

America is NOT the hope of the world – Jesus is. Democracy won’t fix the world – the transformation of the Spirit will. Lasting world peace will not come because of a negotiated process – the Prince of Peace will bring it with Him! My hope is not in the characters of the story, but the Author of the book.

2. The Process of Leading – deliberate affirmation (11:2).

There is not only a PRICE to lead, but there is also a deliberate FOCUS one must grasp to be a leader. Look at the text:

11:2 And the people blessed all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem. 3 Now these are the heads of the provinces who lived in Jerusalem, but in the cities of Judah each lived on his own property in their cities —the Israelites, the priests, the Levites, the temple servants and the descendants of Solomon’s servants.

The leaders recognized (as did the congregation of returned Israel) that some among them were volunteering for hardship – and they joined in public praise of them. Those leaders who respond personally to the needs of the people they are leading are the most loved by them. At the same time, they DON’T HOARD AFFIRMATION – they focus on spreading it out for the purpose of encouraging people. The Bible is clear that blessing falls to those who place the others first!

3. The Personalities Who Lead – they bring fullness (11:3-24).

I think it is interesting how the passage honored the spectrum of leaders by recalling them and their families by name and type of service they performed. Note the groups of leaders mentioned. First the summary:

11:4 Some of the sons of Judah and some of the sons of Benjamin lived in Jerusalem. ..

Though they were CLOSE to home, they didn’t live at home – because the priority of getting Jerusalem restarted was more important! Five groups or titles were delineated in the record:

Laymen (4-9). Note the names of the men from each tribe:

From Judah: 11:4 “…From the sons of Judah: Athaiah the son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, of the sons of Perez; 5 and Maaseiah the son of Baruch, the son of Col- hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, the son of the Shilonite. 6 All the sons of Perez who lived in Jerusalem were 468 able men.

From Benjamin: 11:7 Now these are the sons of Benjamin:Sallu the son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah; 8 and after him Gabbai and Sallai, 928. 9 Joel the son of Zichri was their overseer, and Judah the son of Hassenuah was second in command of the city.

God began His work among the people who were brave enough to take a chance on God’s protection! These were the courageous “first followers” that became examples to all the people. Thank God that he calls some who will follow Him in profound ways – even when we cannot see the gift that they truly are to us:

Leadership Magazine offered a story of four young men who were Bible College students; the four were renting a house together. One Saturday morning someone knocked on their door. And when they opened it, there stood this draggled old man. His eyes were kind of marbleized, and he had a silvery stub of whiskers on his face. His clothes were ragged and torn. His shoes didn’t match. In fact, they were both for the same foot. And he carried a wicker basket full of unappealing vegetables that he was trying to sell. The boys felt sorry for him and bought some of his vegetables just to help him out. Then he went on his way. But from that time on, every Saturday he appeared at their door with his basket of vegetables. As the boys got to know him a little bit better, they began inviting him in to visit a while before continuing on his rounds. They soon discovered that his eyes looked marbleized not because of drugs or alcohol, but because of cataracts. They learned that he lived just down the street in an old shack. They also found out that he could play the harmonica, that he loved to play Christian hymns, and that he really loved God. So every Saturday they would invite him in, and he would play his harmonica and they would sing Christian hymns together. They became good friends, and the boys began trying to figure out ways to help him. They finally collected a bunch of clothes and secretly left it all on his doorstep, no note attached or anything. The following Saturday morning, the story says, right in the middle of all their singing and praising, he suddenly said to them, “God is so good!” And they all agreed, “Yes, God is so good.” He went on, “You know why he is so good?” They said, “Why?” He said, “Because yesterday, when I got up and opened my door, there were boxes full of clothes and shoes and coats and gloves. Yes, God is so good!” And the boys smiled at each other and chimed in, “Yes, God is so good.” He went on, “You know why He is so good?” They answered, “You already told us why. What more?” He said, “Because I found a family who could use those things and I gave them all away.”

Priests (10-14). Beyond the laymen, there were also priests that were voluntarily part of the rebirth of the city of Jerusalem.

11:10 From the priests:Jedaiah the son of Joiarib, Jachin, 11 Seraiah the son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the leader of the house of God, 12 and their kinsmen who performed the work of the temple, 822; and Adaiah the son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malchijah, 13 and his kinsmen, heads of fathers’ households, 242; and Amashsai the son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14 and their brothers, valiant warriors, 128. And their overseer was Zabdiel, the son of Haggedolim.

I would wager, if I were a betting man, that the water system of the city was not all fully functioning. I doubt the city was comfortable, and that all the rubble of the destruction was fully cleared away. Yet, some priests chose to stay there, because that would make the function of the Temple work better. They understood that God’s continued blessing was dependent on the priority of worship in the people. It was essential that the Temple function well and its services remain steady – or the whole process of rebirth would quickly fall apart.

Real leaders know that spiritual growth is at the heart of economic growth and embittering of the social welfare. In our day of rising militant secularism, young people are trained to think that spiritual commitment is a drain – that the work of caring for people belongs to the government – not God’s people. In earlier days it was not so. Our great universities were begun, not to fight the church and disprove the Bible – but to teach it. There was, in days gone by, recognition of the positive role of the church in society. In secularism, society must now be protected from the church – and the downward spiral of morality is not connected in the public mindset with the deliberate isolation of the church.

The priests volunteered because they were leaders. They stepped out because they knew what God wanted, even if many of the people did not know how important their work truly was.

Levites (15-18). In addition to Priests, Levites were also called to be among those in Jerusalem.

11:15 Now from the Levites: Shemaiah the son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16 and Shabbethai and Jozabad, from the leaders of the Levites, who were in charge of the outside work of the house of God; 17 and Mattaniah the son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, who was the leader in beginning the thanksgiving at prayer, and Bakbukiah, the second among his brethren; and Abda the son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18 All the Levites in the holy city were 284.

The Levitical corps provided the back bone of practical leaders that were essential to stable ministry and a good testimony (note v. 16). Some of the men were ordained to build and repair – while others directed ministry. All were essential.

Civil Servants: Porters, Nethinim, Singers (19-23). The record of the work also included those with civil service jobs:

11:19 Also the gatekeepers, Akkub, Talmon and their brethren who kept watch at the gates, were 172. 20 The rest of Israel, of the priests and of the Levites, were in all the cities of Judah, each on his own inheritance. 21 But the temple servants were living in Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of the temple servants. 22 Now the overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mica, from the sons of Asaph, who were the singers for the service of the house of God. 23 For there was a commandment from the king concerning them and a firm regulation for the song leaders day by day..

Every work for God included bold men and women of service. Civil servants had wives, children and dreams – just like everyone else. Worship leaders, Temple clean up crews, gatekeepers – these were all people with families… but they knew what God’s call in their life was – and they worked in an uncomfortable situation to fulfill that call.

The Ruler’s Staff (24): the king had an ambassador who also lived among the people, and represented the king’s policies to the people:

11:24 Pethahiah the son of Meshezabel, of the sons of Zerah the son of Judah, was the king’s representative in all matters concerning the people.

What keeps people from misunderstanding one another? Communication is the key. Wise administration and clear communication (the ability to respond to needs quickly and efficiently) cleared the way to effective team work!

4. The Promise of Leading – their vision brought blessing and stability (11:25-36).

Beyond those who lived in Jerusalem – there were those who went back to each town and village that had been abandoned in the captivity to begin to rebuild. This was the benefit to rebuilding Jerusalem – the people could establish it as a center from which the whole land could begin to be resettled…

11:25 Now as for the villages with their fields, some of the sons of Judah lived in Kiriath-Arba and its towns, in Dibon and its towns, and in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 and in Jeshua, in Moladah and Beth-pelet, 27 and in Hazar-shual, in Beersheba and its towns, 28 and in Ziklag, in Meconah and in its towns, 29 and in En- rimmon, in Zorah and in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam, and their villages, Lachish and its fields, Azekah and its towns. So they encamped from Beersheba as far as the valley of Hinnom. 31 The sons of Benjamin also lived from Geba onward, at Michmash and Aija, at Bethel and its towns, 32 at Anathoth, Nob, Ananiah, 33 Hazor, Ramah, Gittaim, 34 Hadid, Zeboim, Neballat, 35 Lod and Ono, the valley of craftsmen. 36 From the Levites, some divisions in Judah belonged to Benjamin.

The beautiful and lush lands of their ancestral homes were for followers. Those who would lead, needed to surrender things that others have. We must see the worth of the vision – but that is not always easy. In the struggle of leadership, we can lose sight of what we are really doing!

David Kraft was a big, strong man — all muscle. At the age of 32, he was six feet, two inches tall and weighed 200 pounds. He had been to seminary and ended up working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, because of his athletic background. Then he was diagnosed with cancer. It wracked his body, and over a period of time, he dropped from 200 pounds to 80 pounds. When he was about ready to pass from this life into eternity, he asked his father to come into his hospital room. Lying there in bed, he looked up and said, “Dad, do you remember when I was a little boy, how you used to hold me in your arm close to your chest?” David’s father nodded. Then David said, “Do you think, Dad, you could do that one more time? One last time?” Again his father nodded. He bent down to pick up his 32-year-old, six-foot, two-inch, 80 pound son, and held him close to his chest, so that the son’s face was right next to the father’s face. They were eyeball to eyeball. Tears were streaming down both faces, and the son said to his father, “Thank you for building the kind of character into my life that can enable me to face even a moment like this.” (Ron Lee Davis, “Introducing Christ to Your Child,” Preaching Today, Tape No.92) .

Leadership is both a gift and divine appointment. Though it is bestowed, it must be deliberately cultivated.