After being in captivity for 70 years in Babylon, in 536 B.C., the first group of Jews returned to Israel under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the kingly descendant. In 458 B.C., Ezra the priest led the second group, and in 444 B.C. a third group was led by Nehemiah. Zerubbabel led the rebuilding of the temple, Ezra restored proper worship and understanding of the law, and Nehemiah rebuilt the walls. Work on the temple and Ezra’s attempt to restore Israel’s religion was hindered until Nehemiah came and led the people to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Before the walls were rebuilt, the city was defenseless to raiders and those who would sabotage the work and heart of the people.
Who was Nehemiah?
We are told in the book named after Nehemiah that he was the “king’s cupbearer” (1:11:). The Persian King Artaxerxes trusted Nehemiah with his life since Nehemiah was to taste test everything before the king to make sure it was not poisoned. We also know that Nehemiah had a happy soul because he was never sad before the presence of the king (2:1). God had placed Nehemiah in a strategic place for the purpose of securing resources and the kings blessing to rebuild the walls the Jerusalem.
A Burden for Lasting Change.
What does Nehemiah have to do with change and why do leaders continually look to this book for inspiration? Especially as it concerns our local churches and service before God. I believe it is because Nehemiah demonstrates to us the foundation of producing real and lasting change. Now, most consultants and other leaders will start with a vision and may quote some verse about not having a vision. However, Nehemiah was not in Jerusalem, and he was not aware of anything needing help in Jerusalem. He was unconcerned at first until he had a burden.
The book begins with Nehemiah receiving a message about the deplorable state of Jerusalem. The walls were still broken down and were the laughing stock of the surrounding nations. At this news, he broke down and mourned for some time (1:4). It is not at this point that Nehemiah started to develop a vision. No, instead he sought after God’s help. Once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless. We cast off certain restraints from activities we know are wrong. We set prayer aside as well and cease having God’s vision in the little things of life. We naturally begin to act on our own initiative. If we are eating only out of our own hand and doing things solely on our own accord without expecting God to come in, we are on a downward path.
The information that the messenger revealed was a dark contrast to Nehemiah’s knowledge of Jerusalem. This presented a conflict in his soul that something more needed to be done. He now had a burden and was cultivating it before God in prayer. It would even affect his demeanor before the king (2:1-4).
What we learn in the episode of Nehemiah’s account is that burden must be present for change to occur. It is a burden to make a difference that will help a person move forward with their work even when facing extreme difficulties. A burden will stay when helpers are not found. A burden will still be present when resources are low. Yes, that can produce some pains, but it strengthen’s passion and a desire to follow-through with commitments.
Do you have a burden for a needed change in your church? Or, in your life? Seek God to imprint on your heart a strong desire to do something that in turn will point others to Christ and empower the believer to greater devotion before God.