Scripture Text – Nehemiah 7
The walls were completed, the gates were restored, and the enemy was thoroughly annoyed; but Nehemiah’s work was not finished by any means. Now he had to practice the truth Paul emphasized in Ephesians 6:13, “And having done all, to stand.” Nehemiah had been steadfast in building the walls and in resisting the shrewd and cunning onslaught of the enemy, and now he had to be steadfast in consolidating and conserving what they had gained. The beloved Apostle John warned, “Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward.” – 2 John 8.
A city is much more than walls, gates, and houses; a city is made up of its people. In the first half of Nehemiah’s book, the people existed for the walls; but now the walls must exist for the people. It was time to organize the community so that the citizens could enjoy the quality of life God wanted them to have. God had great things in store for Jerusalem, for one day His Son would walk the city streets, teach in the temple, and ultimately die outside the city walls.
This chapter records three important steps that must be taken by any leader in order to protect the people and the work that has already been done.
Then it was, when the wall was built and I had hung the doors, when the gatekeepers, the singers, and the Levites had been appointed, that I gave the charge of Jerusalem to my brother Hanani, and Hananiah the leader of the citadel, for he was a faithful man and feared God more than many. And I said to them, “Do not let the gates of Jerusalem be opened until the sun is hot; and while they stand guard, let them shut and bar the doors; and appoint guards from among the inhabitants of Jerusalem, one at his watch station and another in front of his own house.” – Nehemiah 7:1-3.
Napoleon described a leader as “a dealer in hope,” and Nehemiah certainly fits that description. Before the work began, he inspired the people by assuring them that God would prosper their efforts (Nehemiah 2:18–20). When the people were afraid, he prayed that God would strengthen them (Nehemiah 6:9). When the enemy threatened, Nehemiah stood his ground and called their bluff; and the work was completed in fifty-two days to the glory of God.
Assistants (Nehemiah 7:2). Like all good leaders, Nehemiah knew he couldn’t do the job alone. One of his first official acts was to appoint two assistants, his brother Hanani (Nehemiah 1:2) and Hananiah, who was in charge of the citadel (Nehemiah 2:8). The citadel, also known as the palace, was a fortress in the temple area, guarding the north wall of the city, which was especially vulnerable to attack. Hanani and Hananiah would work with Rephaiah (Nehemiah 3:9) and Shallum (Nehemiah 3:12), both rulers of districts in the city.
Why was Nehemiah convinced that these men would be good leaders? They had two wonderful qualities: They were faithful to God and they feared God. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., often remarked, “The greatest ability is dependability.” If we truly fear the Lord, we will be faithful to do the work He has called and equipped us to do. When leaders fear people instead of fearing God, they end up becoming trapped (Proverbs 29:25); which always leads to failure.
Years ago, the German psychiatrist and philosopher Dr. Karl Jaspers stated:
“The power of leadership appears to be declining everywhere. More and more of the men we see coming to the top seem to be merely drifting.”
Dr. Ted Engstrom, wrote in his book The Making of A Christian Leader:
“We see the tragedy of weak men in important places—little men in big jobs.”
And British writer and author Walter Savage Landor wrote:
“When little men cast long shadows, it is a sign that the sun is setting.”
Ominous and foreboding statements, indeed!
Not everybody is called to be a Nehemiah, but some of us can be Hananis, Hananiahs, Rephaiahs, or Shallums, and work with God-given leaders to help get the job done right. God is looking for faithful, God-fearing men and women who will have the courage and conviction to serve Him, no matter the obstacles and no matter what may come.
Gatekeepers (Nehemiah 7:1, 3). What is the advantage or even the worth of strong new gates if there isn’t someone who is guarding them and controlling who enters and leaves the city? What good are walls themselves, if the gates are open to every foe who wants to enter the city? I understand that the Great Wall of China was penetrated by the enemy at least four times, and each time the guards were bribed. Gates and walls are only as good as the people who guard them.
The gatekeepers were given specific instructions as to when to open and close the gates. To open the gates early in the morning would only invite the enemy to come in while the city was asleep and unprepared. To close and lock the gates without the guards on duty might give enemy agents opportunity to slip in unnoticed. The gatekeepers were an important link in the chain of leadership.
To Be Continued