Nehemiah is well known for the administrative skill he demonstrated in organizing the restoration community to repair and rebuild a large section of the wall of Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.. The book of Nehemiah presents a theological interpretation of the history of Israel. When the Hebrew people returned from the Babylonian exile, they were determined to lead a life that honored the one true God.
When the Israelites returned to their homeland, their enemies saw their occupation of the land as a threat. Nehemiah’s initiative to repair the walls of Jerusalem was undertaken against considerable resistance offered by a coalition of local alien enemies. The major theological highpoint of Nehemiah is the focus on the rebuilding of the wall surrounding Jerusalem. The way in which Nehemiah facilitates this construction is an example of how one should execute spiritual leadership and oversight.
The first seven chapters focus on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Chapters 8-13 focus on rebuilding of the spiritual life of Israel, which only escalates as threats from the enemy increase. Instead of simply leaving his workers defenseless, Nehemiah recognizes that the solution to foreign threats is to equip his workers with swords too. Ultimately, Nehemiah is able to inspire the people to complete the walls.
Another key theological highpoint is the reading of the Torah and the bringing of the people together. Nehemiah 8:8 says “Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.” The Levites would read from the Torah and explain the meaning to the people, thus paving the way for modern exegesis. The priests were charged with giving the fullest sense possible of the Word of God to the people.
Ultimately, Yahweh proves himself once again as a covenant keeper. Yahweh’s willingness to return to those who returned to Him assured the postexilic community of His desire to bless and restore the covenant people. Yahweh responded to the prayers of His people and maintained a faithful remnant in order to fulfill His promises.
A modern reader of Nehemiah should focus on the leadership and executive oversight exhibited by Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the example of what a Godly leader should be. He actively cared for his people and their situation, defining the reality of that dire situation. He reminded them that their city lay in ruin, and reminded them of the truth that they are called to rebuild the walls of the city. Nehemiah understood that prayer is essential to know God’s will. He was able to build a team of people who were dedicated to fulfilling God’s call. Though they were ridiculed and mocked, Nehemiah did not let the people lose hope. These examples from the book of Nehemiah should serve to encourage and instruct modern leaders as to how to appropriately work for the furtherance of God’s kingdom.