Reverend David Parry reflects on Nehemiah – a leader for our time?
Old Man in Sorrow by Vincent Van Gogh
fel ffrydiau yn y Negef;
bydded i’r rhai sy’n hau mewn dagrau
fedi mewn gorfoledd.Bydd yr un sy’n mynd allan dan wylo,
ac yn cario ei sach o hadyd,
yn dychwelyd drachefn mewn gorfoledd,
ac yn cario ei ysgubau.
like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
Reverend David Parry writes:
Nehemiah was an astute politician, strategic, courageous, a man of integrity and a skilful manager of people. The Old Testament book which bears his name is an inspiring account of the way he rebuilt not only the walls of Jerusalem but also its community life and worship. This was all achieved quickly, with energy and resilience, in the face of both subtle manipulation and direct opposition by powerful enemies.
No wonder Nehemiah has often been invoked as an example of dynamic leadership. Certainly there are helpful lessons here for anyone trying to get things done: careful gathering and evaluation of evidence, creating teams and delegation of responsibility, honest admission of mistakes, never losing sight of the goal… well, read the book and you’ll see what I mean.
However for me the most striking thing about Nehemiah is what he did before all that, before he had any responsibility for the Holy City and long before the achievements there for which he is famous. Nehemiah wept.
“The survivors there in the province who escaped captivity are in great trouble and shame; the wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.” When I heard these words I sat down and wept, and mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of heaven. I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments; let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night.”
Nehemiah 1: 3-6
There are many pressing issues in our world right now. Economies, nations, communities, families and our Church life are all having to adapt and rebuild in radical ways because of a devastating illness. In the background, seemingly forgotten, the huge and apocalyptic disaster of climate change is also unfolding.
We need wise leadership and we need urgent, decisive action. But in times like these what we and our leaders often forget to do first is weep, pray and wait on God. It takes a Christ-like humility to simply grieve and listen before attempting to put things right. Otherwise what we build will be superficial and empty, no better, no more just and Godly than what has been destroyed (because we won’t have learnt anything).
Only when we confess the sinful brokenness of a fallen world in which we too are implicated, our abject inability to save ourselves or others, will our plans be God’s plans. So like Nehemiah let us weep, let us pray and then let us act. Tears sown now will one day reap a harvest of joy.
Arglwydd Iesu, fe’th anfonwyd i iacháu’r rhai edifeiriol.
Arglwydd Iesu, daethost i alw pechaduriaid.
Arglwydd Iesu, yr wyt yn ymbil trosom
ar ddeheulaw’r Tad.
Lord Jesus, you were sent to heal the contrite.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you came to call sinners.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you plead for us at the right hand of the Father.
Lord, have mercy.
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