Reading Nehemiah and Ezra has sort of wrecked me out this past few days. I am learning a lot from them about the kind of leader I want to be:
1. Broken-hearted for others
Nehemiah wept and fasted when he heard about the wall of the Jerusalem had burned down. When Ezra heard about the disobedience of God’s people he tore his hair out. Literally.
I know that there are hundreds of women directly or indirectly under my leadership that are walking in disobedience to God. I know that walls are tumbling down around many of you right in this moment.
But do you know when I last tore out my hair over the condition of those I lead? Never.
2. Repentant on behalf of others
After Ezra and Nehemiah get done weeping, they both do the same weird thing: they confess and repent – for the sins of other people.
Ezra repents for intermarriage. (P.S. He didn’t intermarry.)
Oh gosh. We are different.
I see myself as an individual. They saw themselves as part of a people; part of one body.
When my knee is messed up, it is very rarely because I hurt my knee. It’s usually because I ran with the wrong shoes, or did squats with a weak core or didn’t stretch the muscles in my calves and thighs.
Other parts of my body can be responsible for what is going on in my knee.
I can be responsible for what is going on in other parts of our body.
This week I practiced owning other people’s sin before God. It was weird, but as I prayed I began to see all the ways I contribute to the weakness of others. I haven’t fought, I haven’t prayed, I haven’t cared. I have used my gifts for myself instead of others.
By the time I was done, it wasn’t hard to authentically confess to God my role in the sins in others.
3. Marked by prayer
Most of Ezra and Nehemiah’s demonstrated leadership came through intercession. They led on their knees.
You know why? These guys were obsessed with the sovereignty of God. They talk about ‘God’s hand’ being on things about every fifth sentence.
When they see a problem their first instinct is to go to the Guy who controls the hearts of kings.
If you want to know if you treasure the sovereignty of God – look at your knees. Are they bruised? Are they bent?
I love God’s sovereignty, but my prayer life it testifies otherwise. If I see a weakness in those around me, I tend to strategize; lean on my words and my strategy. Somewhere deep down I must believe my plans have more authority over the hearts of people than God.
4. Empowering others
Nehemiah and Ezra both act in the same way: by calling the people to act.
Look, my weak knee isn’t going to get fixed without the whole body stepping up its game. I’m going to need to talk to my feet about the shoes they’re wearing. My core is going to have to get stronger and my mind is going to have to learn to prioritize stretching.
Every part of the body has a job to do.
E & N believed that. They spent themselves empowering and equipping others to do their role.
There are two things that make that kind of leadership really hard:
(1) If you’re in it for your glory, you’ll only give away roles that keep people safely tucked ‘underneath’ you. The problem is, empowering is about getting underneath people and helping them rise to their role.
(2) If you doubt the sovereignty of God, you will never be able to give critical ministry into the hands of fallen human beings. Unless you trust God within others how can you give real stuff away?
My application from almost every day of being in these books has been to set aside more time to pray.
I realized today that I’m waiting for this mythical time in the future, when I’ll have the perfect environment and the perfect amount of time to intercede.
So I’m shifting my application: pray now.
Stop reading this post. Put your head down wherever you are and pray.
Pray for the people you love and lead.
Pray for God to break your heart for their weakness, and confess it as your own.
Intercede for them and pray for the wisdom and ability to empower them.