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Sometimes you find leaders with vision and no ability to implement. They label themselves as “Big Idea” people and “Visionaries” – but they never accomplish anything of lasting significance. People just become frustrated with repeated pleas to embrace a vision which they view as unrealistic. Other times you find hard workers who immerse themselves in all sorts of activity but without any strategic vision. They can spin their wheels with an abundance of sincere effort but don’t really get anywhere because they are not working smart. They did not do the necessary preparation work to align their efforts with a strategic vision. You need the right blend in leadership of Vision and Execution. Some people might be stronger in one area than in the other. Hopefully another value of the plurality of elder model is that we can achieve this proper blend of Vision and Execution. It is the same thing with Prayer. Everything that Nehemiah did was bathed in prayer. But he was both a man of prayer and a man of action. There was a prayer component and a practical component. Nehemiah models both.


Unknown: To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan… believe… act!

John H. Patterson: To succeed in business it is necessary to make others see things as you see them.

Japanese proverb: Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

Joel A. Barker: Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.

Guy Kawasaki: A good idea is about ten percent and implementation and hard work, and luck is 90 percent.



A. (:11-12) Building the Strategic Vision

1. Establishing Mission Headquarters / Base of Operations– Rest and Pray and Prepare

“So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days.”

Nehemiah had been sent and supplied by King Artaxerxes on this divinely appointed mission. He arrived in Jerusalem after a difficult three month journey — that was quite a success in itself; and now needed to begin the task as quickly as possible. Possibly needed some rest after the long journey; some time for reflection and prayer as well; some time to learn which key individuals he could take into his confidence for this initial work of inspection – So he invested these first 3 days wisely;

2. Enlisting the Help of a Few Key Advisors — not going it alone

“And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me.”

[Not a model of plurality of elder leadership here; but many good principles about leadership]

These were men who could be trusted; could keep a confidence;

These were men who were willing to work hard;

These were men who knew the situation and could properly brief Nehemiah

What an encouragement when you find such key allies – men in whom you can confide

Redpath: In the course of that night, while others slept, Nehemiah – wide-awake, burdened, conscious of desperate need and shame and ruin all around him – diagnosed the situation, surveyed the ruined walls, and contemplated the magnitude of the task to which God had called him. Imagine his grief of heart as he stumbled among those ruins of what was once a great and mighty fortress! Whenever a real work of God is to be done – a real work, not something superficial, but real – some faithful, burdened servant has to take a journey such as Nehemiah took, to weep in the night over the ruins, to wrestle in some dark Gethsemane in prayer. It is utter folly to refuse to believe that things are as bad as they really are.

3. Exercising Discretion

“I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding.”

No need to tell everyone your vision prematurely. You first want to listen to God and get the vision for the mission firmly implanted before you will be prepared to face the inevitable opposition that will try to discourage you from the task. You want to have answers to the basic questions to show that you have done your homework.

You want to know what resources and materials will be needed for the construction and how you plan to obtain those resources.

You need a plan.

Animals would make noise … so only Nehemiah was mounted on this reconnaissance journey

Fensham: He used only one animal to ride on; more animals would have drawn the attention of the inhabitants of Jerusalem. . . Nehemiah and his small escort sneaked out. The men with him might have been residents of Jerusalem who knew the city well and could direct Nehemiah on his way.

B. (:13-16) Based on a Realistic Assessment – Priority of Investigation and Inspection

1. Secret Mission – already talked about his discretion

“So I went out at night” – by moonlight (probably could not even use torches)

2. Selective Mission – wanted to closely examine key areas; tracking his way around the city

“by the Valley Gate in the direction of the Dragon’s Well and on to the Refuse Gate,”

3. Sobering Mission – inspecting the degree of damage to the walls and the gates

“inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire.”

— broken down condition

— burned by fire

rbefo – “Inspect, Examine;” Probe a wound — The word used here was one used of a physician inspecting a wound with great care.

Needed to know where he could rebuild the walls on the existing foundation; where he had to start from scratch and construct something new; how bad was the situation; how accurate had been the intelligence he had received; difficult to tell these things at night time (just had moonlight) but he did not want to tip his hand until he had done his planning and had his ducks in a row

4. Scrambling Mission – not just some easy ride around the city walls – lots of obstacles

“Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass. So I went up at night by the ravine and inspected the wall. Then I entered the Valley Gate again and returned.”

Nehemiah did not let the size of the job deter him – Extremely challenging project

– many walls needed rebuilding

– many gates needed replacing

Maybe didn’t seem so overwhelming at nighttime – how do you eat an elephant (or any difficult task)? One bite at a time

Probably did not make a full circuit of the city (i.e. turned westward )??, but retraced his steps (i.e. turned back)?? and entered the city where he had gone out – primarily checking out the southern portion – Judah most vulnerable to attack from the north – probably most of that area was completely devastated (Yamauchi)

Michael Crawford: Importance of using our sensory perceptions (seeing with our eyes, hearing with our ears, smelling with our nose, touching with our hands) as we take stock of the physical neighborhood God has called us to reach. Cannot accomplish this by just driving around and observing. You must get out and walk the streets and carefully observe the conditions around you. Church planters call this exegeting the place.

5. Secret Mission – ends up where he started – but now with firsthand knowledge

“And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, or the rest who did the work.”

Not always wise to tell everybody everything; must use caution and discretion as a leader

Important for a leader to check out the facts for himself – don’t just rely on what you are told

Brian Bill: Results of His Assessment:

It was a demanding job. The circuit of the walls was more than a mile long, and the new wall needed to be three or four feet thick, and fifteen to twenty feet high. This was not going to be easy but Nehemiah knew that he and his people had to give their best to it. The same is true for us – kingdom work is demanding, but it’s worth our energy.

Now switching focus – the leader must have the vision … but he can’t do all of the work; it has to be a cooperative effort – you must have the buy-in from the people


A. (:17) Buy-in from the Troops Solicited by the Leadership

1. Precarious Predicament – Honest about how bad things are – no positive spin

“Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire.”

– Must face up to reality – must see our situation for what it really is

– Nehemiah identified with the people – didn’t come and condemn them – What a mess you have made of things; he was in the pit right with them

– What broken down walls do we see around us and in us? Walls that God meant for our spiritual protection which have been neglected and leave us vulnerable? Walls of prayer; walls of devotion to God; walls of time spent in His Word; walls of witnessing to others; walls of encouraging our family; walls of strengthening our church

– What do the broken walls of the testimony of God look like around us in Christ’s Church?

– What do the broken walls of our culture look like?

2. Simple Solution – but a challenging task

“Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem”

Leaders must be able to motivate people to cooperate

Rick Duncan: The job a great team builder and motivator is to take a complex problem and boil it down to a simple and easily understood solution.

3. God-Glorifying Goal

“that we may no longer be a reproach.”

Yamauchi: Herpah appears seventy times in the OT either as “abuse,” “scorn,” or, as in this case, “disgrace” (cf. 1:3; 4:4; 5:9).

Don Jones: Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Keep your fears to yourself but share your courage with others.” Nehemiah began to share the vision with those who were there. He knew he needed help to accomplish the task of God.

He took 3 steps to recruit the people (1) he asked the people to see what he saw (the ruined wall) (2) he then asked them to own the work, “Let us rebuild” (it’s your wall too) and (3) it’s God’s mission and idea (not mine) and it is He who will give us the victory.

Someone has said, “Faith can move mountains, but don’t be surprised if God hands you a shovel.”

B. (:18) Based on Encouraging Testimony that Motivates Commitment

“And I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me, and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, ” Let us arise and build. “So they put their hands to the good work.”

This was August 1, 444 B.C, for the wall was finished fifty-two days later, on September 21 (Neh 6:15).

Don’t forget the importance of Chap. 2 – Trusting God for Providential Favors

Offering words of hope in the face of discouragement

Examine the types of excuses that they could have used

No excuse for hard work – must commit yourself together to getting the job done; it is a good work (just as work of oversight for elders is described as a good work)

Getz: When Nehemiah gave his challenge, the people’s negative feelings became positive. Despair turned to hope. They responded and began the rebuilding process.

Brian Bill: Pointed the people to the sufficiency of God:

He didn’t reach Jerusalem because he was a skillful persuader, or because the queen was possibly a compliant helper, or because the king was a generous benefactor, but only because God was a sovereign provider. Since God had done all that, He would certainly help them to complete the task of rebuilding the walls.

Wiersbe: Christian leaders today face these same two obstacles as they seek to lead God’s people into new conquests for the Lord. How often we hear, “We’re content the way things are; don’t rock the boat by trying to change things.” Or, “We tried that before and it didn’t work!”


A. (:19) The Despising of Nehemiah — Inevitable Opposition

“But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the Ammonite official, and Geshem the Arab heard it, they mocked us and despised us and said, ‘What is this thing you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?’”

1. Three Major Players:

a. Sanballat – governor over Samaria; chief political enemy for Nehemiah (cf. 4:1-2)

b. Tobiah – Ammonites were enemies of the Jews; he had a lot of family connections in Jerusalem; probably a source of at of the intelligence gathering regarding what was happening there

c. Geshem – new player mentioned here

Kidner: Geshem was an even more powerful figure than his companions, though probably less earnestly committed to their cause. . . Geshem and his son ruled a league of Arabian tribes which took control of Moab and Edom (Judah’s neighbours to the east and south) together with part of Arabia and the approaches to Egypt, under the Persian empire. So, with already a hostile Samaria and Ammon to the north and east, Judah was now virtually encircled. . .

2. Two Major Tactics:

a. First Tactic of Intimidation = Ridicule – making fun of the leader and his grandiose plans from such small beginnings; belittling their attempts – “this thing” – very contemptuous expression

“Sticks and stones may break my bones But words will never hurt me” – Wrong

Where do we shrink back from having a testimony before unbelievers because we are afraid of ridicule?

b. Second Tactic of Intimidation = False Accusations of Rebellion

Look at how the Apostle Paul had to constantly deal with false accusations and attacks against the legitimacy of his apostleship

Brian Bell: Those who don’t use their Ridicule Rifle, pull out their Mockery Musket, or their Derision Derringer, or their Crossbow of Contempt!

B. (:20A) The Daring of Nehemiah — Boldness Based on Confidence in God’s Good Favor

“So I answered them and said to them, ‘The God of heaven will give us success;’”

C. (:20B) The Determination of Nehemiah — Commitment to Do the Work – in the end it’s all about Execution – Servants need to occupy themselves with what befits a servant = doing the work of their master

“therefore we His servants will arise and build,”

1. Overcoming Inertia

2. Working Hard

D. (:20C) The Discernment of Nehemiah — Rewards will Follow Only to those who are the True Stakeholders

“but you have no portion, right or memorial in Jerusalem”

You are not one of us – so I do not need to listen to you; Unbelievers have no stake in the progress of the church of Jesus Christ;

You are not driven by a desire to see God glorified through the rebuilding of His Holy City and the furthering of His kingdom purposes;

You have no reward because you have no heart for God – what a sad state to be in …

Fensham: Nehemiah concluded his reply with certain important legal remarks. Jerusalem was the city of the Jews and the enemies had no legal authority over it. . . they had no jurisdiction over the pure religion of the exiles. With this reply Nehemiah clearly drew the dividing line between himself and his opponents.

Breneman: When the enemies of God’s work can find no legitimate basis for opposition, they may use ridicule, questioning the significance of our labors. This sometimes does more harm than even questioning one’s credentials or good intentions (which Nehemiah’s enemies also did) because it attacks the very impetus for action. Ridicule is especially hard to endure when the recipients are in the minority. Christians experiencing it should remember what Heb 11:38-39 says about the biblical heroes of faith: “Some faced jeers and flogging . . . The world was not worthy of them . . . These were all commended for their faith.” Jesus also suffered ridicule and mocking on many occasions (Luke 22:63-64; 23;11), and his followers can expect to face the same kind of opposition. . . Nehemiah refused to compromise. He denied his opponents a share in the work, the land, or the worship of the Jewish community (cf. Ezra 4:3).

John Newton on Psalm 87:

Saviour, since of Zion’s city

I through grace a member am,

Let the world deride or pity,

I will glory in Thy name:

Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,

All his boasted pomp and show;

Solid joys and lasting treasure

None but Zion’s children know.


But for the people of God, once they understand the Vision – what does God want done to further His kingdom purposes – they then must move from Vision to Commitment

Business World knows what it means to move from Vision to Commitment:

“How to Build a Team Using Vision, Commitment and Trust” —

Vision means being able to excite the team with large, desired outcomes.

Large outcomes mean devising goals that attract missionaries. [Interesting word to use in secular context] The first step in vision is to project such a goal. This goal must be bigger than a pay check. It must contain challenge, appeal to personal pride, and provide an opportunity to make a difference and know it. Then the goal can become a powerful vision.

When we ponder a new commitment, we climb up to a kind of mental diving board. Commitments contain unknowns, and some warn of possible failure. It is common for people to neither jump nor climb back down the “ladder,” but rather to stay stuck at the end of the board, immobilized in pros, cons, obstacles, and worries. In this state of mind, the obstacles begin to rule, obscuring the vision, blunting motivation.

Leaders are able to provide that encouragement that builds hope and a vision of success so that people don’t remain stuck on the end of the board but dive into the commitment. As they work hard as a team they are able to focus on the goal instead of the potential obstacles. Confidence in God’s Good Favor is the key.


Let us be those who Arise and Build!