The Jews who wanted to, have returned from exile. Jerusalem is once again being lived in. However the city needs a little bit of urban regeneration. The once mighty city is still little more than ruined shell of its former glory. Step forward Nehemiah, royal cupbearer (an important and trusted role in Persia) and now civil governor.
The penultimate Old Testament review in my bible in a year is a little strange. The book is a mixture of narrative, more lists of names and quite a few prayers. In fact it felt like it was a personal diary. I could imagine Nehemiah using live journal if he had been around a few years back.
I found some of the content a little difficult too. There was an emphasis on nationalism that I found a little uncomfortable, but then I have never been much of a nationalist. Nehemiah’s concern was that the nation had been exiled because they had not followed the law. This included the marrying of Jews to other nations. It also meant that the law, and the application of the law needed to be followed a little stricter in the future.
In short Nehemiah institutes a national purity based on the law. At the same time he makes sure the city of Jerusalem is fit to keep this reborn nation. He organises the people to fix the broken city wall and protect the city from those who want to see it remain a ruin.
Nehemiah is dedicated, he is a visionary and he is focussed on the job at hand. He isn’t swayed by popular opinion or discouraged when others turn against him. All attributes that make great leaders both in the past and today.