You have two books with, basically, the same story. Ezra likely, mentions Nehemiah, and Nehemiah describes Ezra as the one reading the law. However, I’m not here to discuss the historical dating of Ezra and Nehemiah; I simply think it’s a funny… thought?
This time going through the book, I was struck by one of Nehemiah’s favourite phrases because of the spiritual leadership lesson for pastors and pioneers in the church today.
“Remember me, God.”
This statement is profound because Nehemiah asks a perfect God to remember an imperfect human who also represents an imperfect people (Israel/Judah). In Nehemiah, you’ll find this phrase in different variations. All of them relate to Nehemiah himself, or one other variation where he says:
“Remember Tobiah and Sanballat, my God, because of what they have done; remember also the prophet Noadiah and how she and the rest of the prophets have been trying to intimidate me ( Ne 6:14. NIV)
From this otherwise grim call to remembrance by Nehemiah, the rest are related to Nehemiah himself.
Nehemiah had his work cut out for him.
Nehemiah had a challenging group project. And yes, I’ve had difficult ones… 5 years of post-secondary tends to bring some challenging projects. Nehemiah was tasked with bringing the people of God back to the city of God. And the people didn’t exactly grow from their past mistakes.
They proved their hearts weren’t right with God, even after exile.
How so? Because they married foreign women. Well, not entirely. When Israel came to conquer the land of Canaan, one of God’s reasons to command chastity towards women of the land wasn’t so much the people but the temptation to worship the gods of the foreign nations because of emotional entanglement.
The conquest of Canaan wasn’t due to racism but idolatry.
All this being said, what is the point of Nehemiah’s repeated prayer to God:
“Remember me, God.”
In every instance of this phrase (Ne. 5:19, 13:14, 13:22, 13:31), Nehemiah is bringing this prayer to God after accomplishing something or confronting something (As per the two verses I omitted from Nehemiah 6:14-15).
Nehemiah recognized something that pastors and leaders mustn’t miss.
Nehemiah recognized that the reward for faithfulness was not found in the fruit of the people under his charge but in the faithfulness of Nehemiah.
In the past, I believed that the fruit of my ministry (no matter the context) depended on the progress/instant sanctification of the people under me. However, we can glean a valuable and relieving truth from Nehemiah’s prayer.
Don’t base your spiritual success on the spiritual progress of your people. Instead, stay faithful to God in your leadership and shepherding.
Remember me with favour, my God, for all I have done for these people.
Nehemiah 5:19 NIV
~ Gavin Schaefer