“Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.”(Nehemiah 1:8)
Self Serving Leaders. Mentally Distorted and Spiritually Stagnated
The story of Nehemiah records the history of a consistent area of failure over the history of God’s working with people and their inability to follow God’s direction. One of the reasons contributing to failure results from people who rise to places of influence who have more of an interest in their own personal agenda, who are emotionally and spiritually immature, and have not been called by God to lead, but are usurpers.
The clear instructions to Nehemiah in His prayer of repentance are for the sins of his people and are to remember the instructions of Moses and the penalty for disobedience –scattering and exile. If you remember your Old Testament history Judah is in a period of 70 years of captivity because dividers, false teachers, and unscrupulous leaders with no spiritual integrity who had led the people astray.
The results demonstrate that Jerusalem is in ruin, the people are scattered and exiled, and the people are demoralized because their hope have been dashed on the rocks of judgment by listening to the corrupt, confused, and immature leaders of the past who were communicators of self interest and who led the uncommitted away for their own gain.
This verse from Nehemiah provides a poignant reminder of what happens when the driving forces within culture culture overtake the commands of God for a covenant community. Everything that God told Moses had happened. The people went away from God, the people were scattered, and the city lay in ruins because they listened to the wrong voice and followed the wrong leadership and were apostatized by disobedience.
Consider a biblical example in the first chapter of Nehemiah. Think about the two different perspectives.
First, look at the perspective of the people who reported to him “They said to me, Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire” (Nehemiah 1:3). Their lived experience was pain, destruction, and ruin.
They saw the city in ruins; Nehemiah saw a city with potential to be great again, “Then I said to them you see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). The application comes like this; Nehemiah’s deeply felt-experience, prayer and conviction does determine a point of view. It is a perception that shows not only deeply felt belief, but also a important and powerful lesson about how what we believe shapes our response to life-events.
Nehemiah’s perspective reveals a point of view teaching us that even when there was a negative forecast causing grief, he made the choice to detached himself from the painful emotional consequences of others in order grasp potential for what could be through belief in God in a future beyond the negative forecast, beyond the pain, and beyond the distorted picture painted by negative circumstances. A point well from this story reminds me to that deeply held beliefs born out of conviction and prayer will shape reality beyond things that are visible by the human eye or the discouraging reports of those who have given up hope.