When revival takes place and reform hits, one of the first places it hits is looking at how we look at our leadership. As I mentioned to you about the Protestant Reformation, the Gospel as proclaimed in the Word of God took center stage once again. Once this happened, a great crisis arose within the Reformers — the need to train leaders in the Word (since the Word has, just prior, just been translated into their mother language). What was just as important as finding those who could preach and teach were finding those servants who were Spirit-filled and Spirit-led.
Once those Spirit-led, Word-driven leaders were found, the congregation had the responsibility of following their direction — not because of they themselves as capable leaders, but because of the one leading them.
Someone forgot to send that memo to one particular leader named Eliashib. Ezra and Nehemiah were understood to be the leaders of the people of Judah. Yet, in verse 6, we read that Nehemiah was not in town, but actually went back to Babylon in service to the king. And notice too in verse 13 that it is not Ezra the scribe who is mentioned, but “Zadok the scribe.” Where is Ezra? Ezra may have retired or may have died and thus gave his duty to Zadok. Either way — the two main leaders were not around.
Eliashib had a choice to make, did he not? He could have continued in that spirit-led leadership or he could have chosen another path. He chose the other path. He allowed Tobiah — remember Tobiah who constantly stood as an enemy of the progress the people of God were making. Yet Tobiah was a relative of Eliashib — so it was all in the family, I suppose. With Nehemiah and Ezra gone, Eliashib may have tried to make nice and smooth things over with Tobiah by giving him a room in the Temple. One problem: this was against God’s law.
The other problem was the fact that, as Nehemiah noted, “the house of God was forsaken.” Why was it forsaken? The Levites who worked and ministered in the Temple had an issue of “the portions … had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each to his field.” In Genesis 49, we see that while the other eleven tribes were apportioned land, the Levites were not because they were the priestly tribe and, thus, “God was their inheritance.” God had set it up to where the Levites would receive their “portions” from the offerings the people gave as sacrifices.
Nehemiah dealt with each issue accordingly. While some leaders in our time worry about offending someone or hurting their feelings — and some even use a more spiritual tone of stalling by simply saying, “Let’s pray about it.” We need to pray for leaders who are strong and have a good spiritual backbone to lead in every way. Now, am I saying it is bad for a leader to pray? No, because does not Paul tell young Timothy, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people” (1 Timothy 2:1, ESV). We pray to seek out what God’s will is.
Yet when God has already made it will quite clear in his Word, we don’t need to pray about what God would have us to do (we already know what it is!) — we just pray that God would inform, reform, and transform our hearts to desire to follow his path.
Hebrews 13:17 tells us:
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
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