Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
God And His Pattern
Numbers chapter 8 can be summarized as giving instruction concerning how God wanted the lampstand made and arranged. Also, how the priest were to cleanse themselves before they offered sacrifices. Further, how the Levites were to be separated from the rest of the children of Israel.
God is very concerned that His children follow His pattern. Instruction about how the lampstand was to be crafted had been given by Moses. It was to be crafted after that pattern. Also, it was to be arranged in a particular way. It is important that we, regardless of the time in which we live, pay attention to how God wants things arranged and follow His pattern. That is true in our individual life as well as the collective relationship we have. Following God’s pattern is not new. It is not an invention of men. God made the pattern for our lives and the church. We must follow His pattern.
Second, the priests were to cleanse themselves before offering sacrifices. As we offer the sacrifice of our life we must be clean. We must be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Our sins must be washed away.
Third, this vow was voluntary. A person who desired to consecrate himself to the Lord in a special way, would make the vow either for life or for a certain period of time (Numbers 6:1-21). The rules were:
He could not taste the fruit of the vineyard in any manner.
He could not cut his hair.
He could not come in contact with any dead person.
The most famous Old Testament Nazarite was Samson (Judges 13:7). It is very possible that John the Baptist also took the Nazarite vow to dedicate himself to the task of preparing the way of the Lord. It is possible that Paul voluntarily took this vow himself (Acts 18:19; Acts 21:23).
The Nazarite vow may be an illustration of a Christian. It is a voluntary vow one makes to consecrate their life to God’s work. When one becomes a Christian they present their bodies as instruments of righteousness to be used in God’s service (Romans 6:1-23). What is to typify Christians is seen in perfection in Christ, “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” (Hebrews 7:26).
This chapter describes the offerings of the leaders for the altar when it was anointed. The leaders of the twelve tribes brought identical gifts. One leader brought his gifts on the first day, another on the second, another on the third, etc. Thus collectively Israel was supporting and endorsing the altar, which would be used on behalf of the people in atonement for their sins.
There’s a few thoughts I had for us consider today. One, each tribe, large or small, had a special day to give. Each tribe brought the same gift. All of the tribes, despite their size or strength, were equally important. Secondly, since every day’s gift was added to what had been given the day before, the overall result was impressive (v. 84-88). On our own our efforts might seem small and insignificant, but when joined with the efforts of my fellow workers in the Kingdom, great things are accomplished. Isn’t that what Paul said in Ephesians 4:14-16? The growth of the body comes from the “proper working of each individual part.” Some may plant. Others may water. Some work with words, others with their hands. And in the end of the day, great things are done as we each do our part in God’s work. We’re stronger together than apart. We accomplish more together than we would alone. Thank the Lord for workers in His kingdom!
“Gracious Father, thank You for our collective group. Thank you for the family we share in You – our brothers and sisters, those who are part of our Campbell Road family, and the saints we’ve yet to meet scattered by distance and time. It’s a blessing to pull our efforts together for a single purpose – furthering the gospel, and pointing others to Your greatness. Bless our work. Help us to work as a team. Help us see that each role is important, no matter how small it may seem. In all that we do, we do for Your glory.”
The Nazarite Vow
Number chapter 6 gives instruction about the Nazarite vow and what the priest was to offer to the Lord.
At first, it may seem that this would have no practical value for us. But, there are a few things that stand out in this narrative.
First, is the idea of the Nazarite. He was to separate himself with a view to be holy as the Lord is holy. They did not isolate themselves from the rest of the world but were living testimony of the importance of living in total devotion to the Lord. The Nazarite vow had both positive and negative aspects. Positively, it meant being devoted to God. Negatively, it meant abstaining from things God did not allow. There were three responsibilities. First, they were not to drink wine, grape juice, vinegar, or fermented drinks, nor, were they allowed to eat grapes, raisins or even the skin and seeds of the grapes. Second, they had to let their hair grow as a sign they were devoted especially to God. Third, they were never to touch a corpse, even that of a close relative.
If they defiled themselves God a remedy for them to rededicate themselves to Him and make a new beginning. Nazarites who successfully completed their period of dedication came with their sacrifices to the priest and offered them to the Lord.
We are encouraged to separate ourselves from that which is unholy and unclean. We are called to come out of the world and separate ourselves from the world (2 Cor. 6:14-18). Why? So that we may be holy as the Lord is holy (1Pet. 1:16). If we defile ourselves God has a remedy (1John 1:7- 2:2).
Second, is the promise of God to bless them. When He calls us to come out from the unclean thing and separate ourselves, He also promises, “Then I will be your Father and You shall be my sons and daughters.
We are priests today (1Pet. 2:9). Shouldn’t we learn the lesson of the Nazarite and priest? There are some things that simply are not fit for priestly people (Eph., 5:1-3). Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. So, let’s keep our bodies and minds pure so that His temple is not to be polluted by the unclean things of the world.
Today’s reading has 2 sections with 1 central focus – purity. There’s the law which calls for a separation from those who are unclean (v. 2-4). Then there’s the lengthy section over the test of fidelity between a husband and wife (v. 11-31). The aim for each law is the same: purity. There’s the purity in one’s body as he stands before God undefiled. Then there’s the purity in one’s marriage relationship, standing before God, the Priest, and their spouse proving their innocence (purity – v. 28).
Pure means free from filth, spot, or stain. Think of a pure stream – crystal clear – so fresh and inviting. Think of the Mississippi River – looks like chocolate milk – murky, filthy, gross. You wouldn’t drink that water if you were dared. Which describes you? Which describes your heart, your mind, your words, your actions? Are you living a life of purity and innocence, or are you stained by the influence and ways of the world – caught in your own faults. Today – seek purity. Think pure thoughts. Say pure words. Ask God to create in you a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). The defiled are removed from the camp (v. 3, 27). The pure dwell in peace with God and His people (Matt. 5:8). Be pure.
“Holy and Righteous God, You are holy – You are separate and distinct from the world around us. You are always pure, clean, good, and right. The world seeks to defile my heart with its filth, with negative thinking, with cruel words, and immoral behavior. Help me to be like You. Let me live in purity today. Remove the stains of impurity from my mind, and create a clean heart within me. Help me to remember that a day in Your courts are far better than a thousand elsewhere. Let me dwell in Your camp, following Your example, cleansed by the blood of Your Son, O merciful Father.”
God Is A God Of Order
When the cloud began to move, it was time to move the camp. Moving this many people would have been difficult without some sort of order. It would have been chaotic to move this many people by just saying, “It is time to go, grab your stuff.”
With God setting each tribe in its place and arranging them in the order He did He shows us once again, He is not a God of confusion but of order. Each tribe had their assigned place. Later in Numbers we see each tribe had their own responsibilities too.
God is a God of order. When chaos appears something is out of balance with God. It has been that way ever since the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. Sin results in chaos and a breach with God.
Even the way God designed the church there is order. There is order when people follow the Lord and when they are united together.
Yet, each separate tribe kept their own identity. The number and arranging of each tribe seems to be useless information. Yet, we see in this God’s wisdom. Each had their place. Each had their family. When they moved it was orderly and they were able to accomplish more.
God wants us all. He wants our hearts. He wants us to belong. He wants us attached to others. He wants us protected. He wants us to live lives that reflect His glory.