Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
The Challenge Of Despair
Psalms 42 and 43 deals with a common problem of many… depression. Three times the question is asked, “Why are you in despair, O my soul?” (42:5,11 and 43:5). This tells us even God’s people are not immune to despair. If those people who are great like David, Elijah and Jeremiah faced serious bouts of discouragement and depression, then who am I? David gives us three pieces of advice.
First, he says get your mind off yourself and get it on God (42: 1-4) Sounds simple enough, right? See his yearning for God: “As the deer pants for the water brook…My soul thirsts for God, of the living God. So, my soul pants for God. When, oh, when shall I appear before God? Where is God?” His feelings have not been relieved (vs. 3). He is discouraged because his questions have not been answered (vs. 5,9). Where is God? Here he is drowning in sorrow and trouble (vs.7). His friends are quick to say, “Just trust in God.” But no one seems inclined to comfort and help. He reflects on how things were. How he used to be involved and how he once was used. He went to the house of God with a voice of joy and praise but now is left behind. When you get old and it seems all have left you behind, be encouraged by hope in God. He has not forgotten you. It is so easy to be discouraged by what once was and now is but hope in God does not fail.
Second, David says stop looking at the past and look to the future. We are fascinated with the future and nostalgic about the past. The past is never as good we remember it being and the future will not be as fulfilling as we imagine. It is okay to remember the past if we remember what God has done for us. Remember how He saw us through our difficulties and discouragements (vs. 6). In the future David knows God will give him victory (43: 1). He knows God will protect him (43:2). He knows God will direct his life (42:3) He knows God will bring him joy (42:4).
Third, stop searching for reasons and start resting on the promises of God. In these two Psalms there are thirteen questions. We need to ask questions but do not ask about and question God’s love or His motive and judgment. Even if God had answered every single one, we still live on His promises, not His explanations. Explanations may satisfy curiosity but only promises give strength. There are five promises. God promises to care for us (42:1). He promises to always be faithful (42:8). He promises to forgive us (43:3). He promises to be our strength and refuge (42:6). He promises to lead us (43:3).
“Standing on the promises of Christ my King, through eternal ages let His praises ring; glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, standing on the promises of God. Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God. Standing on the promises of Christ, the Lord, bound to Him eternally by loves strong cord, overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword, standing on the promises of God” (R. Kelso Carter).
- What we think affects how we feel about ourselves.
- When we think about God, we find encouragement, not discouragement.
- The past is never as great as we remember. The future is yet to be.
- God’s promises give us stability.
Unity – it’s important to God, and it ought to be important to God’s people. Why is unity so important?
It is a gift from God (v. 1-2) – the first picture describing the blessing of unity is the anointing of the Aaron the High Priest. The role of the High Priest, the selection of the High Priest, the anointing of the High Priest – was all done by God’s direction. Notice how the word “down” is used 3 times in a row. It’s not just describing the natural flow of the oil, but reminding us the directions blessings flow – from Heaven down to Earth – from God to man. Unity is one such blessing.
Unity is for the small and the great. The second picture is of the dew of Mount Hermon falling on Mount Zion. Hermon was considered the highest mountain in Israel. The dew falls even upon it’s lofty heights, and also falls upon Zion, which is not very high. One mountain is higher than the other, and yet both receive the refreshing dew. The benefits of unity is that it results in great blessings, not just on those we might consider more important or more prominent, but even on the lesser, the younger, or the weaker. Just as disharmony harms all, the blessings of unity reaches all.
The blessings of unity flows from one person to another. The anointing of Aaron was a blessing from God for him, but being the High Priest, Aaron’s role was one that blessed the nation. Those who live at peace with God, with others, and with themselves tend to be a blessing wherever they go. They know how to find common ground, how to dissolve conflict, and bring peace.
Unity is a foretaste of Heaven. The final verse of the psalm speaks of “life forevermore.” Dwelling in unity – being of the same mind, the same heart, the same love towards one another, is but a taste of what is to come when we all gather before the throne of Heaven, united in our praise and glory to the King.
So ask the question – am I contributing to unity or division? Do I stir up trouble? Do I spread rumors and gossip? Do I leave a trail of conflict wherever I go? Or am I known as a peacemaker? Do I strive to preserve peace with others? Do I work to find common ground? Rather than giving up, do I strive to find a solution? Am I quick to extend grace, hoping others will do the same? Make a commitment today – be one who works for unity.
Wonderful Prince of Peace, the words You recorded in this psalm shine like a bright light in our dark and divided world. Let it be different with me. Help me be a peacemaker. Let my lips be full of your truth, spoken with love and kindness. Let me extend grace where I may be tempted to sulk in bitterness. It was our Lord’s prayer in John 17 that we all be one. Help me to take the first step in the relationships in my life to dwell in unity – united in You. What a beautiful foretaste of what is to come. Thank You for the promise of Heaven gracious Lord.
Psalm 40 helps us deal with daily problems and we all have them. Not all problems are the same, but they are all challenging. This passage is so important for us today.
David identified three serious problems in his life. First, is the problem of sin (vs. 12). David tells us of the overwhelming reality of sin in his life. “Innumerable evil surround me…iniquities overtake me…they are more than the hairs of my head.” Past sins are easy to relive. The guilt can be stifling but, if we repent, God forgives. The Lord is the only one who can solve our problem. David knew it. Second, David’s enemies seek to destroy him. He pleads to God for help to drive them backward. Haven’t we all felt that way? Third, David faces ridicule (vs. 15). David turns it all over to the Lord. “Lord, please take care of this for me. I need you.” Haven’t we all felt helpless against enemies. Then, David thanks God for all his blessings and says it is his desire that all seek and magnify God (vs. 16). Finally, David says what we all feel and think; we stand in need of God’s care because we all are needy. Not one of us is sufficient in and of ourselves.
Those are the problems that David had to face. But how does he deal with them? He waits patiently on the Lord (vs. 1). That can be hard because we want help now! When life’s dark days overwhelm, we do not feel like waiting. David says, I was sinking fast, but God saved him pulling him back to solid ground. David does what we would do; he breaks forth in a song of praise (vs. 3). As a result, others would be moved to trust the Lord also (vs. 4). People are watching us to see how we deal with the challenges of life. Will they see us wait patiently on the Lord and praise Him, or complain to the Lord?
Next, David’s solution to his problems is to tell others all God has done (vs. 4-10). He cannot begin to list all God has done. They are just too many. How high can you count? Can you count high enough to list all God has done? If we are filled with gratitude for all God has done for us, it is impossible to keep quiet. Look at how he describes God: God is righteous, faithful lovingkindness and truth. No wonder David proclaims the good news of righteousness. He can’t keep it to himself.
Also, David finds a solution in prayer (vs. 11-17). David is saying, “Lord, you know me. You know my iniquities. You also know my enemies and how they seek to destroy me. Please defeat them. But, let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in You. Let your love and salvation continue.”
- All people have problems but not all people seek the answer from God.
- No matter the problems, God is greater than the problems.
- Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Seek God in prayer.
“If the Lord had not been on our side…”. If. This wonderful psalm praises God for His protection and care when Israel had faced some dangerous times. While the specific context may be hard to place, it is a psalm of David – the man after God’s own heart who lived during some treacherous times. He faced battles against foreign armies. He lived as a fugitive, fleeing from King Saul. He faced a civil war against Saul’s son, and again later against his own son. He knew what it was like to live in dangerous times.
Here in the psalm there are 6 powerful images given to describe the dangers David and God’s people faced:
- An animal swallowing it’s prey (v. 3)
- A flood submerging it’s victims (v. 4)
- A torrent rushing over everything (v. 4)
- Waters sweeping everything before them (v. 5)
- An animal grinding it’s prey (v. 6)
- A bird entangled in a trap (v. 7)
Rightly does David say, “Had it not been for the Lord…”. Don’t we say that. Were it not for God in our lives… Had God not been with us… Without Jesus… Can you imagine handling the storms of life, the tragedies that arise, the deep dark valleys of the shadow of death, the moments of searing pain and loss – can you imagine trying to live life without God? Who would we turn to in times of trouble? Who could hear us and perfectly understand? Who could provide a comfort that mends a broken heart? Who could provide hope, blessed assurance for a brighter tomorrow? Yes, family and loved ones help – but only in part. There is no strength, no comfort, no hope, no love that compares to what we have in God. Some live unaware of God’s presence and blessings (Matt. 5:45; Psalm 14:1). How empty, how miserable, how helpless life would be without God.
David ends with a powerful testimony: “Our help is in the name of the Lord.” It’s thinking the thought, “If the Lord had not been on my side I would not have made it; but God is on my side and will continue to be, therefore I will praise Him!” We look to the past and say – “The Lord has helped me.” We look to the present and affirm, “The Lord is my help even this very day.” We look to the future and know, “The Lord will be my help forever.”
Lord, creator of Heaven and Earth, I think today of all you have done for me in my life – the answered prayers, the comfort and reassurance through Your words, the daily strength, the hope through the resurrection – I know that without You I would utterly fail. I can’t imagine life without You – without leaning on You in times of need, pouring my heart to One who will listen, without Your wisdom, the comfort from Your presence. You have been my help and my strength in the days of my past – You are my rock and fortress this day – and I know that You will be with me in my days of need in the future. Life is worth living because You are in it – from everlasting to everlasting You are God. Thank You for helping me. Thank You for delivering me through those hard times. Thank You for always being with me. I praise Your wonderful name!
The Shepherd And His Sheep
Psalms 23 is one of the most familiar and loved Psalms. It is a Psalm we turn to in moments of need. It is a Psalm that is not just for the cemetery. It is a Psalm for life. We all want peace, satisfaction and contentment. Psalms 23 tells us we can have that.
This Psalm is understood from the point of view of the sheep. David would be aware of the sheep and the shepherd. He has been a shepherd. He knows what it takes to care for them. He also has been one of the sheep. In his life, he looks back at all God has done and provided for him. He reflects how God has been present with Him. He remembers how God provided nourishment and satisfaction for thirst. He recalls God had restored him. David had faced death from a bear and lion. God protected him from a giant. Therefore, there is no need for him to fear. God walked through the valley with Him. God had been a comfort to him. God had provided direction to walk in the right path. Therefore, there is no danger. A table of great provision had been prepared for him like a special guest. He had ben soothed by God and His cup was overflowing with gratitude toward God. There is only one thing to say, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Look at what the shepherd provides for his sheep:
- They did not lack a place to rest.
- They did not lack peace.
- They did not lack guidance.
- They did not lack assurance.
- They did not lack comfort.
- They did not lack honor.
- They did not lack protection.
- They did not lack abundance.
- They did not lack continual blessings.
- They did not lack security.
- Free of want and thirst, they could thrive.
- Freedom from wander and facing death alone, they could be at peace.
- Freedom from fear because of the presence of the shepherd, they could lie down.
- Provided with abundance like an honored guest, they were loved.
- Pursued by goodness and mercy, they would have a dwelling place forever.