Nehemiah was a great man who accomplished amazing things for God and his Jewish people. Billions of men and women since his time are aware of his success of rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem in just 52 days.
But Nehemiah’s success would have never been realized without one trait, that is relatively unknown. Note this phrase from Nehemiah 5:15:
“…because I feared God, I did not act that way.” Nehemiah 5:15
Fear. Did you notice that? This great man who seemed fearless in tackling the monumental task of rebuilding a wall of protection lying in ruins, understood the importance of fearing God.
While we are often encouraged to interpret the word “fear” as “respect” when reading it in the Bible, it’s clear here, and in many other passages, that this is literally FEAR. And this fear of Almighty God, led to changed behavior.
If we read the context of chapter 5 of Nehemiah, we see that the behavior of the culture, government officials, and the citizens, was one that was ungodly, uncaring, and lacking in love for those struggling under oppressive policies and practices.
But Nehemiah was like a fish swimming upstream. He resisted the pressure of the elite and the culture, and instead he forged a different path. But his reason for doing so wasn’t simply because he possessed extraordinary inner strength. Rather, it was because he feared God.
Having studied history, Nehemiah knew that his God was not only the God of love and mercy, but that his God also administered justice. Just as God held Israel to account for its wayward behavior, with devastating consequences, so too Nehemiah believed God would hold him accountable for embracing the cultural norm and status quo, when that behavior was at odds with God’s standards.
Nehemiah’s acts would not escape “El Roi” — the God Who sees. So this belief led Nehemiah to act differently from the rest of his culture. Nehemiah feared the justice of God were he to oppress and mistreat his fellow citizens, as was the norm for his culture.
So what about you and me? Do we fear God? And if so, does that fear result in our own changed behavior? Do we contrast what is accepted universally by our culture with what is taught singularly by God in His Word? Or do we we just follow the fish swimming downstream, because that’s what everyone else is doing.
Studying God’s Word will consistently expose the disparities between the masses and God, between our norms, and God’s standard. So may we be like Nehemiah, who feared God and acted differently, according to God’s Word.