In your Bible reading, have you ever stumbled over certain phrases — phrases that break up a passage, maybe are set in contrast to it, or stand out as breaking some sort of rhythmic pattern? The second half of Nehemiah 3:5 is one such verse. Nehemiah 3 follows a very rhythmic pattern. It’s a listing, kind of an honorarium, to all those who served alongside Nehemiah — all those serving the Lord like Nehemiah — to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The record lists a leader, gives a little genealogy to honor his father(s), tells who he led, and what he and his people repaired.
No doubt, this passage resonated with families and clans of Israel far better than with you or I. Those readers had familial connection to it. They had a vague memory and the good kind of pride in what their people accomplished, maybe including what a close relation accomplished, who is now memorialized in Nehemiah 3. For us, it’s like having a father or grandfather who served in World War II. We remember their heroic efforts now in movies like Fury and Saving Private Ryan. We follow the chronicle of their story through Band of Brothers or The Pacific.
Stooping Leaders Aren’t Forgotten Leaders
Here in Nehemiah 3, nestled in verse 5, we learn a lesson — an important lesson about biblical leadership. Real leaders stoop. In their stooping, they offer their submission as service to the Lord.
In Nehemiah 3, we have a long list of those who stooped. They put their hand to the work to see the City of Jerusalem protected, including and especially, the Temple foundation. Men like those of Jericho, Zaccur, the sons of Hassenaah, Meremoth, Meshullam, and Zadok, along with many others, sought the welfare of their land. These men were nobles, leaders, men of rank. They had wealth in servants, children, livestock, and land. People sought their rule and protection. They were warrior, and they were servants. These men stooped to serve the Lord. Many of which ruled up to a half a district in their community. As these leaders stooped, no doubt, in turn did all those in their clan, whether family or servants. These stooping leaders were not forgotten leaders.
The Tekoites were among those listed to serve in the repair of the Jerusalem wall. They willingly stooped to serve the Lord. But not their nobles. This list continues on after the Tekoites to list all sorts of other leaders who stooped to serve, and were not forgotten for it, but it pauses ever so briefly to say this: “…but their nobles would not stoop to serve the Lord” (Neh. 3:5b).
The Tekoites stooped but not their nobles. These nobles are not memorialized in Nehemiah’s list. We’ll never know who they were. We’ll always know about the Tekoites. They are the ones who went on to repair a second section of the wall (Neh. 3:27). They went above and beyond others. We’ll always remember these humble servants, but all we’ll know of their nobles is that they were proud men, too proud to stoop and to serve. Leaders who don’t stoop are forgotten.
But Don’t Lead to Be Remembered
All that said, the aim of a stooping leader is not to be remembered. That’s not why one leads. It may be a fruit of having led, but it’s not the motive for leading. The motive for leading is to stoop to serve the Lord. That’s why these men stooped; they were serving another.
We stoop not to be memorialized but to be loyal leaders. When we lead loyally, people will remember who we follow. They will remember and follow Jesus because that’s who they’ve been pointed to all along. They will follow Jesus and anticipate his coming and going.
Therefore, leaders should serve as ones who long to be forgotten. They want to be forgotten so that people are left not with their memory, but with memory of the Lord. This way Jesus is remembered and anticipated.
Lead People to Remember and Anticipate the Lord
Ultimately, that’s what rebuilding the Jerusalem wall and the temple signaled. The effort remembered what God had promised and became preparation for the fulfillment of that promise. Nehemiah and Ezra’s effort anticipated the first coming of the Messiah, the one who would be memorialized, worshipped, and adored forever and ever. This king needed a kingdom to be welcomed into. That kingdom would have a protected city, a center from where the king ruled. It would have a temple, a gateway to heaven for worship.
The rebuilt temple wasn’t going to be greater because of ornate construction and improved architectural features. Historical eye-witness testimony indicate that the second temple was no comparison to Solomon’s first (Hag 2:3). Yet, it’s glory would be greater than the first, because it would be filled with the glory of the Lord (Hag. 2:7, 9). This city and this temple would welcome the Messiah, a stooping leader, God incarnate man. The people of this city would then condemn him to death, and he would then be welcomed into heaven as the resurrected King of Glory.
This rebuilt city and second temple were merely a foretaste of the New Jerusalem, the kingdom of heaven on earth. Enthroned in heaven is this King, a stooping leader, who will not be forgotten, and who we anticipate will visit us again, completing his rule on earth as it is in heaven.
So, leaders, stoop like him, be forgotten for him, and help people remember him, anticipate him, and prepare for his coming.