Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them. 3 The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. 4 Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. 5 The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors. Nehemiah 3:1-5
Leading From The Front
Nehemiah’s vision to rebuild the wall spurred the leaders of Jerusalem into action. Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests led the way and started the work of rebuilding the sheep gate. These religious leaders must be acknowledged for their wisdom and leadership. It is not so much that they were the first to start the rebuilding project. They strategically chose to start working on the Sheep Gate. By securing the gates they were protecting the city from enemy attacks because the gates were the critical entry and exit points to the city, and the places most likely to see an enemy attack. The Sheep Gate had close proximity to the temple. Eliashib and his fellow priests naturally wanted that gate repaired because of their ecclesiastical role and responsibility. Not surprisingly, as soon as the finished rebuilding the Sheep Gate and the portion of the wall that extended as far as the Tower of Hananel, they consecrated it. They did so to indicate that the rebuilding project is set apart for God’s glory and service.
Because of the leadership of Eliashib and his fellow priests, the other men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them. Their work was no less significant than the work of Eliashib and other priests. Every bit of repair was needed to complete the rebuilding project. Inspiring the other men of Jericho to join in the rebuilding project was critical for the success thereof. In the same vein, the Sons of Hassenaah did the work of rebuilding the Fish Gate while others helped. Verse 3 tells us that they laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. The Fish Gate was located on the northern tip of the wall next to the Sheep Gate. It is so named because the fisherman of Galilee would bring their catch in through this gate to be sold.
By the time we get to verse 4, the inspirational leadership of Eliashib and his fellow priests has become contagious. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. The text does not specify which section these men repaired. “The word for repairs is the Hebrew word chazaq, used 35 times in this chapter alone. It has the idea of strengthening, encouraging, of making something strong (Kidner).” These men were not only repairing broken sections of the wall, they were also strengthening and encouraging their fellow Israelites to join in the rebuilding project. Every section that was repaired gave the Israelites the confidence that the wall can be repaired in its entirety. That was a huge morale booster giving the fact that the enemies of the Jews did not think they had the gravitas to rebuild the wall.
Verse 5 says that “The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.” The people of the city of Tekoa were more than willing to work. Tekoa was the name of a town in Judah, about 12 miles south of Jerusalem. Tekoa was the birthplace of the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1). Although these men did not necessarily live in Jerusalem proper, they gave their support to the rebuilding project. However, their nobles did not feel the same way. Theses nobles felt they were above the hard work. Scholars have long speculated about why these nobles did not want to help with the repairs. Whatever their reason, they forfeited an opportunity to be mentioned in the annals of biblical history as people who participated in the rebuilding of the wall.
Effective leadership is about leading from the front. An effective leader does not ask his or her followers to do what he or she is not willing to do. The quickest way for people to buy into the vision of a leader is for the leader to take the first step, and be willing to sacrifice as much as everyone else. Eliashib’s inspirational leadership started the rebuilding effort. He gave legitimacy to the rebuilding project and demonstrated the significance of that project by investing his time and giving his sweat equity to rebuild the Sheep Gate.
Many great visions failed and dreams turned into a nightmare because the leader is too lazy to do their part to accomplish the goal. Telling other people what to do does not make one a leader. It is demonstrating the willingness to do whatever it takes to get the job done that inspires others to co-sign on a particular vision.
Jesus did not send someone else to die in his place. He personally walked the roads of Palestine for thirty-three years. Before he released the disciples to do great commission work, he showed them how to do it. He fed the hungry and healed the sick. Jesus was the first one to lay his life on the line by dying on a rugged cross. Most of the disciples willingly died for the cause of the gospel because Jesus died first.
If we want people to learn about forgiveness, we have to be the first to forgive others. The only way people will co-sign on the idea of giving their time, talents, and treasures is when they see their spiritual leaders do the same. As parents, our children will only learn to value prayer and the studying of God’s word if we do so first. It is our actions and not our words that tell people what matters to us. Eliashib’s action told the Israelites that he a man of the people and a man of God.
Blessed Lord, please help us to lead from the front as kingdom builders.