I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on. By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. Nehemiah 2:11-16
The Wisdom of Self-Restraint
After obtaining the blessing of the king to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the world, Nehemiah headed out with a military escort and all the materials he needed for the reconstruction of the wall. Verse 11, suggests no one knew Nehemiah was in town. They certainly did not know of his plan to rebuild the wall.
For three days, Nehemiah remains inconspicuous. I imagine he was resting after the long journey from Babylon to Jerusalem, praying for God’s favor over his reconstruction plan, and observing the happenings throughout Jerusalem to get a sense of how to deal with his fellow Israelites. Verse 12 says he set out during the night with just a few soldiers to avoid any attention. He did not even allow the soldiers to ride on their own horses. That made it easier for him and the few others to examine the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down without attracting any attention.
Nehemiah seemingly set out from the west side of the city through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate. Then he turned left toward the south toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, continuing counter-clockwise around the rubble of the city walls, until coming back to his starting point at the Valley Gate. At one point, he had to dismount his horse and continue his inspection on foot.
In verse 15, Nehemiah says that he examine the wall. “Nehemiah wasn’t just sightseeing. Instead, he carefully studied the broken-down walls and the burned gates. The word viewed in Nehemiah 2:13 and 2:15 is a medical term for “probing a wound to see the extent of its damage.” Nehemiah needed to see the extent of the damages to the walls around the city, and the scope of the repair that was needed. After a thorough inspection of the walls, he remained quiet and discreet about his plans and did not say anything to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any other who would be doing the work.
Nehemiah had a methodical approach to his mission in Jerusalem. He carefully waiting for the right time to examine the city, took the right amount of people with him for the tour, and made the right decision not to share his findings or his plans with the Jews or the officials or the priests. Nehemiah did not get ahead of himself or tried to impress the people with his grand vision.
More often than not visions are not successful because the visionary is sloppy and too careless. Nehemiah teaches us the wisdom of not sharing our vision prematurely. Had he told the people of Jerusalem what he came to do, he would have had oppositions at the very beginning. This reminds me of how God the angel of the Lord made Zechariah silent and not able to speak until the birth of his son because he did not believe that God could give him a child in his old age.
At times it is best not to share our plan with others because their unbelief may cause us not to question the purpose and power of God in our lives. Nehemiah was careful not to say anything to anyone until it was necessary because he could not trust anyone else to stay focused on the vision as he was. Many of us become discouraged and get defeated because we say too much too fast. One thing Nehemiah did not do was to assume that things were not as bad as he was told by his brother Hanani. Nor did he assumed the project was going to be easy. He went on a tour of the walls of Jerusalem so he could see what he was dealing with and make decisions accordingly.
Effective leaders make decisions based on facts and not fantasy. They take the necessary time to have first-hand knowledge of the challenge they face. They do not assume because they do not want to be caught off guard or unprepared. Effective leaders understand and appreciate that the journey of a thousand steps begins with one. However, they make sure their first step is informed, careful, responsible, and meaningful.
Blessed Lord, please help us to follow your timing so we do not share our plans with others prematurely.