Essential themes in the book of Nehemiah, by Rev Dr John Kwasi Fosu


In our previous studies, we learnt that the book of Nehemiah was written to show the work of God through a godly leader, Nehemiah.  This study material aims at highlighting some essential themes one encounters upon reading Nehemiah. Among others, these themes include leadership, vision, prayer, resilience and spiritual warfare, and spiritual renewal. It is important to first study these themes in the book of Nehemiah to gain a detailed perspective on the entire book.  


Leadership is the first and most important theme to discover upon reading the book of Nehemiah. For Nehemiah demonstrated excellent leadership. Nehemiah was ready to obey God’s call to lead.  Some successful leadership traits identified in the book of Nehemiah includes careful planning, teamwork, problem solving, and courage to get the work done (Nehemiah 2:11-21). Nehemiah, therefore, combined tremendous faith with hard work needed for good leadership. He demonstrates what it means to be a godly leader. Leadership is not just about gaining recognition and holding a position of power. It is about assuming responsibility that demands planning, hard work, courage, and perseverance.


The theme of developing godly vision and for thus accomplishing it comes out clearly as we read Nehemiah. Although the early Jewish returnees had completed the Temple in 515 B.C., yet the city walls were broken. Among other things these walls were significant in that they represented power, protection, and beauty to the city of Jerusalem. The walls were also needed to protect the Temple from attack and thus for continuous worship. As Nehemiah heard about the condition of the wall, God put the desire to rebuild the walls in his heart, giving him a vision for the work (Nehemiah 2:17-21). Reading Nehemiah should therefore, orient us to ask, are there broken “walls” in our societies and churches that need to be built today? Visions are borne out of the recognition of deep needs around us and in our world.


Prayer can transform people and societies. Reading the book Nehemiah reveals that as Nehemiah was called by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, he prayed for forgiveness, favour, strength, wisdom and for protection. Nehemiah presented everything to God in prayer as a way of responding to problems (Nehemiah 4:4,9; 5:19; 6:14). In this perspective, prayer serves as God’s mighty force in solving problems today. The example of Nehemiah reveals that prayer and action go hand in hand. For that reason, prayer serves as a means in which God guides our preparations for achieving our goals, teamwork, and hard work.

Resilience and strategic warfare

The book of Nehemiah reveals how leaders and for that matter all seeking transformation are to resist oppositions and to behave in difficult times. Having begun the work, Nehemiah encountered opposition in the form of scorn, slander, and threats from enemies. He was also confronted by fear, conflict, and discouragement from his own workers. Yet these problems did not stop Nehemiah from completing the work. To accomplish any difficult task, one must be ready to overcome difficulties. For there are no victory without troubles and no testimony without growing through test. Demonstrating resilience means that we are to face difficulties squarely and press on to finish the task.

Spiritual renewal

To Nehemiah, rebuilding the wall was not complete until the spiritual lives of the people were rebuilt. For this reason, Ezra instructed the people in God’s Word so they could recognize the sin in their lives and thus took steps to deal with it (Nehemiah 8:1-12). It is not enough for one to admit his or her sin. Instead, spiritual renewal must result in transformative lives. God requires our complete devotion of heart and minds (Nehemiah 13:14, 22, 29, 31). In other words, God wants to be in the center of our hearts.

Reflections and Conclusion

Reflecting through the themes in the book of Nehemiah as presented in this material, the idea of what it means to lead comes to mind. In this case, Nehemiah demonstrates what it means to combine zealous human efforts through detailed planning and hard work with God’s divine empowering and wisdom. For Nehemiah intermittently affirmed the hand of God upon his life for the task ahead of him. Notwithstanding, he assumed his human responsibility of careful planning, hard work and resisting the enemy. Worth noting here is that these themes, as surveyed, are essential aids in our journey of transformation.

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