Nehemiah Answers Simon Sinek (part 2 of 2)


In part one, I recapped an excellent Ted Talk by Simon Sinek. (please stop now and watch it to more fully understand this post).


Nehemiah is a quintessential Old Testament leader. Upon hearing of the status of the protective walls and gates of Jerusalem, Nehemiah got his boss, the king of Persia, to let him go to his ancestral homeland and rebuild everything. His leadership skills are not questioned – he found solutions for every problem as they arose, he dealt with people justly, and he confronted his cynics directly. He accomplished what needed to be done and what others said couldn’t be done. He did it. And his work subsequently protected Jerusalem for several centuries.


This is what Nehemiah did:

  • In chapter one,
    • Nehemiah hears about a situation which breaks his heart
    • He prays fervently about what he should do and he listens to God
  • In chapter 2, Nehemiah answers Simon Sinek
    • Verse 2: the king asks, “Why does your face look so sad…?” Nehemiah’s reply is an emotional appeal: his homeland is in ruins.
    • Verse 4: the king asks “What is it you want?” Nehemiah has a short reply – let me go to my homeland and rebuild the city
    • Verse 6: the king asks, “How long will your journey take?” and Nehemiah responds with lots of specifics about his needs
  • In the rest of the book: Nehemiah gets the job done. He leads the people, fends off critics, and reports back to the king.


When the book begins, Nehemiah had no power and very little influence. But he did have a God-inspired vision and he was articulate. By the end of the book, Nehemiah is an inspirational leader. Even 2,500 years ago, Nehemiah was ready for Simon Sinek!


Nehemiah 2:1-9

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”


I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”


The king said to me, “What is it you want?”


Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”


Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.


I also said to him, “If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah? And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the royal park, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?” And because the gracious hand of my God was on me, the king granted my requests. So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king’s letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.


Nehemiah was an inspirational leader. In only 52 days he did what others said couldn’t be done. He had a clear “Why” and could get people to believe what he believed. Even the king, who paid for everything, was able to buy into what Nehemiah wanted to do. Nehemiah’s “Why” was compelling to the soul of his listeners.


Lead On

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