It was a thrilling moment. In the summer of 2007, our students working in Jerusalem were part of the crew that realized that a large stone tower archaeologists had long believed to date to Hasmonean dynasty in the second century . was actually from much earlier—three to four centuries earlier—to the time of Nehemiah.
It turned out that wall was actually the wall that Nehemiah himself supervised construction of, chronicled in the biblical book bearing his name. That wall—still standing these millennia later—provides potent mute testimony of the power of zealous, driven, manly leadership.
Nehemiah is a tremendous example of masculinity in the Bible. A chapter in the Ezra and Nehemiah booklet about him is called “Nehemiah: A Man of Zeal.” That is a terrific description of this remarkable, godly man! Here are a few basic but extremely potent lessons we can take from his life.
Godly Emotion Drives Right Action
His story begins while most of his people, the Jews, were in captivity in Persia. Somehow he had worked his way into a very honorable position as something of a bodyguard for King Artaxerxes himself.
Nehemiah received news that a contingent of Jews who had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the city were in terrible straits. They were afflicted and persecuted. The protective wall around the city was broken down; the gates were burned.
Think deeply on the response of this intensely passionate, godly emotional man: “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4).
The Bible has many such examples of strongly emotional, yet extremely manly men. In Satan’s world, many people have strong emotions—but very few have strong godly emotions!
True men of God should strive to develop more godly emotion and passion. We should regularly ask God to give us more of His zeal and emotion—including proper grief such as Nehemiah demonstrated here.
But Nehemiah wasn’t just a man of emotion—he was a man of action! That is what proper godly emotion does: It impels us and drives us toward right actions. The feelings of themselves are only truly useful insofar as they affect what we do.
The state of affairs in Jerusalem stirred him. He repented of his inaction and the inaction of all of God’s people. Then he immediately looked for a way to do something. He prayed and fasted that God would open a door for him to act.
Sure enough, God answered that prayer.
God wants action. When He sees a man like this who acts—who will transform his thoughts and feelings into deeds—He can really use such a man!