In all that they did, Ezra and Nehemiah were seeking to see God’s will done in the lives of His people. Yes, the people had messed up; yes, they were punished for it. But God, faithful to His promises of restoration, opened the way for His people to return to the Promised Land and, if faithful, to fulfill the goals that He had set for them. And the Lord, in His wisdom, chose two very dedicated men, men somewhat in the likeness of Moses, to play a central role in this restoration, just as He had used Moses generations earlier for a special task, as well.
Great leaders like these two men have a goal. They have a purpose for living that drives their every action. It could be said that both Ezra and Nehemiah had a purpose in life. They had a vision of where they wanted the people of God to be, and then they put everything into accomplishing the goal.
Ezra did this through studying the Scriptures and teaching the people the Word. Nehemiah encouraged the people to do what was right and to stand up boldly for God. Both men wanted to see a restored Jerusalem, but not just a material restoration. They also wanted to see a revival and reformation in the spiritual lives of its inhabitants. That is why they corrected, reproved, and sometimes demanded a certain course of action. Great leaders believe in something greater than the ordinary and the mediocre. Ezra and Nehemiah believed in a loving, powerful God, a God who could do miracles — and they wanted everyone to have a deep connection with Him.
Beginning with the first chapter of Nehemiah, the reader is impressed by Nehemiah’s dedication to God’s cause and also his distress over the plight of his people. In chapter 1, he weeps when he is told of the hardships of the Israelites in Judah. He gets on his knees and pledges to do whatever God calls him to do. Nehemiah appears to be driven by the idea of making a difference in the world. He was a man of action, action for God. It was not by making the highest salary or having the preeminent position that Nehemiah chose to make a difference (although he had both in Persia), but by going to Judah, to a not-so-prosperous nation, with opposition at every step. He stepped out in faith, regardless of the obstacles before him.