Lesson 13

Leaders in Israel

(2 Kings 22-23, Nehemiah 4, Ezra 7, Judges 4)
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Introduction: One of the most unrecognized powers you possess is that of influence. When we think about influential leaders, some may assume that only certain powerful people have the ability to influence others. My belief is that we all exert some sort of influence over each other. Is there some practice in your life that you can trace to something that someone else said or did? It might only be that one thing, but you carry it with you. As we end our study of Ezra and Nehemiah, let's explore what the Bible has to teach us about influencing others!

  1. Josiah

    1. Read 2 Kings 22:1-2. What kind of influence can an eight-year old have? (When our son began to talk he referred to all heavy equipment as "gonks." We still use that term in our household!)

    2. King Josiah, when he was twenty-six years-old ordered the repair of the temple. Let's read 2 Kings 22:8. What is discovered during this repair? (The Bible as it was then.)

      1. In Lesson 6 of our current series we studied a similar situation in Nehemiah 8. They read and explained the Bible to people who were unfamiliar with what it said. How could the people have lost the Bible or have forgotten what it said? (Prior to Josiah's time, it was simply neglected. In the time of Nehemiah, the nation had been invaded and the people taken captive.)

    3. Read 2 Kings 23:1-2. Think about Josiah's path of influence. How does God work with Josiah to expand Josiah's influence? (Josiah starts with a very basic goal; to repair the temple. This leads to a discovery of the Bible. Now, Josiah has the Bible read before the people.)

      1. Are there any lessons in this for us? (Our path to positively influencing others can start very simply. God will bless our efforts.)

    4. Read 2 Kings 23:3. What does King Josiah do? (He pledges to follow God and do His will "with all his heart and all his soul.")

      1. What influence does this have on the people? (They pledge to do the same.)

      2. Josiah is twenty-six and he is having a real influence for good over his nation. What is your influence on those around you? (When I asked myself this question thirty-five years ago, it caused me to make some overdue changes in my life.)

  2. Nehemiah

    1. Let's read some texts about the time Nehemiah was leading the effort to rebuild the wall in Jerusalem. Read Nehemiah 4:10-12. What is the message God's people are sharing? (We are not strong enough.)

      1. What is the message of the enemies of God's people? (They will kill the workers when they least expect it.)

      2. What is the message of the Jews who live nearby? (Attacks are inevitable.)

      3. What is the combined influence of all of these negative messages?

    2. Read Nehemiah 4:13-14. How does Nehemiah counter these negative messages? (First, he takes steps to protect the workers from attack. Second, he encourages them by saying that God is with them. Third, he encourages them by saying they are fighting for their families.)

      1. Can you apply this approach to increase your influence?

    3. Read Nehemiah 2:10, Nehemiah 4:7 and Nehemiah 13:4-5. We previously studied the issue of Eliashib providing a room in the temple to Tobiah. How would you characterize Tobiah? (He is an enemy of God's people.)

      1. Read Nehemiah 13:6-9. In a previous lesson I asked if Nehemiah was being impolite. We discussed whether Nehemiah should have politely asked Tobiah to leave instead of throwing out all of his possessions. How is Nehemiah asserting his influence here? (Tobiah is a bad guy. If he had his way, the temple would not have been rebuilt. Nehemiah takes strong measures against Tobiah.)

      2. Are strong measures sometimes needed in our churches today? Is this sometimes the proper way to assert influence?

  3. Ezra

    1. Read Ezra 7:8-10. Why was God's "gracious hand" on Ezra? (He devoted himself to the study, observance and teaching of the law.)

    2. Read Ezra 7:11-13. What kind of influence does Ezra now have? (King Artaxerxes has empowered Ezra to take God's people back to Jerusalem. This is one of the most important events in the history of God's people and Ezra is leading the effort at this time.)

    3. Read Ezra 7:25. What great authority to influence the future does Ezra now have? (He is selecting and teaching judges!)

      1. Why was Ezra chosen for this extremely important task? (His connection to God. God not only gave Ezra wisdom ( Ezra 7:25), but Ezra studied and taught the law.)

        1. Can you increase your influence by studying and teaching God's law? Or, do you think that would cause you to lose influence?

    4. Read Ezra 7:27-28. What is the goal of Ezra's work? (To bring honor to God's house.)

      1. What encourages Ezra to get up in the morning and do his work? (He takes courage from the fact that God is with him.)

  4. Deborah

    1. Read Judges 4:4-5. What role did Deborah play in Israel? (She lead the nation. She was the judge who resolved disputes among the people. She was a prophet.)

    2. Read Judges 4:6-7. What other role does Deborah hold? (She relays the military strategy given to her by God.)

    3. Read Judges 4:2-3. How powerful is Sisera? (Chariots were the latest in war technology. Sisera has 900 iron chariots!)

    4. Read Judges 4:7. God told Deborah to tell Barak to take his men up a mountain. God would then arrange for the 900 iron chariots to be the valley. Is some instruction left out of this message? (I want to know how they use their position in the mountain to attack these chariots.)

    5. Read Judges 4:8. What does Barak think about these instructions? What kind of influence would Barak have as a leader? (He is fearful. His influence would be to spread fear.)

    6. Read Judges 4:9. What influence does Deborah have over Barak?

      1. How does Barak diminish his influence?

      2. What is Barak's problem? (He does not trust what Deborah has told him.)

        1. Why would he not trust? (I don't think the problem is trusting what Deborah said, I think Barak's problem is trusting God.)

      3. Is there a lesson in this when it comes to our influence? (If we do great things in cooperation with God, it will enhance our influence.)

    7. Let's skip down a few verses. Read Judges 4:13-15. What does it mean that "the Lord routed Sisera?" (Read Judges 5:20-22. We now know how the impossible became possible. The riverbed in which all the chariots are gathered turns into a flash flood.)

    8. Read Judges 4:17-20? Who is the person that Sisera fears will come by? (Barak!)

    9. Read Judges 4:21-22. Who gets the credit for killing Sisera and who loses credit as predicted by Deborah in Judges 4:9? (Barak loses the credit and a woman, Jael, gets the credit.)

      1. Is there a lesson about influence in this story? Is there a message about gender? Why did God put this story in the Bible? (The consistent theme of the Bible is that God tilts towards male leadership. Despite that tilt, God uses anyone who trusts Him and fearlessly obeys Him. I think that is the reason for this story. If a man will not stand up, God will use women to effect the defeat of evil.)

    10. Friend, what kind of influence do you have on others? Be honest, is it good or bad? If it is bad, or if it seems to be a limited influence for good, why not determine to walk more closely with God and increase your influence? Why not ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to help you in that direction?

  5. Next week: Christ: The Center of Daniel. We begin a new series on the book of Daniel.

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Lessons on Ezra and Nehemiah

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