You can’t lead the people of God without candid confrontation. The history of God’s people is that they are a stubborn lot, easily susceptible to the influences of the world. The great revival of Nehemiah and Ezra did not last. Without a tight reign by faithful leadership, God’s people would go back to living like the world around them.
You see this again at the end of Nehemiah.
After twelve years of service, Nehemiah returned to his Persian master in Babylon and while he was away, the priests rented rooms in the temple for a storage facility, the people ignored their responsibility to the priests, and everybody ignored the Law.
Nehemiah dealt candidly with the people, and sometimes he was tough. I think Nehemiah felt the pressure of being strict on adults (who were God’s people after all) in his own conscience. After all, we’d all like to seem more kind, more gracious and more loving. Disciplining even a rebellious people can make you have second thoughts about how you are dealing with them. And so, throughout the book that bears his name, Nehemiah offers a number of prayers for himself, asking God to “remember” that he was just trying to do good (5:19; 6:14; 13:14, 22, 29).
Faithful leaders exercise their responsibility with the authority of God, but temper it with the knowledge that they too must submit to God’s hand.