Having addressed the obvious opposition outside the walls, Nehemiah’s next challenge is the self-destruction between the Jews themselves. As with many societies, the conflict arises between the “haves” and the “have nots”. It is a problem we are all too familiar with today.
Often we do not consider our brother’s need over our own interests. Even more often we are blind to how the practice of our advantage termites away until our nation lies in waste. Often, maybe even always, our first clue comes only when the oppressed cry out. If we are to heal, someone must hear, listen and take up their cause.
The Jewish community was working together physically on the wall but the poor are starving. Not because of their enemies but because of their own nobles and officials. The poor are doing and have done all they can to stay afloat – mortgaging or selling their property and even their children. The rich are simply in strictly-business mode, taking advantage of every “good deal” at the expense of those in trouble.
Nehemiah, like God, hears the cry of the oppressed and does not delay in taking action. He addresses the offenders: “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God…”
God is not in it when we exploit our brother. God is not in it when our view only addresses our own gain and comfort over the wellbeing of others. God is not in it when we are deaf to the cries of the poor – in whatever form their poverty takes.
God is for those who hear the word of admonition and respond. May we of privilege be like these leaders, who were blind to their actions but now were willing to see. May we be quick to action, even though it costs us something. May we be glad and appreciative of the true privilege of serving our brother and walking in the fear of our God.
If I were asked to preach on this passage there are about 50 lessons on vision and leadership in these verses. I’m tempted to make a list right now but …well, okay. Just a list.
- Nehemiah was aware of what was going on with his people.
- He listened to everyone, not just some, because the restoration was about everyone.
- He was quick to identify the root of the problem.
- He knew God’s heart. How? Prayer and knowing the Word come to mind. (There are several “laws” that come to bear. The Jews were not allowed to charge interest from other Jews. Some believe this “year” was a sabbatical year so land/property that were sold were to be returned to the original family. While God doesn’t decry the distinctions of “rich” or “poor” as wrong, He does expect mutual submission and caring for one another.)
- He was angry but did not react in anger. He took time to consider his actions and how to best deliver his message.
- He was bold and clear and practical. He pushed the solution beyond a willingness to comply, establishing accountability and consequences. (The consequences were not something he imposed but were named and left to God to carry out. – That is trust in God’s sovereignty!)
- He did not make the rules about right and wrong – He spoke in terms of God’s expectations.
- Nehemiah lived with his people and as an example to his people. He and his servants worked alongside them. He did not tax the people even though it had precedent. To do so would have been counter to his message, a burden to the bigger work of God and would have separated him from the people he served.
- Nehemiah lived out generosity and hospitality.
- I would guess there are more but I.HAVE.GOT.TO.GO! 🙂