Hey 👋🏾 there BCU Family!
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We’re back with our Nehemiah series where we’ve chatted about overcoming people approval , the importance of gates , what do do when attacked, when you are weary on the wall, getting back to work on the wall and last time we were together, we started chapter 5, where we talked about the enemy within. That’s where we pick up this time, so let’s dig in!
Scene: Nehemiah was informed that the nobles and rulers were unfairly charging their brethren for food, which obviously was effecting the families, morale and well-being of the workers. Moreover, this was a public sin and was caustic to the work of the Lord. Nehemiah was a leader who was able to discern and work through issues, so it was apropos to get everyone together.
v6 And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
Part of the reason Nehemiah was angry was because the Israelites were forbidden from charging “usury,” or interest, on loans to one another (see Deuteronomy 23:19). Having to pay back the loan interest would only put them further into debt and was not beneficial for either party. This law served as a reminder to the Jews that helping those in need is something that should be done without expecting anything in return. In essence both the law and the people were being broken.
v7 Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.
We talked about confrontation last time and we also talked about it in our forgiveness series. Confrontation is biblical and needs to be done the way GOD instructs us to do, according to Matthew 18. In this situation, Nehemiah had to address a group of leaders who were fleecing the people, so this had to be done publicly. A similar situation happened in the book of Joshua.
Joshua (chapter 7) was losing this battle and the Lord told him there was an “accursed” thing in the midst and Joshua could not stand before his enemies (or get the victory) until this was dealt with–the accursed thing was taken away (v 13). It turned out there was sin in the camp, as someone named Achan had stolen some spoils from a battle in Ai–he was NOT supposed to have done that! Because of Achan’s foolish decision was effecting everyone, Joshua sought him out and confronted him in front of everyone (verses 21-23).
v8 And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.
He reminded ALL the people that their own folks (and maybe many of them) had been sold to their enemies and finally bought back with their own ability or money, and here they are doing the same thing. The truth was so evident, the people could not even answer. back. Whenever we confront someone, we want to be sure our facts are based in evidence versus emotion.
v9 Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
Nehemiah is asking:
We we NOT JUST released from Babylon (the enemy) and you charging this usury–is that GOOD?
Don’t you fear God at all?
What type of examples are we to our enemies about the God we serve?
God is asking:
That meme you posted or status you liked..did I get any glory out of that?
The way you cut your eyes or “cussed” someone out…was that a good example to the unsaved?
Do you want your enemies to make fun of you/mock God? (in the sense that we are no different than them)?
Do we care how our actions will look to those who do not know Christ?
v10 I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
If you want to charge—yes, I am charging, too! We’re in business supporting one another–that’s fine. Just stop all this excessive interest.
v11 Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive yards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
Be merciful and given them their stuff back–this was the proper thing to do.
v12Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
Your word was your bond. Once you promised to do something, you did it. Psalm 15 reminds us in a form of a question and then answer. Lord, who shall abide in Your tabernacle? Who shall dwell in Your holy hill… He that swears to his own hurt and does not change (Psalm 15:1,4).
v13 Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the Lord. And the people did according to this promise.
Shaking your lap was like shaking out the outer parts of a garment, something like you shaking crumbs off your clothes, but this was MUCH more serious. It represented that if you failed to keep your words, just like those crumbs are scattered asunder, God would scatter YOU asunder. It was better to keep your promise.
Also, notice that these folks readily received the Word–they had a teachable spirit. There was no arguing or justification, they were wrong, were called on it, agreed to that fact, terms and conditions of restoration. And on TOP of that, rather than sulk, they praised God after the correction. That’s an example we should all learn to follow, especially when we know the rebuke comes from a place of love. And even if it doesn’t, we can still give God praise.
This also speaks highly of Nehemiah’s leadership. He had to rebuke the people, yes but did it in a way that was effective and impactful. Obviously, he had a relationship with God so he knew how to pray to know what to say, when to say it, and how to express it so God got the glory out of it. Whether you are correcting someone or being corrected whenever we go to God and ask for/follow His directions, things always come out perfectly. Amen? Amen!
Next time, we’ll finish up chapter 5–where we discover more about Nehemiah’s character and how we can apply those characteristics to our lives. In the meantime, we’d love to dialogue with you so, please post your thoughts in the comment section below!
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