NEHEMIAH 5: 1-19
In chapter 4 we saw the external opposition that Nehemiah and the people faced. This was caused by the enemies of the Jews led by Sanballat and Tobiah. In chapter 5 they face other road blocks:
The land is faced by famine, it seems this famine had been a long one to such an extent that, some people had to mortgage their land and houses in order to get money to purchase food. While the famine was going, on the people were required to pay government taxes which was required by the colonial government, but their own officials were the ones that exacted the taxes.
It is famine time, you have to pay taxes and you have to care for your family. When they failed to pay, their land was taken, but as you know taxes do not stop, so the only way you can solve this is to become a slave or to get your kids to become slaves. Nehemiah on arrival had bought some of his fellow Jews back from slavery when he arrived but the in-justice did not stop.
REMEMBER THE PROJECT IS THE BUILDING OF THE WALL.
But hunger, poverty and feelings of oppression were amongst the people. Result was low morale, complaints and a spirit of discouragement.
We see this same issue in the book of Acts, as the church was growing there was an issue of injustice and the apostles had to stop and attend to this issue.
REAL LEADERS STOP TO ATTEND TO ISSUES THAT ARE HURTING THEIR PEOPLE.
The quality of being fair and reasonable Similar or related words: fairness, justness, fair play, fair-mindedness, equity, evenhandedness, impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, honesty,
How did Nehemiah deal with this issue?
Vs. 6: “6I was very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.”
A. A great leader will listen to the outcry of his people.
B. A great leader is moved when his people are in pain.
C. He sought counsel from his fellow leaders
D. He acted decisively.
Our master Jesus was moved when he saw the suffering of the people. He stopped when Bartimaeus cried out to him, he was touched when he saw sickness and disease, he cried when he saw Martha and Mary in pain at the loss of their brother Lazarus. He could not let the 5000 go home hungry after his preaching.
HE WAS ALWAYS MOVED AT HUMAN SUFFERING.
Fellow Jews were over taxing their brothers and sisters. They were extorting huge interests on the funds they lent their brothers. They were selling their brethren into slavery.
I have been looking at the Bible and I have found that God hates injustice and especially for those that are poor, needy, orphaned, widowed, the aliens.
EXODUS 22: 21 “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. 22 “Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. 23 If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry. 24 My anger will be aroused, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives will become widows and your children fatherless. 25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest. 26 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, return it to him by sunset, 27 because his cloak is the only covering he has for his body. What else will he sleep in? When he cries out to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
In our desire to achieve great things for God, in our desire to succeed in life, in our desire to take care of our people, we should remember: WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD. WE SHOULD REMEMBER THE END SHOULD NEVER JUSTIFY THE MEANS. WE SHOULD REMEMBER OUR CHARACTER IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUR ACHIEVEMENT. OUR ACTIONS MUST ALIGN WITH OUR WALK WITH GOD.
FACTS TO REMEMBER:
· Lending is not bad, but do not extort your fellow believer and you should not do it to a non-believer also.
· When we charge interest it should be fair.
· We should not step on our brothers and sisters as we go up. TREAT THEM WELL AND FAIR.
PRACTICAL THINGS TO REMEMBER:
How do we treat the people who work in our homes? Do we give them some rest or they work 15 hours a day, 7 days a week? Do you pay them well? Do we give them small gifts when God bless us?
How do we treat children who may be orphans in our homes, step-kids, or those whom God has brought in your home to live there? This is the greatest opportunity we have to give them what they never had before. IT IS INTERESTING THAT IN LIFE GOD MAY BLESS THEM IN BIGGER WAYS THAN YOUR OWN.
What about the people you employ? Do you pay them well, do they have job security? Do you treat them as colleagues?
How do we treat people of other tribes, races, nationalities, or the opposite sex?
Everyone deserves to be treated with honor, with dignity. Jesus is calling us to higher way of treating other people. He is calling us for a counter culture.
Vs. 9.“9So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? 10Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest.”
Prov. 15:16Better a little with the fear of the Lordthan great wealth with turmoil.
NEHEMIAH FEARED GOD.
As we drive ourselves towards our big visions, and big achievement, our love for God should lead us before anything else. Big projects, big programs, big business, big visions can only be fulfilling if they are founded on the fear of the Lord.
TO FEAR GOD IS TO LOVE GOD AND TO LOVE HIS PEOPLE
THE GREAT COMMANDMENT
MATTHEW 23: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
The way followers of Jesus conduct their business, the way they run their homes, the way they do ministry has to be different.
IT IS VERTICAL ( UPWARDS TO GOD)
TO FEAR GOD IS TO HONOR GOD
TO FEAR GOD IS TO GLORIFY GOD IN OUR ACTIONS
TO FEAR GOD IS TO ACT IN SUCH A WAY THAT OUR LIVES GIVE TESTIMONY TO GOD’S WORK IN OUR LIVES.
IT IS ALSO HORIZONTAL (towards our brothers and sisters)
TO FEAR GOD IS TO TREAT OUR FELLOW BELIEVERS WITH FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE
IT IS TO HONOR OUR SISTERS AND BROTHERS.
IT IS TO TREAT THEM AS WE WOULD WANT THEM TO TREAT US.
The reality was that the brothers needed to pay their taxes. They needed to pay their debts.
But the other reality was that it was too much taxation, it was unfair. They were too poor to pay back.
The love of the neighbor required the brethren to forgive their debts. This was an act not just of justice but love and mercy.
Prov. 19: 17He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.
3. THE CULTURE OF GENEROSITY.
Vs. “15The former governors who were before me laid heavy burdens on the people and took from them for their daily ration forty shekels of silver. Even their servants lorded it over the people. But I did not do so, because of the fear of God. ………..verse 18b “Yet for all this I did not demand the food allowance of the governor, because the service was too heavy on this people.”
· GOD USES US TO BE HIS INSTRUMENTS OF MEETING THE NEEDS OF HIS PEOPLE. WE BECOME GOD’S HANDS.
· THE LORD BLESSES YOU THE GIVER
Someone said: God blesses people’s generosity with His generosity.
· OUR ACTS OF GENEROSITY BRING GLORY TO GOD.
The Children of Israel were trained by God to live a generous life. The new Testament church began with a generous spirit.
LEV. 23: 22 “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lordyour God.’ ”
Deut 15: 7 If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardheartedor tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9 Be careful not to harbor this wicked thought: “The seventh year, the year for canceling debts, is near,” so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the Lord against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. 11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
ACTS4: “32Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.”