“But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. “
I wonder thoughtfully this Thanksgiving season about the many messages God has intended for us in chapter 5 of Nehemiah – a chapter written in first person by the cup-bearer of the foreign king and allowed to return to rebuild gates and walls of Jerusalem. Now for this temporary time he is the governor helping the people and doing God’s work as he oversees the rebuilding and keeps tabs on the detractors.
Nehemiah realizes that we should not be our own enemies. Nehemiah speaks to the fellow noblemen about taking care of the poor – he acknowledges the complaints that the poor have registered – he speaks about the wrong practices of the rich and how they are getting richer off their own people by selling them into slavery (but foolishly then buying them back to work their own fields)…
Nehemiah speaks of being generous and not taking a salary for himself – and he speaks of feeding all those under his care. Most importantly, Nehemiah speaks in a warning tone about WALKING IN THE FEAR OF GOD.
“…ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?“
God often uses enemies to sharpen our own resolve to LISTEN and obey His intentions MORE. God may sometimes allow us to be boxed into a corner so that the only way is thru GOD’S ABILITY to find a way where there was no way. If we are not listening, this is a good time to start listening. God does have answers. Praying is imperative. Listen and obey.
The people gone wrong in old testament scriptures (as well as modern day) often get carried away by greed. No wonder Jesus overturned the tables at the temple. The sellers were greedy for profit when they should have been offering a service to the poor of convenience for purchasing animals for sacrifice for atonement according to the Law of Moses. Greed is an all-consuming sin and overwhelms the world. Pray against us also being blinded by greed and not knowing how to deal with the money or blessings of richness of family connections either. Sad. God’s provisions are for His purposes. There are many without. Often our problems are good problems. Our issues would be blessings to other’s emptiness.
THANKFULLY, the people of this community listened and agreed with Nehemiah. And they continued building and living.
“But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.” Nehemiah was a role model and did not lord over the poor. Nehemiah spoke plainly to the rulers in a warning demonstration of shaking out the folds of his robe: “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”
Let us this Thanksgiving realize that we are working on rebuilding not just a wall but also a gate TO OPEN and bring more in… We are helping God gathering more people to a KINGDOM. We must take heed to warnings against greed. We must share. We must be thankful. (It’s also a commandment too: Don’t be jealous!)
And the Restoration of the KINGDOM? God delivered on His Promises: in a few hundred years after Nehemiah, Jesus, God with us, was born out of Judah, from the remnant of the line of King David. PROMISE delivered. Savior, Christ, Messiah, King.
Be BLESSED this Thanksgiving and Christmas and EVERY DAY because Jesus DID come and will come again. We just need to use these days to help others on their Way.
Nehemiah Helps the Poor
Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”
When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.
So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”
“We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”
Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”
At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.
Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor. But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.
Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations. Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.
Remember me with favor, my God, for all I have done for these people.