Monday, March 18, 2013

Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah 5
     It can be a little hard to understand what exactly is going on in this chapter. Basically, the rich Jews were taking advantage of the poor Jews.  There was a famine in the land and the poor Jews could not afford to feed their families, especially since they were building the wall instead of planting crops.  If the poor Jews had homes they were selling them, if not they were selling their sons and daughters and/or borrowing money.  They were being taken advantage of in a cruel way and that is why they started their outcry and were complaining.  
   When Nehemiah is angry in verse 6, he is angry at the rich Jews for using this time of need as a get rich business opportunity.  They knew the poor people were desperate, so they were taking full advantage of that and charging high rates on loans.  This was a sin because the Lord made specific laws against charging interest to the poor in Deuteronomy and Leviticus.

     Deuteronomy 23:19-20: "Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest.  You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess."

     Deuteronomy 24:10-13: "When you make a loan of any kind to your neighbor, do not go into his house to get what he is offering as a pledge.  Stay outside and let the man to whom you are making the loan bring the pledge out to you.  If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession.  Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it.  Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act in the sight of the Lord your God."

     Leviticus 25:35-37: "If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you.  You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit."

   Nehemiah and the other leaders had done everything they could to buy the Israelites back from the Gentiles.  So Nehemiah was rightfully angry when he heard the Israelites were enslaving their own brothers!
   Verse 9 struck a chord with me.  "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?"  Where in my daily life am I slipping?  Where am I following my own desires and interests and not fearing the Lord?  Do I live with a healthy fear of the Lord?  I so often think of Him as my loving Father who fights for me and died for me on the cross and has abundant mercies everflowing, but I forget to fear Him.  He is the Almighty Lord of all creation.  Worthy of ALL praise and honor.  All His ways are correct.  His laws are just and righteous. He is a jealous God.  He will punish and our out His wrath on sin.  Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess He is Lord.  Of course these are joyous things, but it helps to remind myself that the Lord isn't a cute cuddly father-figure that listens to my woes and holds my hand.

     Psalm 111:10: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow His precepts have good understanding.  To Him belongs eternal praise."

   Verses 14 -19 shed some more light on Nehemiah's caring spirit and his reverence to the Lord.  It was Persian custom for a governor to provide elegant meals to officials in his land as well as any visiting dignitaries.  Usually these meals were funded by taxing the people. (This tax was in addition to the already high taxes from the Persian government.)  Nehemiah knew the Israelites were poor and struggling to feed themselves, so he provided all these meals for more than a hundred and fifty people out of his own pocket.  Granted, he was more than likely a weathly man- because of his previous position with the King.  Also, because of the king's support Nehemiah may have received subsidies from the Persian capital to help fund the rebuilding of the wall.
   It would not have been wrong for Nehemiah to acquire land and food from the people, it was his pay as their governor.  So we can certainly respect and admire Nehemiah and the choices he made throughout his leadership.  Nehemiah loved his people and his humble leadership shows that.

If you have anything to add or any questions about Nehemiah 5 then please feel free to leave a comment.  I'll get back with any questions as soon as I ask someone wiser than me;) Have a wonderful day! Love, Devon

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