Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - Session 13 (no audio available)

Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - Session 13 (no audio available)

Scripture: Nehemiah 5:1-13
Sermon: Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - Week 13 (no audio available)

Scripture: Nehemiah 5:1-13
Sermon: Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah - Week 13 (no audio available)

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.

-Nehemiah 5:1-13

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The Test of Personal Hardship
Ligonier Ministries

"There were those who said, 'With our sons and our daughters, we are many, So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive'" (Neh. 5:2).

Once Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem and got started on rebuilding the wall, the people made good progress for a while. Even though Sanballat, Tobiah, and Israel's other enemies attempted to derail the wall's reconstruction, Nehemiah was able to organize the people and arm them so that they could defend themselves and keep up the work (Neh. 3-4).

Yet as anyone who has faced persistent opposition understands, it is easy to become wearied and feel like giving up after a long period of suffering. This is apparently what happened during Nehemiah's wall-building project, as we see in today's passage.  Eventually, the people complained that they were unable to continue their work because of money problems - famine had made food scarce, families had gotten in over their heads mortgaging their farms, and so on (Neh. 5:1-5).

Some of the people did not give because they were trying to amass a fortune in grain for themselves (vv. 1-2), and this is often the reason why so few people give to the church today. Complaints about money often do not reflect a lack of funds but an unwillingness to give up a certain lifestyle in order to give to the work of God. When we think that we do not have money to support kingdom outreach, we should take care that we are not really complaining that the Lord may want us to give up certain non-essentials for the good of His kingdom and its expansion.

Still, there are occasions when resources are scarce because of unemployment, underemployment, and other factors. Exploitation is another problem that can take monies from people who could otherwise give to the church, and that was also happening when the citizens complained to Nehemiah about their poor estate. Gathering together the nobles and other leaders of the Jews, Nehemiah condemned them for charging their brethren exorbitant interest rates on mortgages and other loans (vv. 6-13). This practice was (and is) contrary to Scripture (Deut. 23:19-20).

As we have seen, true reformation always involves turning back to God and His Word. So Nehemiah convinced the people that reformation could not continue unless they followed even the laws they would have rather ignored.

God does not need our money and time to advance His kingdom, but He has chosen these means to help support the kingdom's extension to the ends of the earth. He has called us to give of ourselves as a test of our obedience and to prove that we value Him more than silver or gold. May we be faithful to His call, believing that He will supply all of our needs in accordance with His love for us.

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