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Inner trouble
Bible Passage Nehemiah 5: 1- 19
This content is part of a series Bright Morning Reflections, in topic 2024 & book Nehemiah.

Inner trouble

  • Rev. Bright Mawuena Nfodzo
Date preached March 7, 2024

SCRIPTURE 📖
1 Now the people along with their spouses complained loudly against their fellow Jews,

2 because certain of them kept claiming, “Since we have so many sons and daughters, we must get some grain so we can eat and survive.”

3 Others were saying, “We’re having to mortgage our fields, our vineyards, and our homes so we can buy grain during this famine.”

4 Still others were saying “We’ve borrowed money against our fields and vineyards to pay the king’s taxes.

5 Now our bodies are no different than the bodies of our relatives, and our children are like their children. Nevertheless, we’re about to force our sons and daughters into slavery, and some of our daughters are already in bondage. It’s beyond our power to do anything about it, because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”

6 I became very livid when I heard their complaining and these charges.

7 So after thinking it over carefully, I accused the officials and nobles openly, “Every one of you is charging your fellow countrymen interest!” So I opened a public investigation against them.

8 I accused them, “To the best of our ability, we’ve been buying back our fellow Jews who had been sold to foreigners. Even now you’re selling your fellow countrymen, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet and never spoke a word.

9 So I said, “What you’re doing isn’t right! Shouldn’t you live in the fear of our God to avoid shame from our foreign enemies?

10 I’m also lending money and grain, as are my fellow-Jews and my servants, but let’s not charge interest.

11 So today please restore to them their fields, vineyards, olive orchards, and homes, along with the one percent interest charge that you’ve assessed them on the grain, wine, and oil.”

12 They responded, “We will restore these things, and will assess no interest charges against them. We will do what you are requesting!” So I called the priests and made them take an oath to fulfill this promise.

13 I also shook my robes, and said, “May God shake out every man from his house and his possessions who does not keep this promise. May he be emptied out and shaken just like this.” All the assembly said, “Amen!” and praised the LORD. And the people kept their promise.

14 In addition, from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah (that is, during the twelve years from the twentieth to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes), neither I nor my relatives relied on the provisions allotted to the governor.

15 Nevertheless, the former governors before me placed a heavy burden on the people. They received food and wine, plus a tax of 40 shekels of silver. Even their young men took advantage of the people, but I never did so because I feared God.

16 Also, as I continued to work on the wall, we purchased no land, and all of my young men were employed in the work.

17 I fed 150 Jews and officials every day, not counting those who came from the nations around us.

18 Our daily requirements were one ox and six choice sheep, along with various kinds of poultry prepared for me. Every ten days there was a delivery of an abundant supply of wine. Despite all this, I refused the governor’s allotment, because demands on the people were heavy.

19 “Remember me with favor, my God, for everything I’ve done for this people.”

BACKGROUND ✝
Yesterday, we looked at how Nehemiah confronted the issue of great opposition with prayer, strategy, and steadfastness. Today we turn to the problem of the tension that has developed over the years between the rich and the poor. Those in financial difficulty borrowed money from the rich to buy food and pay their land taxes to the Persian government. The rich took advantage of them by charging heavy interest.

Then, when the poor could not pay, the rich took their land from them in payment, and in some cases took their children as slaves. Troubles increased when a famine hit the land, and with the rebuilding of the wall, these troubles increased further since the workers were not able to earn a normal living. The poor saw no way out of their difficulties and appealed to Nehemiah for help (verses 1-5).

Nehemiah knew the greed and cunning of the rich. One of their schemes was to sell Jews to foreigners as slaves, knowing that Nehemiah’s policy was for the state to buy them back (verses 6-8).

When Nehemiah heard about these troubles, he was very angry. He did not want to stop the work on the walls, but he did feel sorry for the poor people. He was cautious. He stopped and thought about what to do. Then he arranged a big meeting to deal with the problem.

Nehemiah commanded the rich to return any people or property they had seized and to remove all interest on loans (verses 9-13).

Throughout the twelve years of his governorship, Nehemiah gave the people an example to follow. He did not claim benefits that were lawfully his, as he did not want to place added burdens on the people. He even fed his employees and guests from his personal funds (verses 14-19).

Nehemiah became the ruler, so he was an important man. But he still had a humble attitude and cared about the people.

The king allowed the ruler to have special food. This probably means that the ruler could tax the people. But Nehemiah did not want to do this, because he respected God. Nehemiah knew that many of the people were poor. They had to pay taxes to the king also. The previous rulers of Judah had not been such good leaders. They had taken silver as well as food and wine from the people.

Nehemiah did not even want to obtain his own property. His job was to lead the people and build the city walls. Also, Nehemiah invited many people to eat with him every day. He paid for this food himself. He was ruler for 12 years and all that time he invited other people to eat his food. He did not ask the people to give him food.

LESSONS✍🏽
🔷 Christian leaders must be very sincere in confronting evil and sin among their people without fear or favour

🔷 Our goal should be to work for God and please Him rather than pleasing fellow human beings

🔷 God loves the poor so must all support and encourage them. Those who continue to cheat and suppress them shall face the wrath of God

 

PRAYER POINTS🙏🏽
💥 Pray that you will never suppress God’s people
💥 Pray for those suffering due to bad leadership

CONCLUSION📙
No matter how important or renowned we become in society, we need to be humble and think and care about other people, especially the poor and victims of oppression. Political leaders must know that they will surely account to God for their stewardship.
AMEN

In series Bright Morning Reflections