Nehemiah 5

Scripture

Nehemiah 5:9
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?

Observation
Directly after confronting outward opposition to the rebuilding of the wall Nehemiah must now deal with internal strife resulting from the poverty and hunger that some of the Jews are experiencing due to the rebuilding effort, the taxes of Persia and the exorbitant interest that the richer Jews are extorting from their countrymen in repayment of loans made in order to buy food. The situation is so dire that many families have been forced to mortgage their lands and even sell their children into slavery to eke out a living and meet their financial obligations. In response to the outcry of the poor, Nehemiah calls together the rich nobles and rulers to implore them to stop taking advantage of their poorer brethren in charging interest on any loans; a practice expressly prohibited in the Law of Moses. Nehemiah points to his own generosity in redeeming (buying back) some Jews from slavery, in feeding over 150 people at his own expense and his refusal to require of his countrymen the usual tribute and provisions for the governor’s table as an example of how the nobles and rulers should renounce their greed and free their countrymen from their oppressive obligations. The nobles renounce their usury and restore the land, vineyards and homes taken as collateral and repayment, and return the interest previously paid to them.
 
Understanding
Nehemiah implores the nobles and rulers to do the right thing for two reasons – for fear of the Lord and for how their decisions and actions reflect on the Name and reputation of The Lord. People can excuse and engage in just about any behavior they desire, as there is never an end to the number of reasons and rationalizations we can use to justify any action or attitude. However the filters that my decisions must survive are the same now as in Nehemiah’s day – that being, “Is my decision or action obedient to God’s word and motivated by awe, respect and gratitude; and does it result in praise, honor and glory to the Name of the Lord God Almighty?”
 
Life Application
Without the proper respect and dreadful awe of the Lord, I will never fear the relational and circumstantial consequences of my actions and, without concern for how my actions reflect on the Lord whose name I bear, my sin, disobedience and rebellion will give unbelievers and scoffers the means by which they may defame and bring reproach to His holy name and character. Lord, may I reject any choice, activity or attitude that is not in total agreement with the letter and spirit of your word; not out of fear of losing my salvation but for fear of not properly honoring the great love, grace and mercy that purchased my salvation; and may I be willing to crucify any of the same if they result in anything less than the exaltation and magnification of the Name of the Lord.
 
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-Gary Parker