Nehemiah 5:7-13 - Opposition From Within pt 2

Steve Viars August 17, 1996 Nehemiah 5:7-13

- Abraham Lincoln had it right when he said that no nation could ever invade America successfully from without or by force take a drink from the Ohio.  He said that if we were ever to fail it would come from within [cf. Walt Disney World's Hall of the Presidents presentation].  And Lincoln was right.  Our nation was brought to its knees and nearly ceased to exist as we know it today because of the Civil War.

- We said this last week about the internal opposition in the book of Nehemiah:

Certain Jews, whom God had providentially allowed to be more wealthy than others, were misusing their brethren financially.

Due to drought & famine, taxes, and high interest rates many were forced into desperate measures:

- (James Montgomery Boice's suggested sequence)

1. Hunger, lack of adequate food

2. Mortgaging of fields for short-term cash to pay taxes and buy grain.

3. Loss of the fields because of an inability to repay what was borrowed.

4. Selling of sons or daughters into indentured service or outright slavery for the sake of survival.

Neh 5:1 - Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.

(still review)

II. Nehemiah's Response

A. Anger - v. 6

(cf.  Eph 4:26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger.)

Mar 3:1-5 And He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse Him. 3 And He *said to the man with the withered hand, "Rise and come forward!" 4 And He *said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save a life or to kill?" But they kept silent. 5 And after looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
B. Self-control.

- v. 7 - "I consulted with myself"

C. Asked "What is Biblical? / What is Right?"

This morning we move into the Nehemiah's next response:  his confrontation of the people.   We have many lessons to learn from this godly man and how he went about confronting the sinning members of his people.

We see that Nehemiah...

D. Confronted the people in stages

(From Warren Wiersbe)

- Notice that Nehemiah took steps that are very similar to Matt. 18 in that he confronted the men who were wrong in a small group first.  The text doesn't tell us exactly how the group responded to that first meeting.

- But he did not take it public first.

1.  He appealed to their love.  v. 7

Neh 5:7 And I consulted with myself, and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, "You are exacting usury, each from his brother!" Therefore, I held a great assembly against them.

Here's where we see that he tried to handle it in private first.  Notice the order in v. 7.  He confronted them first, then he held the public assembly.  Many scholars believe they refused to repent after the private confrontation, making the public "stage" necessary.

This would parallel Mt. 18:15-18 where if a brother would not repent of this sin at the private confrontation, future confrontation would become progressively public.

He told them they were doing these things to their own brethren. 

cf.  Psa 133:1 {A Song of Ascents, of David.} Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity!

cf.  Gen 13:8 Then Abram said to Lot, "Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers.

These sinning Israelites should have been grieved and ashamed because they were doing this to their own countrymen, fellow Jews, worshipers of the same God, members of the same faith community.  Nehemiah was telling them, "You are on the same side!"

Let's bring the point to where we live today.  Is it possible that you have been guilty of misusing or mistreating a Christian brother or sister?

Have you been guilty of this sin?

INPUT:  What are some specific ways that you and I can be guilty of mistreating and misusing fellow Christians?

- gossiping about him or her (i.e. talking about a problem with that person to someone who is not part of the problem or part of the solution)

- saying cutting, rude, sarcastic, or unkind words to him or her

- expecting a "break" financially from a fellow Christian who happens to operate a business you're in need of.

*Illus.  Professor in college who taught Minister and Finance course who said his dad, who was in the car business, DREADED doing business with most Christians, especially full-time Christian servants, sad to say.  Why?  Because they always asked for a break and seemed to forget that their Christian brother was trying to operate a business.  Now it's one thing for a Christian businessman to OFFER his services to a fellow believer or church at a discount.  It's another thing entirely for him to be EXPECTED to offer a discount and to take advantage of him just because he's a fellow Christian.

2.  He based his appeal solidly on the Word of God.

This practice of charging interest to fellow Jews explicitly forbidden in the Law.

cf.  Deut. 23:19-20 "You shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money, food, or anything that may be loaned at interest.  20 You may charge interest to a foreigner, but to your countryman you shall not charge interest, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all that you undertake in the land which you are about to enter to possess."

Wiersbe writes, "There is certainly nothing wrong with lending money, providing you don't violate God's Word and exploit those who are helpless" (p. 63).

cf.  Parable of the talents Mat 25:27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.

A good question to ask is this:  Are you following biblical principles when it comes to how you handle your money?

INPUT:  What are some Bible principles teaches about our use of money?

- Beware of borrowing.  Not sinful, but can be enslaving.

Pro 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender's slave.

- Beware of co-signing or surety-ship.  Again not sinful, but can be very dangerous.

Pro 11:15 He who is surety for a stranger will surely suffer for it, But he who hates going surety is safe.

The next stage of Nehemiah's confrontation was this:

3.  He reminded them of God's redemptive purpose for Israel.  v. 8

Neh 5:8 And I said to them, "We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?" Then they were silent and could not find a word to say.

The process of redemption was an act of mercy to free a poor relative or fellow Jew who had been sold into slavery due to the extent of his poverty.

cf. Lev. 25:47-48 'Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family, 48 then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him."

Wiersbe points out that "God redeemed Israel from Egypt; and more recently, He had redeemed them from Captivity in Babylon.  But this verse informs us that Nehemiah and others of the leading Jews had helped redeem some of their people, and now their fellow Jews were putting people into bondage just to make money.  These selfish money lenders were tearing down everything that God and Nehemiah were trying to build up" (p. 63). 

We don't know when Nehemiah and the other Jews had redeemed poor Jews in the past since we find no record of this event in Nehemiah.  This probably happened back in Babylon since Nehemiah had not been in Judea very long (H.G.M. Williamson, Ezra, Nehemiah, pp. 239-240).

(If time develop how this redemption pictures our redemption by Christ.)

4.  He reminded them of Israel's witness to their Gentile neighbors.  v. 9

Neh 5:9 Again I said, "The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?

God had intended His people to be a shining witness to the lost.  This is borne out by the Old Testament.

Isa 42:6 "I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the nations,

Isa 49:6 He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth."

The way we treat one another will "make or break" our testimony to the lost.

Joh 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

One of the most damaging consequences of King David's sins of adultery and murder was the poor testimony to those without.

cf.  2Sa 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. 14 "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die."

INPUT:  What are some things we can do to fellow Christians that will damage our witness to the lost?

- take one another to court

cf. 1 Cor. 6:1-7  1 Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? 3 Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? 4 If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, 6 but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

- criticize one another (as in a business world context such as an office)

cf. Eph. 4:29  Eph 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.

- fail to solve problems and as a result become bitter toward and critical of that fellow believer so that the testimony of Christ is greatly harmed.

cf. Heb. 12:15  Heb 12:15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;

5.  He told them of his own personal practice.  v. 10

Neh 5:10 "And likewise I, my brothers and my servants, are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury.

Nehemiah had been meeting the needs of his poor brethren out of his own pocket.

Effective leaders must be willing to sacrifice themselves in order to meet the needs of others.

(if time, INPUT:  What are some examples today?)

6.  He reminded them of the judgment of the Lord.  v. 13

Neh 5:13 I also shook out the front of my garment and said, "Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied." And all the assembly said, "Amen!" And they praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.

"The brokers [those rich Jews who had been sinning] promised to obey, so Nehemiah had them take an oath in the presence of the priests and the other officers of the city.  This meant that their promise was not only between them and their neighbors, but between them and the Lord; and this was a serious thing" (Wiersbe, p. 65).

Ecc 5:4 When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it, for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! 5 It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.

It sobers me every time I think that I will personally stand before the Lord and give an account of myself.  But I will.  And you will, too.

2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Rom 14:12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Do you think regularly about that day?  Does it affect your behavior?  Your behavior to your fellow Christians?

III. The People's Response

- The people who were confronted responded in a very admirable way.
- Let's conclude our time by looking at five steps to take when convicted of sin:
(Several of these are taken from Chuck Swindoll)

A. Be silent.

- verse 8

- INPUT - Why is this so important, and what might we do instead of "being silent" that would take us in the wrong direction?

 

B. Determine to stop it.

- verse 10 - "Let us leave off this usury."

cf. Eph. 4:22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside [KJV "put off"] the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

C. Make specific plans to correct the situation as quickly as possible.

- verse 11 - "Please, give back to them this very day their fields..."

- Swindoll - "When God shows his people a particular sin that we are guilty of, He doesn't tell us to take our time dealing with it.  No, He says, `Deal with it now.' When we realize we are doing wrong, now is the time to stop it.  Making long range plans to correct a problem allows the sands of time to hone off the raw edges of God's reproof in our lives.  We end up tolerating that sin and maybe even protecting it.  Such laxity greatly concerns our Lord.  A prompt and thorough dealing with wrong in our lives is essential."

D. Declare your plans for correction in  promise before God.

- Verse 12


E. Realize the serious nature of your vow to God.

- Verse 13

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video