February 9, 2023
Division In The Ranks
Nehemiah - “Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem. At the meeting I said to them, ‘We are doing all we can to redeem our Jewish relatives who have had to sell themselves to pagan foreigners, but you are selling them back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?’ And they had nothing to say in their defense. Then I pressed further, ‘What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations? I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of charging interest. You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. And repay the interest you charged when you lent them money, grain, new wine, and olive oil. They replied, ‘We will give back everything and demand nothing more from the people. We will do as you say.’ Then I called the priests and made the nobles and officials swear to do what they had promised. After they had done this I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, `In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions any man who does not keep this promise.'” (Nehemiah 5:7-11)
Sometimes, when confrontation happens, not much has to be said because everyone already knows the truth of the situation. This was certainly the case with Nehemiah. Everyone in Jerusalem knew that the rich were ripping off the poor. It had to be dealt with publicly because what they had done was a public matter which impacted the entire population. In confrontation, it’s important to deal with things publicly to the degree with which they are public.
Personal sins should be confessed personally to God. A private sin between two people should be confronted between those two people. However, if something has been done that has negatively impacted the entire family, church, office, or business, then it should be dealt with publicly to the degree of which it was public.
In this part of the story, Nehemiah publicly confronts the sin taking place. He basically said, “I was the king’s cupbearer in Persia. I used my personal wealth to buy Jews out of slavery. Then I came home to Jerusalem, and here the Jews are selling other Jews into slavery to other Jews. This doesn't make sense. It's inconsistent. Why are you sinning like this? Buying your own brothers and sisters in order to make a profit? You know that Leviticus says that it's illegal for you to do what you are doing. So why are you still doing this? Now, you must stop what you are doing and make this right!”
What Nehemiah did took guts. He publicly took on the city leaders, rebuking the wealthy owners of Jerusalem, the very people he must depend on to fund the rebuilding of the wall. Satan was probably whispering in his ear, “Nehemiah, if you lose their support, who's going to pay for the wall? You'll never finish the project.” But Nehemiah was committed to doing the right thing. If it meant putting the wall on hold while they dealt with this sin, so be it! Nehemiah called on them to make immediate restitution.
In what must have made Nehemiah breath a huge sigh of relief, the Jewish leaders repented publicly and said they would pay back what they had taken. To help them follow through with their promises, he made them take an oath, a public contract stating that they would make things right. Then, Nehemiah, with a dramatic flair, takes his clothing and and shakes it violently. He says, ”This is a symbol of what God is going to do to you if you don't keep this oath that you've taken. He's going to shake you up so bad you'll lose everything you own.”
FOLLOW UP ACTIVITY
Is there someone you need to confront, but haven’t? Write out a prayer to the Lord, asking Him to give you the wisdom to know if the time is right and the courage to act if it is. If you’re leading your family through this devotion, share a story about a time when you confronted someone. Then, dialogue about right and wrong ways to confront others.
PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, give me wisdom to know when it’s time to confront others and the courage to do so if needed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.