Nehemiah 5.1-19

Title: Leaders Who Care

Text: Nehemiah 5.1-19

Introduction: I want to talk to you today about Leaders Who Care. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey isn’t able to go to war on account of his ear – he’s deaf in his left ear. He had fallen into an icy pond saving his brother and never heard from that ear again (except for a short period of time where he gets to experience what life would have been like if he’d never been born. During the war, there are some scenes of George working in the community. He prays during D-Day and VJ-Day; He wept and prayed. He participates in the rubber drive. At one point he hollers out at the people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on.

The point was that there were can drives, rubber drives, rations, keeping the lights off at night. People in times past were expected to live at a certain level during the war. We’ve not experienced that in our lifetimes – those of us 50 and under. But our seniors, when they were little – did without during the war.

App.: Ladies & Gentlemen, Don’t you know there’s a war going on? It’s a spiritual war and we can’t be living like we’re at peace with the devil.

This morning we’re in Nehemiah ch. 5; As we began Nehemiah, we looked at his calling and his leadership. Today, we’ll look at how he cares for his people. Ch. 5 is a chapter that feels like it doesn’t fit. Here these folks are working away on the wall, facing opposition and then this…interruption. Suddenly, without rhyme or reason, the following takes place.

  1. The Setting: (1-6) The Outcry of the People – against interest/taxes/famine
  2. The Conflict: (7-10) Nehemiah confronts his brothers (and himself)
  3. The Climax: (11) Return these to your brothers
  4. The Resolution: (12-13) commitment & Oath; imagery;
  5. Post-Script: (14-19) as Governor, Nehemiah chose not to be a burden to his brothers, but rather took care of his own needs and the needs of his people at his own expense.

This is how I’ve outlined it:

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)
  2. Nehemiah Confronts his Brothers (7-13)
  3. Nehemiah Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

Transition: So, let’s begin ch. 5 w/

  1. Nehemiah Hears A Great Outcry from his Brothers (1-6)

exp.: rd v 1; Now, over the next 3 verses we see the groups and their struggles: rd v 2;

  1. We’ve not enough grain. Maybe they worked on the wall and left their fields untended. We don’t know, we’ll read about a famine in a moment – maybe the drought has hit their crops, too. Rd v 3;
  2. We’ve mortgaged our fields, vineyards and homes to buy grain. Another group has entered into debt to cover the costs brought about by the famine. They need food to eat. Rd v 4
  3. We’ve borrowed money to pay our taxes. And what’s more – these actions, these predicaments have hurt us; rd v 5-6

The Result: (v 5-6): This debt has forced their children into slavery; it seems a particularly desperate situation for their girls. The power these Jewish brothers have over their own kin is destructive and putting them in a powerless, helpless position. It is an endless vicious cycle.

app.: I believe this is a principle that Christians often forget. Preying upon the poor is something God detests. We’ll see that more in a moment. For now, we apply this portion of Scripture to our lives by recognizing the error of preying upon the poor. And we can do that in so many ways – pushing the poor into deeper poverty and into greater dependence upon the government or the church.

t.s.: Nehemiah recognizes what has happened and becomes angry at the situation. And so he…

  1. Nehemiah Confronts His Brothers (7-13)

exp.: rd v 7a; note how Nehemiah levels 1st a charge against them and then 2nd, he offers a solution to the problem. He said: I took counsel w/ myself and I brought charges.

  • Nehemiah’s Charge: rd v 7b-8a
    1. In this great assembly he says:
      1. We’ve brought back our brothers from slavery, only to enslave them ourselves. Note 8b – silence; rd 9;
      2. He says: This isn’t Biblical and it’s a poor witness to the Nations! And he add to that in v 10; Where is he getting this from? Why does he think this is wrong?

Q.: How is it that we can ever say anything is wrong? Who sets the standard for right and wrong?

Ill.: I’ve been quizzing our girls at home: How do you know something is wrong and something is right? A.: God’s Word, the Bible. Well, that’s where Nehemiah gets this bit of information, that what they’re doing is wrong – namely,

  • Leviticus 25.35-38; 35 “If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. 36 Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. 37 You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan, and to be your God.

It’s here in the last part of v 10 that Nehemiah offers a solution; rd 10b-11:

  • Nehemiah’s Solution:
  1. Let’s abandon this practice. App.: When you’re doing something wrong – abandon the practice!
  2. Let’s return their stuff to them. i.e.: their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.

The Brother’s Respond in v 12; rd v 12; note their points of action:

  1. We will Restore these
  2. We will Require nothing (except to payback what is borrowed)
  3. We will do as you say
  4. A verbal commitment – he made them swear…raise your right hand. There is something interesting that takes place here – something like a covenant. Rd v 13;

ill.: Their Commitment Demonstrated: the shaking out of the garment. So may he be shaken out and emptied.

app.: And all the congregation said: Amen.

t.s.: Now, really, that is the end of that story, but Nehemiah gives us a sort of post script. Why? I’m not sure of his purpose. Some people might think it’s narcissistic. Woo-who! Look at me. Not me.

  1. Nehemiah’s Sets the Example for his Brothers (14-19)

exp.: rd v 14; Governor for 12 years; I wonder if this is the amount of time he asked the King for back in chapter 2; During his 12 year tenure, he:

  • Did not burden the people; as was the practice of his predecessors.
  • He finished the work on the wall;
  • He provided for his servants and workers; out of his own pocket…
  • Remember me, O God – 6x’s; 5.19; 6.14; 13.14, 22, 29, 31;

app.: Nehemiah changes his lifestyle and begins to live like his country is at war. And he’s telling his wealthy brothers who’ve enslaved their own people: Don’t you know there’s a war going on? This implies sacrifice, it implies service, and it implies giving. Nehemiah demonstrated his understanding of this with his life.

Here’s what we’ve seen today:

  1. Leaders who care see the injustice being done to their people.
  2. Leaders who care confront the injustice of their people.
  3. Leaders who care set the example by living a godly life toward their brothers.

t.s.: so, how does this apply to us?

Observations & Implications:

  1. We should be cognizant of the way we treat the poor. Are we hurting them with our policies? Are we enslaving them to a life under the burden of debt? Are we cashing in on their desperate situations? Are we exploiting their despair for our betterment.

Nehemiah is the govt. He sees what they are doing to the poor. Ladies and Gentlemen, as the time comes for us to vote – vote for someone who is going to stop exploiting the poor.

  1. How do you use the money God has blessed you with? Are you faithful to tithe? Are you faithful to give to ministry needs as they arise? Do you live with a wartime mentality when it comes to your finances?
  2. If God is your God – and not money, if you’re a good steward of the resources He has blessed you with, if you’re looking out for the poor and those in need – then enjoy the blessings of God. There is no need to feel guilty for being rich. God has made you that way because you have shown yourself faithful. Continue in that blessing…
    1. Listen to James Hamilton: Tall people who trust in Christ should not feel guilty about being tall. People who trust in Christ and have great marriages should not feel guilty for having a believing, faithful spouse. Those who trust in Christ and whom God has made rich should not feel guilty because God did not make someone else rich also. God is God. We will give an account to him for the way that we stewarded what he gave us. Refusing to enjoy the way that he has blessed our bank accounts is along the lines of refusing to enjoy the blessing of a sunset or a spouse, a flower or a forest. If he has lavished largesse upon you, praise him.

Let’s pray

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Filed under Calling, Ezra-Nehemiah, Leadership, Purpose, Scripture, Sermon

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