6 When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. 7 After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, “You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!” Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.8 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.9 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?
After seeing the rub, we now see the:
- ReprimandVs 6-11
Not surprisingly Nehemiah’s response was anger, can you imagine how betrayed he must have felt? I’m paying for people to be freed from debt and you are going behind my back putting them back into slavery. You would be angry; the problem is that most of us have been raised to believe that anger is wrong but what I want you to understand is that anger is a protest. Nehemiah was protesting social injustice, but unlike how may protest today he didn’t let anger be destructive but constructive. It’s not wrong to get angry when we see people being violated and becoming victims, that’s righteous anger, the key becomes what we do with that anger. Because anger is a powerful emotion and we can use that energy to engage in constructive change or destructive change. Jesus was angry over Gods house being used to make money, he channeled that energy into cleaning out the temple and restoring righteousness. The key to our anger becoming constructive instead of destructive is seen in what Nehemiah did first, he:
a. Reflected – Vs 7 “I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials.”
Instead of reacting he reflected. Anger is a blinding emotion; it can consume us and cause us to lose control. What the flesh wants to do is punch someone in the face because we think that will make us feel good. But if he had done that, he would have been a hypocrite, his actions would have mirrored what he was accusing them of, hurting people. Pondering long enough to process connects our hearts and our head. It engages our head not just our heart causing us to consult with our feelings. When Joseph was faced with the possible betrayal of Mary being pregnant instead of reacting, he reflected. He pondered his predicament and as he did an Angel of the Lord spoke to him and told him what to do. Pondering doesn’t just connect our hearts to our head, but it also provides a space for Spirit of God to speak. Instead of being ruled by our feelings and pouring fuel on the fire we become controlled by Christ and use the fire as a forge to fashion something constructive. Throughout the book of Nehemiah, you find Nehemiah bumping up against tough circumstances and pausing. He’s an incredible leader, he doesn’t react; he pauses. After pausing and pondering he:
b. Reminded them of Relationship – vs 7 “You are hurting your own relatives”
Nehemiah didn’t come at the problem from a financial perspective but a family perspective. We will always suffer from the sickness of strife when we place riches before relationship. Our greatest treasure is not the possessions we have but the people we hold. Nehemiah publicly confront the people whose selfishness had created strife because their actions affected the whole nation. Can you imagine that moment when all the nobles, the wealth and the power brokers all gathered together, and Nehemiah confronts them and calls them out. Many of us cower in the face of conflict, because we focused on what is comfortable instead of Christ like. Sometimes people need to be called to the carpet, but notice Nehemiah appeals to their heart, calling them from callousness to compassion. He reminds them that it’s not about the riches it’s about relationship. Selfishness is shortsighted because it focuses on me not we, it always leads to strife causing relationships to be ruined. Not only did he remind them of relationship but also:
c. God’s redemptive plan – vs 8 “How often must we redeem them?”
They were focused on greed not God. While God’s people had been redeemed from Egypt and most recently from Babylon, and then Nehemiah himself had bought back some of the Jews who were in slavery, their fellow Jews were returning people into bondage just to make money. They were focused on financial success instead of spiritual success where people finding freedom. Success is not measured by finances but by freedom. Why are we dealing with the epidemic of human trafficking, why are there so many people stuck in sexual slavery, because when it comes to character, we as men have compromised. Instead of defending women and children we are degrading and dehumanizing them. You say I don’t visit prostitutes, well let’s talk about the porn problem that is not just poisoning your life its imprisoning God’s children created in His image for His worship not your worldly wants. If we as men would live right, there wouldn’t be a sex trade. But instead of being protectors we have become predators. Sexual sin is always about serving self. Sex is a gift given by God to enrich marriage not erode it. Lust always takes where love always gives, what about you are you lusting or loving. Lust always leads to slavery and will keep taking until everyone involved is bankrupt. Do you want to know why many married men don’t have a satisfying sexual relationship, it’s because they are lusters not lovers. Are you angry this morning over the violation and victimization of women and children, what are you going to do with that anger? Nehemiah was willing to pay the price for others to be freed what about you? Next Nehemiah:
d. Reminded them of Right and Wrong – Vs 9a “What you are doing is not right!”
He didn’t base it on his feelings or cultural norms he based it on the Bible. What about you are you basing what is right and wrong on the world or the Word? They were going against God’s Word by charging their own people interest. Deuteronomy 23:19-20: “Do not charge your brother interest, whether on money or food or anything else that may earn interest. You may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the Lord your God may bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess.” Instead of trusting God to bless them they took matters into their own hands. You can’t sin and expect success, when you cut corners you compromise your character and people around you get hurt. What about you are you reacting or responding to problems?