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? 10 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. 11 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.”12 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.13 I shook out the folds of my robe and said, “If you fail to keep your promise, may God shake you like this from your homes and from your property!”The whole assembly responded, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.14 For the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah—from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes[a]—neither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. 15 The former governors, in contrast, had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides forty pieces[b] of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because I feared God, I did not act that way.16 I also devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my servants to spend time working on the wall. 17 I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! 18 The provisions I paid for each day included one ox, six choice sheep or goats, and a large number of poultry. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor’s food allowance because the people already carried a heavy burden. 19 Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
After reminding them of right and wrong Nehemiah now:
- Reminded them that they were Role Models – Vs 9-19
Verse 9 says, “should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations?”They were supposed to be a light to the world, but it’s hard to be a light when your behavior is dark and shady. Does your behavior back up your beliefs? What kind of a witness are you being to watching world? Because they weren’t right in their relationship with God and their family, they wasted their witness. Instead of making people thirsty for God they turned them off from God. Nehemiah reminded them that it wasn’t just about the wall it was about their witness because the world is watching. What about you do you care more about wealth or your witness? Nehemiah could call them to the carpet because he practiced what he preached. Nehemiah confronted conflict with character, he didn’t just reprimand them he provided a role model for them. You can’t effectively confront what you are not living out. It’s not just the message that we mouth that matters but the one we model. Your character will impact your conduct, the problem is that 20 years ago the sitting president projected the belief that there is a separation between our public life and our personal, that you can live one way in private and it won’t impact the public. Nehemiah reveals 2 things:
- What he didn’t do – Vs 14-16 He refuses to lust and enslave people
- What he did do – Vs 17-19 He lavishly loves
In describing his lifestyle we see that Nehemiah was motivated by two biblical principles, He was devoted to the Great Commandment Jesus would later spell out in Mark 12:30-31: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”Instead of focusing on how to make a profit, he considered what was pleasing to God. In verse 15 he describes how previous governors got wealthy at the expense of the people. When comparing himself with what others did, Nehemiah stated, “But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.”Instead of living extravagantly he lived generously, because he loved and revered God, he also loved the people he was called to serve. When we focus first on God and our relationship with Him, we will have more love and compassion for others, even for those we have conflict with. Christian character prizes people not possessions. It’s here that we see their response to the reprimand:
- Repentance – Vs 12-13
Repentance is a 180 degree turn around in your life. It’s not just about stopping what is wrong but starting what is right. Nehemiah challenged them not only to stop charging interest and enslaving people but to repay and restore what was taken. I love verse 12 because it shows that they really wanted to do what was right and didn’t have to wait and think about it: “We will give it back and we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”Because they promised, Nehemiah made them take an oath in the presence of the priests. This reveals that our promises are not just between us and people but between us and the Lord. Nehemiah shook out the folds of his robe, symbolizing what God would do if they broke their vow. The result of repentance was not just restored relationships but rejoicing, they praised God together. Strife causes us to put our energy into waring with each other, Godly sorrow enables us to put our energy into worship and working for God. What started as a great cry of outrage concluded with corporate worship. Godly confrontation led to a commitment to change. Instead of being divided by war they were unified in worship. Is there a family feud that you need to forgive? Are you harboring hate and battling with bitterness? What relationships do you need to restore? Are you going to stop strife or spread it? Instead of dealing with disagreements like Christians many of us are acting like children. Let me share something I came across called, “How to Turn a Disagreement into a Feud.” I wonder how many of us have done these things?
- Avoid conflict so that your feelings build up and then you explode.
- Be vague and general when you share your concerns so the other person cannot do anything practical to change the situation.
- Assume you know all the facts and that you are totally right.
- Avoid possible solutions and go for total victory and unconditional surrender.
Who do you know that could use a helping hand today?