Summary: Our testimony before others is often seen in how we treat other Christians, and we should never take advantage of each other.
Griffith Baptist Church – 10/12/08
Text: Nehemiah 5:1-13
Key verse: Nehemiah 5:9 - Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
Premise: Our testimony before others is often seen in how we treat other Christians, and we should never take advantage of each other.
As a schoolboy, I worked with my father during the summer months. Each morning we stopped to pick up the early edition of the newspaper at a small grocery store.
One morning when we got to work, my father found that by mistake he had taken two newspapers instead of one. He first thought of paying the man the extra price the next morning, but then after a moment’s consideration he said, “I had better go back with this paper. I don’t want the man at the store to think I’m dishonest.” He got in his car, drove back to the store, and returned the paper.
About a week later, someone stole money from the grocery store. When police pinpointed the time it occurred, the grocer remembered only two people being in the store at the time—and one was my father. The grocer immediately dismissed my father as a suspect, saying, “That man is really honest. He came all the way back here just to return a newspaper he took by mistake.” The police then focused their investigation on the other man, who soon made a full confession. My father’s honesty made a big impression on that non-Christian storeowner, and on me.
Does your Christian walk square with your Christian talk? Is your honesty above question’
Our Daily Bread, March-May, 1998, p. for April 15
• The people are working are upset because their brethren have taken advantage of them – 1-5
o First, the people face a food shortage. They said they needed to get grain for food to keep themselves and their families alive (v. 2). The work on the wall hindered their tending their crops. And this crop failure was called a famine.
o Second, others had grain (buying it from others), but to get it they had to mortgage their fields… vineyards, and homes (v. 3).
o Third, others, not wanting to mortgage their property, had to borrow money from their Jewish brothers to pay property taxes to King Artaxerxes (v. 4). This problem was compounded by the fact that they were charged exorbitant interest rates by their own Jewish brothers.
o This led to a fourth problem. To repay their creditors they had to sell their children into slavery (v. 5; cf. Ex. 21:2-11; Deut. 15:12-18). This of course left them in a hopeless state. (BKC)
• Nehemiah’s First Response – 6-7a
o Nehemiah’s initial response to all this was deep anger.
o His intense emotion was directed at certain people’s selfishness, greed, and insensitivity.
o Some people were hurting and suffering, and those who should have been the most compassionate (the nobles and officials) were most guilty of exploitation.
o Though Nehemiah’s anger was certainly righteous indignation, he did not take immediate action. Spending time reflecting on the problem enabled him to cool down, to see the facts in proper perspective, and to decide on a course of action (v. 7a).
• Nehemiah’s Action – 7b-11
o First, he rebuked those who were violating God’s command not to charge their own people interest (cf. Ex. 22:25; Lev. 25:35-38; Deut. 23:19-20). Money could be loaned (Deut. 15:7-8) but not to gain interest from another person’s distresses. (v. 7b)
o Second, calling a large meeting, Nehemiah pointed out the inconsistencies of their behavior compared with what he and others in exile had done personally to help their brothers. (v. 8)
o Also God’s reputation was at stake. (v. 9)
o Nehemiah cites himself as an example of lending without charging interest. (v. 10)
o He exhorts them to restore everything to them. (v.11)
o Interest was to be returned to the people as well. (v. 11)
• The Response of the Nobles and Rulers (see v. 7) – 12-13
o They said that they would comply and do as he requested. (v. 12a)
o He makes them take an oath as a precaution against lying (v. 12b)
o Shaking out the folds of his robe (cf. Paul’s action in Acts 18:6), which served as pockets, he asked that God similarly shake out of His house… every person who failed to keep his oath. This gesture indicated rejection, something like shaking the dust off one’s feet (Matt. 10:14; Acts 13:51). (v. 13)
(The above is taken from The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pp. 683-684)
Transition Statement: Being careful of our testimony before others, we need to first notice what the enemy of the believer is all about.