Summary: Anytime you think the Bible is out of date & doesn’t deal with contemporary problems just go back & read Nehemiah. The problems Nehemiah & the people faced are some of the same problems people face today. (Powerpoints available - #320)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(This is the sixth of a Leadership series featuring Nehemiah. Some ideas & illustrations in these messages were based on or benefited greatly from, to varying extents, the book “Hand Me Another Brick” by Charles Swindoll.)
(The Powerpoints used with this sermon are available free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request PP #320.)
INTRO: Anytime you think that the Bible is out of date & doesn’t deal with contemporary problems just go back & read the book of Nehemiah. The problems that Nehemiah & the people faced are some of the same problems people sometimes face today.
A. As we turn to the 5th chapter of Nehemiah, we discover that a strike has occurred among the laborers who are rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. They probably weren’t on a picket line, carrying signs & blocking traffic. But they had stopped working & were loudly complaining about their living conditions.
Vs. 1 says, “Now the men & their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers.” The people were unhappy, & they stopped working to voice their grievances.
B. Like a good leader, Nehemiah listened to them, & found that their problems were very real.
Vs’s 1-5 tell us that while the nobles & officials among the Jews were rich & had plenty, the common people were on the verge of starvation.
PROP: It was terrible situation for many of the families. And as we read about it we wonder why? How could this possibly have come to pass?
I. THE CAUSES OF THEIR PROBLEMS
Well, as we look carefully at the Scriptures, we discover 3 reasons for what was happening.
A. First of all, it was a time of famine & food was scarce & very expensive. In Vs. 3 the people tell Nehemiah, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards & our homes to get grain during the famine.”
Food was in short supply, & greedy merchants were taking advantage of the shortage by raising prices higher & higher. More & more of the laborers’ resources were being used just to secure food for themselves & their families.
B. Their taxes were too high, too. Vs. 4 reads, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields & vineyards.”
Israel was a conquered nation in the Persian Empire. But King Artaxerxes was more than 800 miles away. How could he collect taxes in Israel? It was simple. He delegated that task to some of the Jews who lived in Jerusalem. It was their job to collect the taxes from their own countrymen & send a set amount of money to the King’s treasury back in Persia.
The sweet part of the deal was that the King really didn’t care how or how much these tax collectors collected from the people. All he was concerned about was that they sent in to the treasury the amount that he expected.
Anything above that amount the tax collectors could keep for themselves as their pay. So the tax collectors were getting rich while the people were getting deeper & deeper in debt.
C. Then in vs. 5 we discover yet another problem – they were having to pay high interest rates. “Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery.”
The price of food, their taxes, & the interest rates on the money they borrowed were so high that people were not only having to mortgage their homes & fields, but some were even selling their sons & daughters into slavery just to survive.
APPL: Is the Bible outdated? Does it sound like a book that is irrelevant? It speaks here of famine, high prices, & high taxes. Interest rates were also high, with no hope of relief. The rich were getting richer, & the poor were getting poorer. And the people were crying out at the injustice of it all!
So what happened? How did Nehemiah react to the outcry of the people?
II. THEY WERE VIOLATING GOD’S LAW
A. Vs. 6 tells us how Nehemiah reacted: “When I heard their outcry & these charges, I was very angry.” There are times when a leader must be a diplomat. But there are other times when the best response is a justified anger. Nehemiah was angry because the officials were ignoring God’s Law. They were not obeying the Law that God had given them.
God had chosen His people & made a covenant with them. God’s people were to live lives differently than others around them. They were to be a living testimony to the world of God’s love & care for His people. He had brought them out of slavery & into the promised land. He had given them laws & standards to live by. He had watched over & cared for them & blessed them.