Summary: When serving God conflict and attack from the enemy is expected, what we do NOT expect is the enemy using our own to attack. We must meet this challenge of internal conflict and Nehemiah gives us a template on how this can be done... meet it with honesty
Date Written: January 31, 2013
Date Preached: February 3, 2013
Where Preached: OPBC (AM)
Series Title: Building with God
Sermon Title: Internal Strife and Opposition
Sermon Text: Nehemiah 5 [ESV]
Nehemiah had heard of the great trouble Jerusalem was in and God had guided and provided for Nehemiah to come and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah’s character has been revealed in that he had a love and trust for God and a deep abiding care for his fellow man. We see that Nehemiah’s life was filled with prayer and submission to God and God’s plan for his life!
Thru ch1-4 Nehemiah is on a mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and by the end of ch4 the wall is taking shape and the people have come together to work and DO the job God is leading them to do… but not all is well!
When we arrive in ch5 we find that there is trouble in the camp… there are some INTERNAL issues that have the potential to derail all that had been accomplished up to this point and threatens to stop them altogether…
In ch2 and 4 we have seen the opposition come from those OUTSIDE, but here the issue and problem was one that originates from within the community!
This morning we will look at ch5 in its entirety and we are going to see how damaging internal opposition can be, but also how we are to face that internal opposition and move forward with a plan to eliminate it! Turn to Nehemiah 5 and lets begin to read:
[show Neh:1:1-5 (ESV) – follow along as I read]
Nehemiah 5:1-5 [ESV]
1Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” 3There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” 4And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king's tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.”
Setting the Stage v.1-5
Now just what are the problems that Nehemiah is facing here? Well he had managed to get a people who had ignored the building of the wall for many years to come together to begin the project of rebuilding the wall… BUT all was not well!
We find in v1 here that there was what is described as a ‘great outcry’. This is the same language that is used when the people of Israel were in slavery in Egypt (Exodus 3:9 [ESV] – show verse here) and they cried out under great oppression and heartache for God to rescue them…
9And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.
The difference here is that in Egypt they were being oppressed by the Egyptians… HERE those who are crying out are not being oppressed by an outsider or someone from another land… the oppression was coming from other Jews… from their ‘brothers’ which made it even worse!
Another aspect of v1 is the mention of the wives. Normally wives would not be mentioned because they were not considered to be equal BUT because Nehemiah had so successfully established the sense of community in this project… husbands, wives, brothers and sisters were all working on the wall! The voice crying out was a cry from ALL of these people!
When we look at these 5 verses we can see that there are 3 distinct groups of people revealed:
The wage earner… these people were at the lower part of the socio-economic ladder. They are the people with the hourly jobs, people living check to check. We could compare them with many of our lower scale hourly wage earners today!
Remember Nehemiah had called ALL the people to come and work TOGETHER. These people would have normally been in the fields working the harvest and earning money, but now they were dedicated to working on the wall and they were now being forced to borrow money to just feed their family.
There were the landowners… these were people who owned the land where the crops were grown. They would employ the wage earners to harvest their crop. These land owners were subjected to heavy taxes from the King in Persia, but also from those in charge of the government prior to Nehemiah coming…