Summary: What to do when we face oppositon from the people who should be helping us.
Intro: Variation on a skit from The Ideas Library: Drama, Skits, and Sketches 3 (Working Parts, 97-99)
The last few weeks we have been looking at opposition that we face in our lives. We talked about verbal ridicule and discouragement two weeks ago and growing opposition last week. Both weeks we touched upon the importance of having a support group. This was a major reason that the Israelites were able to continue their work on rebuilding the wall both when they were facing the verbal ridicule and when the opposition increased and got worse.
What I would like to focus on tonight is when we face opposition that comes from within our support group. Just like in the skit, where a car is supposed to be a help to us, getting us from place to place, sometimes things go wrong and it suddenly isn’t a help and support but instead, becomes a frustration and discouragement. This is what can happen in our support groups from time to time. Instead of being a help, sometimes certain parts, in a sense, break or go bad, and they become an opposition that we didn’t expect.
This is exactly what happened with the Israelites as they continued building the walls of Jerusalem. In Nehemiah 5:1-13, it tells us about the opposition that came from within their support group that threatened the building of the wall once again.
***Read Nehemiah 5:1-13***
Right away in chapter 5 we see that there are a number of issues that the Israelites are facing. In verse 3, there is mention of a famine. Obviously there had been a lack of rain and a failure with crops that led to lower amounts of food than normal. In verse 4, the people are complaining about being able to pay their taxes to the king. As these are both major issues that can cause a lot of stress and frustration, neither is the main issue in these verses. Notice verse one does not say, “The men and their wives raised a cry of protest against” the king and his taxes or against God and the lack of rain. Instead it says that, “The men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews.”
What was happening here was a case of the rich Jews exploiting the poor Jews. In other words, the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Here is the sequence of events that would have likely happened in Jerusalem. Due to the fact of the drought and famine, there was a shortage of food therefore likely driving up prices due to the demand but also leaving farming families crippled due to the fact that they had little food to sell. These problems, along with the issue of taxation from the king, lead these poorer families to mortgage their fields and take out a loan from the richer Jews in order to buy food. When the families then ran into difficulty paying the loan back with interest, their fields and land was taken from them. The families, in turn, then had to sell their sons and/or daughters into slavery just to have money to live and survive. Culturally, this was a very normal process that happened often in nations all over the world.