Summary: Exposition of Nehemiah 5 about the internal conflict within the ranks of the Jewish rebuilders
Text: Nehemiah 5:1-19, Title: Satan Can’t Beat ‘Em, So He…, Date/Place: NRBC, 10/7/07, PM
A. Opening illustration: In the 13th Century, Nicolo Polo (father of Marco Polo) was visiting the court of the grandson of Genghis Khan - Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan was the Emperor of China and he had never met Europeans before. He was delighted to meet this visitor from Venice AND he was strongly impressed by the religious faith of this man; therefore, he sent a letter back to Europe urging that some educated men be dispatched to instruct his people in the teachings of Christianity. But, because of political upheaval and infighting that was taking place in Europe, there was a long delay in anybody coming. In the end, only 2 representatives of Christianity were sent and even they lost heart soon and turned back. Because of the failure of the church of that day, Kublai Khan turned instead to Buddhism and that has been the predominant religion in the area from that day to this. “We have met the enemy, and he is us!”
B. Background to passage: In the first three chapters of Nehemiah we saw the burden, the plan, and half the wall being built. In the next three chapters we see lots of opposition. Last week we saw that the work was threatening to come to a halt because of ridicule, violence, fatigue, and peace. And this week will we see the work threatened by internal conflict. In fact, it was so bad, they had to call a citywide meeting to deal with the issues so that work could continue. And you have seen conflict in this church, and in others, as well as in your workplace and family. All of these groups and organizations work best when conflict comes from without, and not from within.
C. Main thought: We are going to see how internal conflict was handled in the OT (parallels Acts 6 in this area)
A. The Report (v. 1-6)
1. This would have taken place around the end of the harvest when creditors are looking to have loan amounts repaid. And the great outcry (same word used in the outcry while in bondage in Egypt) was that financially people were going under. There was a famine, a heavy tax burden, and outrageous interest rates being charged (easily 40%, possibly 50% or more). It is hard to get people to do the work on the wall, when they are selling their children into slavery, or losing their farms and houses to loan sharks, or when they can’t put food on the table to eat. As a wise leader Nehemiah couldn’t just stand by. In fact, he became angry (more about that in a minute).
2. Pro 22:7, Deut 28:43-44,
3. Illustration: tell about the church that caught a vision of how enslaving the debt of their people was to the ministry of their church, and so they decided to do something about it, individuals in America owe over 7 trillion dollars, and the personal consumer debt is increasing at a rate of $1000/second, nearly 60% of divorces site financial tension as a chief cause, part of Crown Financial’s ministry vision is to free up several hundred million dollars in debt, so that it could finance the Great Commission.
4. As a church we must minister to the financial needs of individuals. And the first thing that we need to do is train our church in biblical financial management. I know that we have had courses on it before, but seldom do the changes last. I would dare say that if most of us eliminated debt from our lives, ministry at New River would take on a huge new financial base. And most of us need to be reminded about how to conduct ourselves fiscally and biblically, because we tend to forget and get reabsorbed back into the culture in which we live. And I realize that some debt (medical bills, etc) are unavoidable, most of the debt that we incur is a choice. If we could learn to live debt free as individuals, and save well for tomorrow, retirement could supply the church with a free ministerial force.
B. The Rebuke (v. 7-11)
1. The text states that he was angry, in fact, very angry. He was not angry at the famine, nor at the king, nor even at the Jews for incurring debt. He was angry at the Jewish loan sharks charging interest from their brethren. This was a clear violation for scriptural principles. Relationships between those in the family of God are not to be treated as simple business transactions, but as spiritual service to God. However, he did not act sinfully in his anger. He took some time, and thought it through before he assaulted their hypocrisy. So the text says that he calls an assembly against them. He explains how some had gone to great links to free some captives to bring them to Jerusalem to work, and now this! And they say anything back. So he continues his talk in very clear terms. He says stop and restore interest, lands, houses,