Summary: Now the two things which anger God the most is the worship of other gods by God’s people and injustice and our lack of response to it. Our Scripture today is about anger regarding injustice.

The Great Requirement

Nehemiah 5:1-13

If you want to learn what a person is really like, ask three questions: What makes them laugh? What makes them weep? What makes them angry? It’s the last of these questions which catch us off guard as Christians. One of the calls to the Christian life is to get angry. Yet many of us have this misconception that as Christians we are forbidden to get angry. We read a lot in the Bible about God’s anger. One example is when God got angry at the Israelites when Moses went up Mt. Sinai to be with God and the people became frightened and made false idols they could worship. We read in the Bible that God is also angry at the neglect of widows, strangers and orphans. Now the two things which anger God the most is the worship of other gods by God’s people and injustice and our lack of response to it. Our Scripture today is about anger regarding injustice. Injustice is any action which inflicts undeserved hurt or unfairness. Injustice occurs when people with power and influence act against or fail to act on behalf of people without power.

The fact is Jesus got angry over the things which upset God. The time Jesus is most remembered for his anger occurred when he entered Jerusalem during holy week. Jesus went to the temple to worship and when he got there, he looked around and saw what was happening in the outer courtyard of the temple and got angry. He began to drive out the moneychangers and cried out, “My house will be a house of prayer but you have made it a den of robbers.” You will remember that it was the Passover Festival, one of three religious festivals which the Jews were required to attend. So literally 10’s of 1000’s of people had descended on Jerusalem. They came from many nations and thus had different currencies. So the Jews set up tables and would charge a fee to exchange the pilgrim’s money and charged them exorbitant rates. These people had come not only to worship God but to offer sacrifice. For those traveling a long distance, it was next to impossible to bring animals with them. So they had to buy a dove or pigeon or sheep from the money changes. They couldn’t buy it from people out in the street where they could get it for a fair price, they had to buy it from the moneychangers. It was another way to rip off the pilgrims. And Jesus became angry that such cheating and stealing was occurring in God’s house, so angry that he turned the tables over to disrupt their business. Just as Jesus gets angry at the things which anger God, we need to get angry about the things which upset God.

When Jesus went to the temple in his hometown, he chose to read from Isaiah 61. Now given that it was a Jewish audience, they would have been aware of the passages which surrounded the one Jesus chose. The 59th chapter reads, “the Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.” God was appalled that there was no one to intervene on behalf of the poor and the powerless. Jesus picks up the scroll and begins to read, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” How will you know that the kingdom of God has come here on earth and that the Messiah has arrived? Because there will be justice brought to the poor. Yet throughout Scripture again and again we see that the religious faithful didn’t get it. The problem is not those outside the church but with those inside the church. So when Jesus is talking about the lost and the blind, guess who he is talking about? Religious leaders.

God calls us to faithfulness. What is the true measure of faithfulness? It is never about having correct belief but instead justice centered action. Micah 6:8 gives us the Great Requirement: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Today in 2008, people will argue about women in ministry or argue whether the divorced can have full rights and privileges in the church or fight against homosexuality or abortion when Jesus didn’t have a word to say any of those. Yet justice and God’s concern for justice is mentioned over 500 times in the Scriptures! So often, the church is silent about justice. Our Scripture today is about justice.

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