Summary: Social action -- sticking up for your weaker brother/neighbor is always right in God’s eyes.
November 17, 2002
1About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. 2They were saying, ¡§We have such large families. We need more money just so we can buy the food we need to survive.¡¨ 3Others said, ¡§We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.¡¨ 4And others said, ¡§We have already borrowed to the limit on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. 5We belong to the same family, and our children are just like theirs. Yet we must sell our children into slavery just to get enough money to live. We have already sold some of our daughters, and we are helpless to do anything about it, for our fields and vineyards are already mortgaged to others.¡¨
6When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. 7After thinking about the situation, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, ¡§You are oppressing your own relatives by charging them interest when they borrow money!¡¨ Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.
8At the meeting I said to them, ¡§The rest of us are doing all we can to redeem our Jewish relatives who have had to sell themselves to pagan foreigners, but you are selling them back into slavery again. How often must we redeem them?¡¨ And they had nothing to say in their defense.
9Then I pressed further, ¡§What you are doing is not right! Should you not walk in the fear of our God in order to avoid being mocked by enemy nations? 10I myself, as well as my brothers and my workers, have been lending the people money and grain, but now let us stop this business of loans. 11You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. Repay the interest you charged on their money, grain, wine, and olive oil.¡¨
12Then they replied, ¡§We will give back everything and demand nothing more from the people. We will do as you say.¡¨ Then I called the priests and made the nobles and officials formally vow to do what they had promised.
13I shook out the fold of my robe and said, ¡§If you fail to keep your promise, may God shake you from your homes and from your property!¡¨
The whole assembly responded, ¡§Amen,¡¨ and they praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.
14I would like to mention that for the entire twelve years that I was governor of Judah¡Xfrom the twentieth until the thirty-second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes¡Xneither I nor my officials drew on our official food allowance. 15This was quite a contrast to the former governors who had laid heavy burdens on the people, demanding a daily ration of food and wine, besides a pound of silver. Even their assistants took advantage of the people. But because of my fear of God, I did not act that way. 16I devoted myself to working on the wall and refused to acquire any land. And I required all my officials to spend time working on the wall. 17I asked for nothing, even though I regularly fed 150 Jewish officials at my table, besides all the visitors from other lands! 18The provisions required at my expense for each day were one ox, six fat sheep, and a large number of domestic fowl. And every ten days we needed a large supply of all kinds of wine. Yet I refused to claim the governor¡¦s food allowance because the people were already having a difficult time.
19Remember, O my God, all that I have done for these people, and bless me for it.
In an old monastery near Babenhausen, Germany, one may see two pair of deer antlers permanently interlocked. They were found in that position many years ago. Apparently the animals had been fighting fiercely, and their horns became so tangled that they could not be disengaged. As a result, both deer perished from hunger.
Dr. Kerr comments, "I would like to carry those horns into every home and school as a warning against fighting to the last ditch to have your own way! I would also bring them into every church so that their silent message might sink deep into the hearts of those who seem to delight in ’locking horns’ with other Christians at the least provocation." (1)
The teacher/preacher of ¡§Through the Bible¡¨ radio was J. Vernon McGee. He once said, ¡§In the history of the church we have seen that when the Devil could not destroy the church by persecution, the next thing he did was to join it!¡¨(2)
It is so true that the worst threats the church has ever encountered came more from within than without. External pressures are like water on a grease fire ¡V the church will spread and heat up! Internal strife and bickering will be like AIDS, sapping the strength and vitality from the body.