Jun 27, 2021 |Nehemiah

Dealing With Widespread Outcry

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06.27.21 | Nehemiah

Dealing With Widespread Outcry

Noel Heikkinen

Nehemiah 5

It can be easy to look out for your own interests and gain, but Jesus simplified everything for us when He said love the Lord and love your neighbor as yourself. How do you look at others when you’re in a position of leadership or power? Pastor Noel Jesse Heikkinen calls us as followers of Jesus to lay down our lives so that others might look through us and see Jesus.

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There was a widespread outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish countrymen. Some were saying, “We, our sons, and our daughters are numerous. Let us get grain so that we can eat and live.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. We and our children are just like our countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”
Nehemiah 5:1-5

I became extremely angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After seriously considering the matter, I accused the nobles and officials, saying to them, “Each of you is charging his countrymen interest.” So I called a large assembly against them
Nehemiah 5:6-7

“If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as an alien or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God. “If your brother among you becomes destitute and sells himself to you, you must not force him to do slave labor. Let him stay with you as a hired worker or temporary resident; he may work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then he and his children are to be released from you, and he may return to his clan and his ancestral property. They are not to be sold as slaves, because they are my servants that I brought out of the land of Egypt.
Nehemiah 5:6-7

and said, “We have done our best to buy back our Jewish countrymen who were sold to foreigners, but now you sell your own countrymen, and we have to buy them back.” They remained silent and could not say a word. Then I said, “What you are doing isn’t right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies? Even I, as well as my brothers and my servants, have been lending them money and grain. Please, let’s stop charging this interest. Return their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses to them immediately, along with the percentage of the money, grain, new wine, and fresh oil that you have been assessing them.”
Nehemiah 5:8-11

Furthermore, from the day King Artaxerxes appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah — from the twentieth year until his thirty-second year, twelve years  — I and my associates never ate from the food allotted to the governor. The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking from them food and wine as well as a pound of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but because of the fear of God, I didn’t do this. Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of this wall, and all my subordinates were gathered there for the work. We didn’t buy any land. There were 150 Jews and officials, as well as guests from the surrounding nations at my table. Each day, one ox, six choice sheep, and some fowl were prepared for me. An abundance of all kinds of wine was provided every ten days. But I didn’t demand the food allotted to the governor, because the burden on the people was so heavy. Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people.
Nehemiah 5:14-19

Jesus called them over and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them. It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

What is the most recent “outcry” you’ve encountered in your life? Did the outcry come from external voices or internal ones? How did you respond?

Do you struggle with anger? What are some unhelpful responses you’re tempted to choose when you are angry? In Nehemiah 5:6 it says Nehemiah became “extremely angry,” and then in Nehemiah 5:7 he stopped to “seriously consider the matter” before he responds. What changes can you consider based on Nehemiah’s example?

Nehemiah calls out the sin in the lives of his countrymen. In Nehemiah 5:9 he says, “what you are doing isn’t right.” What prevents you from speaking truth to others about their sin? Who are the people in your life who are willing to speak truth to you about your own sin?

How do you respond when you realize you’ve been sinning and you didn’t even realize it? Are you stubborn? Prideful? Defiant? In Nehemiah 5:12 the people said, “we will return these things and require nothing more from them. We will do as you say.” How would you characterize their response?

Nehemiah led by example in the very are he was calling for others to be repentant and sacrificial. How can you follow this example in your life? In your marriage? With your kids? In your workplace? How does this example (see Matthew 20:25-28) point us toward Jesus?