We first learned from Nehemiah to be open and honest about our feelings, and we got two great examples of prayer.
As we read on, we see that Nehemiah speaks up against injustice. In order to rebuild the wall, some Jews had to leave their farms behind, which left them in need for food for their families to survive. The famine had hit everyone hard and some had to mortgage everything they had just to survive. Those who were giving loans were charging interest, which was crippling the people financially.
Rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem carried great political and religious significance: it would serve as a sign of God’s blessing and His promised restoration of His people. For Israel’s enemies, it meant that the Jews would again gain political power and would be able to defend themselves. This was a job that absolutely needed to be done. So much so that farmers left their farms and were in such dire financial straits that they had to borrow money just to put enough food on the table to survive.
“And others said, ‘We have had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes. We belong to the same family as those who are wealthy, 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.’” (Nehemiah 5:4-5)
Can you imagine that? Jews banding together to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and the wealthy among them are charging so much interest on the loans that people are having to sell their children into slavery to get enough money to live. Imagine someone in your family needing help and you give them the money but then cripple them with interest—that’s what was happening with the Jews at this time.
“When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, ‘You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!’ Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.” (Nehemiah 5:6-7)
Nehemiah does something significant here. He’s very angry when he hears the news, but he thinks it over, not letting his anger control him. He doesn’t lash out in anger, he doesn’t even go and speak to the people while he is still angry. He thinks it over. He is in control, not his anger. It’s okay if something makes you angry, but before you act, take that extra time to think it over. Once Nehemiah thinks things over, he speaks up on behalf of the people and calls a public meeting to deal with the problem. He tells them in verse 9, “What you are doing is not right!” Then he provides a plan for moving forward.
“‘I 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 charging interest. You must restore their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes to them this very day. And repay the interest you charged when you lent them money, grain, new wine, and olive oil.’” (Nehemiah 5:10-11)
Everyone agrees to this, and Nehemiah holds them to it, telling them that God will shake them from their homes and properties if they fail to keep their promise (v.12-13). Nehemiah heard about an injustice and he spoke up against it. This is what good leaders do—they speak up for those who can’t.
We live in a hyper-politicized world, and sometimes we can let that seep into our decision-making, considering political points of view on matters before we consider the Biblical point of view. Leaders who follow the Lord stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. Injustice gives rise to anger, but those who follow the Lord know that we should not let our anger control us. Let us remember to stop and think things over when we are angry and let us speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, never forgetting that right now, Jesus is at the right hand of God, speaking up for us! (Romans 8:34)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.