You Can Provide Clean Water to Persecuted Christians

V. A Cry for Justice and the Power of Perseverance (Nehemiah 5:1–6:19)


V. A Cry for Justice and the Power of Perseverance (5:1–6:19)

5:1-5 What we see here was a serious family matter (5:1). Some Jews were practicing economic exploitation (5:2-5). It was a time of personal loss because families were involved in corporate activity and, therefore, didn’t have the time for agricultural development. Facing growing debt and government taxation, they were forced to seek help. And, profiteering Jews seized the opportunity to make money off misfortunes by charging exorbitant interest rates on loans made to their Jewish brothers. It’s unbiblical to charge interest to profit off someone’s distress.

5:6-8 Nehemiah 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 (5:8). So, not only did they have to buy back fellow Jews from sinners, but also from supposed saints. There ought to be a difference between the two groups! Similarly, if a man names the name of Jesus Christ, you ought to be able to trust that you’re dealing with someone who is not going to rip you off.

5:9-11 What was happening was a spiritual issue because they were making God look bad in front of foreign enemies. They weren’t walking in the fear of . . . God, and it stained God’s reputation in the eyes of outsiders. (5:9). Understand that when you are not responsible for your actions, it makes God look bad. Your job is to make God look good through everything you do.

In essence, Nehemiah told them to give back what they’d stolen with interest (5:11). This highlights a spiritual principle. If you have done sloppy work for someone, go to them, apologize, and make it up to them. This is the principle of restitution, and it applies to romantic relationships, as well. If you have ignored your spouse for five years, go apologize and say, “I want to spend the next five years making it up to you.” If you follow up on that promise, you will have the Lord’s blessing.

5:12-13 What we see here is called a self-maledictory oath—an oath of impending doom if a person fails to fulfill the contract. Nehemiah’s shaking of the folds of [his] robe (5:13) meant that such a thing would happen to the people who failed to do as they said. God holds you accountable to your promise.

5:14-19 Nehemiah looked over his career of twelve years as governor (5:14) and concluded that he had honored the Word of God. He hadn’t done what the governors who preceded him had (5:15). He had devoted [himself] to the construction of [the] wall (15:16). Just as importantly, he’d led by example.

I love Nehemiah’s prayer in verse 19: Remember me favorably, my God. It should make you ask, “How is God going to remember me?” When a student violinist receives a standing ovation, he should be mostly concerned with whether his teacher is applauding; after all, only he would know exactly how the piece ought to sound and what it took for the student to play it well. If God is not well pleased with you, you are a dismal failure. So, live in such a way that on judgment day, Jesus Christ stands and says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21).

6:1-4 Nehemiah’s only remaining task was to install the doors (6:1). The last part of a task, however, can be the toughest part of all. He had to persevere, but Nehemiah got some inside information that his enemies were planning to harm him (6:2).

Nehemiah knew he couldn’t submit to his enemies’ request because he was doing important work (6:3). He said this because you don’t leave something greater to do something lesser. You never leave the will of God. So, why would he leave his work and go down to those who ridiculed the people of God and declared war on them? Before you follow someone, ask: “Is this person taking me away from God’s will? What is his character like?”

6:5-9 Nehemiah’s enemy sent an open letter to sway the public’s perception, leading them to think that Nehemiah was just doing his own show—that he wanted to become their king (6:6). This turn of events likely scared Nehemiah, so he did what he did best: he prayed. He said, God, strengthen my hands (6:9).

When you know you are doing what God wants you to do, but you are ready to quit, you need to go to God. If you are feeling pressure to walk away from a standard or to make compromise because you are worried about what everybody else thinks, you have to say, “I only care what God thinks.” The majority must not be allowed to rule you; God rules.

6:10-14 Shemaiah claimed to have a prophecy (6:10-12), but many people misuse the name of the Lord as Shemaiah did. Please, be careful what you listen to. Religious terminology does not guarantee legitimacy. Thankfully, Nehemiah knew that God had not sent him but that Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him (6:12). Shemaiah was trying to get Nehemiah to disobey God out of fear.

6:15-19 You won’t arrive at the completion of God’s plan for your life without facing your own Sanballats, Tobiahs, and Geshems; without being tempted to fear; without encountering moments in which you can sense that the enemy is trying to destroy you. If you submit to your King’s agenda, Satan will never cease trying to intimidate you (6:19). Don’t fear him. When you finally achieve success, you’ll be able to proclaim with Nehemiah, this task [was] accomplished by our God (6:16).