Nehemiah 05 HIGH INTEREST RATES AND FORECLOSURES

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INTRODUCTION TO NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 5

protest—protest—protest—This great protest by people including women was against fellow Jews because of high interest rates, foreclosures, lack of food—they had sold everything including their daughters.  Nehemiah was angry as a shopper arriving too late for the bargains.  He called them on the carpet and put the fear of God in them.  He made them promise to stop their gouging and give back their homes and farms—details are in the exposition.

EXPOSITION TO NEHEMIAH CHAPTER 5

Nehemiah Helps the Poor

1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers.

The protest grew larger as entire families faced food shortage Nehemiah faced a daunting task of dealing with the real issue and at the same time completing the building of the wall.  Nehemiah knew the Scriptures so there is little doubt that he read to them

Lev. 25:35; “If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.”

De. 15:7  “If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother.”

2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”

The litany of protest continues—they said that they had large families and the grain had been harvested and stored in the storehouse but they didn’t have any.  Let us get grain probably means let us get grain from the storehouse.

3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.”

The next complaint is that they are borrowing money and putting up their homes and vineyards as collateral just to get enough food to live.

4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards.

Others are complaining that they are borrowing money to pay their taxes on mortgaged homes.  The leaders were as un-sympathizing as a synthetic breakfast drink.

5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.”

All the wealth was consecrated into the hands of a few rich and powerful leaders who were taking advantage of the situation.  These people were selling their children in order to pay the debt and losing their property to these greedy money grabbing leaders.  Nehemiah could have profited from this situation.  Instead, he sets and example of self-sacrifice that made a profound impression upon the wealthy land grabbers and remedied the situation.

6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry.

Nehemiah was as angry as Moses was after the 10th plague in Egypt.

Ex.11:8 “All these officials of yours will come to me, bowing down before me and saying, ‘Go, you and all the people who follow you!’ After that I will leave.” Then Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh.”

Nehemiah was as angry as a seething volcano.

7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them

After thinking the situation over Nehemiah decided to face the nobles and leaders head on.  He lit into them like a lynch mob on the loose.  Nehemiah takes on the power brokers by accusing them of violating the covenant.  He laid the scripture on them and they withered like cut grass before the scorching rays of the sun.

Ex. 22:25 “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest.”

Lev. 25:35-37 “’If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you.  Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countryman may continue to live among you. You must not lend him money at interest or sell him food at a profit.”

8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.

The tone of Nehemiah’s rebuke was stronger than a layers threatening letter.  He was like a hothouse in a heat wave.  These men were as guilty as a dozen dens of iniquity.

Heb. 4:12-13 “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

The word of God is stronger than a thousand arguments.  These leaders were stunned—what could they say?

9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?

Nehemiah continued with his filibuster—chiding them for not walking in the fear of God—and in addition to this the nations around them would reproach them for their greed.

10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop!

He tells them that he and his brothers (Nehemiah was from a well-—to-—do—family) and he was lending money without interest.  He uses himself as an example—he was a class act.  His actions were as exemplary as the courage of a Medal of Honor winner.

11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.”

Nehemiah calls on them to compensate the interest they had charged and transfer back the deed to their farms—to return their new wine—give back their oil—relinquish all claims to their houses.

12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised.

They were as guilty as a man with his hand in the collection basket.  They all with one voice agree to give-it-all-back.  However, in order to keep someone weaseling out of the commitment Nehemiah requires them to take an oath.  He takes a sworn statement that they will carry out their agreement.  They had been as hard core as a drop-out with a drug habit.

13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the LORD. And the people did as they had promised.

In a symbolic gesture he shakes out his garment and tells them that if they renege on the oath that God will shake them out and empty them.
The meeting came to a close with praise-a-thon.  As a post script to this meeting “the people lived up to their bargain.”

14 Moreover, from the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, until his thirty-second year—twelve years—neither I nor my brothers ate the food allotted to the governor.

Nehemiah is appointed by Artaxerxes to be their governor—he will serve for the next 12 years.  Nehemiah remembers their greed and excesses and sets a sterling example before the people by not taking any food allowance.

15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels [a] of silver from them in addition to food and wine. Their assistants also lorded it over the people. But out of reverence for God I did not act like that.

Nehemiah is a class act in world history of great leaders.  He brought a new—found hope he was a dynamo of great proportions.

16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we [b] did not acquire any land.

He was not afraid of work—this man of God was as large as life and twice the size.  He was like a kiss from a guardian Angel.

17 Furthermore, a hundred and fifty Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us from the surrounding nations.

This man feeds 150 people each day—he was a man who could afford the expenses—thousands of years have passed and we are still talking about the example of his unselfishness and generosity.  God left this instance on record as a prototype for all ages.

18 Each day one ox, six choice sheep and some poultry were prepared for me, and every ten days an abundant supply of wine of all kinds. In spite of all this, I never demanded the food allotted to the governor, because the demands were heavy on these people.

He was not serving them bread and water—his table of meat and vegetables and wine.  Officials came from surrounding nations and Nehemiah entertained the guest’s at his table.  He could have taken a percentage of the food from the citizens but he declined because they were having it hard enough as it was.

19 Remember me with favor, O my God, for all I have done for these people

Remember me, O my God…This statement is found again in 13:14, 22, 31.  No doubt Nehemiah has the championship belt— he holds the prize ticket to the lottery—he is a blue ribbon candidate—a super-bowl champion—a man who has won the applause of angels.

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Nehemiah 01 FROM PERSIA TO JERUSALEM

After interceding with God Nehemiah will intercede with Artaxerxes and sets out to build a wall and ends up leaving an enduring legacy of leadership. He was an organizer and a pragmatic leader who had a top position of trust in the grandest empire of world history. He put his career on hold and took on a job that was as improbable as operating on a gnat.

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Nehemiah 02 TEMPLE BUILT BUT NO WALL

Arrival―inspection―exhortation ―answering his enemies. Nehemiah had probably never seen this city before―100 years have passed since the first settlers had returned. The temple had been rebuilt but the city was barely occupied, most people lived in outlying villages. They were mixing with foreigners and were in danger of losing their identity.

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Nehemiah 03 BUILDING THE WALL.

This chapter presents a record of the builders and their achievements they are busy building a wall, to many this may seem unimportant. But think of it this way—what if there was no wall on the border between Mexico and the state of Texas soon there would be no distinction between the two. It was because of not wall that the Jews were facing assimilation into the culture of their pagan neighbors. In those days a city without a wall was easy pickings for any robber band. Jew’s concerned for security, had scattered among other nationalities in small villages outside Jerusalem. There they were intermarrying and gradually losing their own language, culture and most important their own religion. A wall would give them a chance to make Jerusalem a truly Jewish city, keeping it safe and controlling who came and went.

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Nehemiah 04 LOCAL RESISTANCE FROM POWERFUL POLITICIANS.

opposition—opposition—opposition—What had kept them from doing anything about the broken-down wall for nearly 100 years? One obstacle was local resistance: powerful politicians were determined to keep the Jews down. Perhaps another reason was the lack of a leader like Nehemiah. In his memoirs, which fill most of this book, he shows remarkable qualities of leadership: impassioned speech, prayer, organization, resolve, trust in God, quick and determined response to problems, unselfishness. Perhaps his years in the Persian court had been preparing him. Organizing a difficult building project and handling fierce opposition seemed to come easily to him. Nehemiah was more than a good business manager. He was a man of God. He did not act without prayer, and he did not pray without acting. His prayers punctuate the book. He recognized God’s role in all that happened and never forgot to give him credit. He was not looking for earthly status—if he had been he never would have left Persia.

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Nehemiah 05 HIGH INTEREST RATES AND FORECLOSURES

protest—protest—protest—This great protest by people including women was against fellow Jews because of high interest rates, foreclosures, lack of food—they had sold everything including their daughters. Nehemiah was angry as a shopper arriving too late for the bargains. He called them on the carpet and put the fear of God in them. He made them promise to stop their gouging and give back their homes and farms—details are in the exposition.

Read Online »

Nehemiah 06 ENEMIES: SANBALLAT, TOBIAH, AND GESHEM

More opposition—more opposition—more opposition—His enemies are filled with opposition, schemes and secrecy. They were engaged in a letter writing campaign—next they try to intimidate Nehemiah by threatening assassination—He could see thru these so called prophets like looking thru water in a gold fish bowl.

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Nehemiah 07 GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION

Organization—plan—leaders—Unless you are an advanced student these lists may be uninteresting. However, they play an important role in history of Judaism. Guard detail—singers—Levites appointed and his brother appointed captain of the citadel. Orders regarding opening and closing gates— the fate of those who couldn’t find their family records. All this and more awaits you in the exposition.

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Nehemiah 08 Ezra Reads the Law

Reading—celebration—commitment—Ezra and Nehemiah worked in tandem like a four wheel drive truck with a positive lock rear-end—but each had a different style. Nehemiah was an activist and Ezra was a student, Nehemiah was outspoken, Ezra was more withdrawn. Together they were an unbeatable team.

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Nehemiah 09 WEARING SACKCLOTH AND FASTING AND PRAISE

Spiritual preparation—God’s deliverance—During this spiritual retreat they are wearing burlap and udges of dirt on their faces. They stood and confessed their sins and read from the book 3 hours a day. Everyone engaged in a long—long praise marathon then they drew up a sealed document and each signed it.

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Nehemiah 10 Signing of the Covenant

Ratifiers of the covenant—stipulations of the covenant—The document now ratified and signed—it was a binding oath—to keep and carry out all the commandments of God. This document with all of its regulations and stipulations will be discussed in detail in the exposition.

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Nehemiah 11 The New Residents of Jerusalem

Resettlement plan—A lottery was used to determine who would live in Jerusalem. In 1990 the U.S. census revealed that for the first time a majority of Americans lived in cities having more than a million in population. Worldwide, people are flocking to mega-cities. Not so in Nehemiah’s day. The Israelites had learned that big cities like Jerusalem made prime targets for invading armies. In order to repopulate the city, leaders had to resort to a lottery system.

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Nehemiah 12 Dedication of the Wall of Jerusalem

Register of priests and Levites—dedication of the wall—Two large choirs marched on the wall around Jerusalem.  One proceeded towards the Dung gate while the other went to the left.  They marched the entire wall and finally took their place in the Temple of God.  Under the direction of Jezrahiah they made the rafters ring.  It was a time of great jubilation.

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