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Sermon No: 54270-Nehemiah - Chapter 5



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SERMON TOPIC: Nehemiah - Chapter 5

Speaker: Taryn Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 19 July 2019

Topic Groups: NEHEMIAH, LEADERSHIP, BOOK STUDY

Sermon synopsis: As Christians, we often think of adversity originating from more malevolent sources, forgetting that its source can sometimes originate closer to home.

Nehemiah, in previous chapters, had to overcome opposition from outlying enemies. In this chapter however we see him dealing with opposition from neighbours and fellow Jews. People who had been previously united when opposed by an outside enemies were being threatened by internal strife and dissension.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking only those outside of the church can hinder God’s plan, but division within the church can be just as detrimental to our walk with God.

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“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion.” - Psalm 137:1

Nehemiah 5 New International Version (NIV)

5 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. 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.”

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

4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children 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.”

6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials.

I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to 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? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”

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.

13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”

At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.

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. 15 But the earlier governors—those preceding me—placed a heavy burden on the people and took forty shekels 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. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. All my men were assembled there for the work; we did not acquire any land.

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.

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.

19 Remember me with favour, my God, for all I have done for these people.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided As Christians, we often think of adversity originating from more malevolent sources, forgetting that its source can sometimes originate closer to home.

Nehemiah, in previous chapters, had to overcome opposition from outlying enemies. In this chapter however we see him dealing with opposition from neighbours and fellow Jews. People who had been previously united when opposed by an outside enemies were being threatened by internal strife and dissension.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking only those outside of the church can hinder God’s plan, but division within the church can be just as detrimental to our walk with God.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed

Famine, food crisis & taxation made times exceedingly difficult for Nehemiah, but the problem was aggravated by the self-indulgent standard of living of a few nobles. Selfishness and greed can destroy even the most commendable project.

Proverbs 28:25

The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper.

1 Timothy 6: 9-10

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed source: https://stories.avvo.com/ nakedlaw/ bizarre/ 6-outrageously-wealthy-preachers-under-federal-investigation.html

Spreading the gospel has become a very profitable business for several well-known televangelists, affording them the opportunity to live in mansions, own private jets, take exotic trips, relax in hotel rooms that cost thousands per night, and even own second and third homes.

Recently some of the wealthiest televangelists have been the subject of Senate investigations to ensure they aren’t taking advantage of their nonprofit status. The list included the likes of Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/ life/ faith/ 2007/ 12/ 07/ joyce-meyer-says-her-23000-com

Joyce Meyer Ministries said it plans to respond to a Senate investigation into lavish spending, and clarified reports of a $23,000 “commode.”

The Fenton, Mo.-based ministry is one of six evangelical TV ministries that has until Dec. 6 to respond to a request for financial information issued by Grassley, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee. His requests came after public complaints and news media reports alleged large salaries and affluent lifestyles by various religious leaders.

In his Nov. 5 letter to that ministry, Grassley said the Jefferson County real estate assessor's office had recorded a purchase of a $23,000 “commode with marble top.” He asked for verification of the cost and an explanation of its tax-exempt purpose.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed Source: https://www.dallasnews.com/ life/ faith/ 2007/ 12/ 07/ joyce-meyer-says-her-23000-com

The ministry said it was one piece of a 68-piece furniture purchase in 2001 for a total of $261,498, but the $23,000 figure was an “errant value assigned by the selling agent.” “Joyce Meyer Ministries takes financial stewardship and accountability very seriously, and this oversight serves as an opportunity to only improve future practices,” the ministry said in a statement.

1 Peter 5:2-3

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed Source: https://www.cnbcafrica.com/ news/ special-report/ 2019/ 02/ 25/ a-look-at-the-prosperity-gospel-in-south-africa/

The author of this book Brian and his wife Bobbie, are the founders and pastors of Hills Christian Life Centre, in north-west Sydney, renowned for the live praise and worship albums produced by Hillsong Music Australia.

The prosperity gospel is a religious movement that has exploded in popularity and prominence in South Africa over the last two decades, it first reached South Africa in the late 1970s through churches such as televangelist Ray McCauley’s Rhema Bible Church.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed Source: https://www.cnbcafrica.com/ news/ special-report/ 2019/ 02/ 25/ a-look-at-the-prosperity-gospel-in-south-africa/

Due to apartheid restrictions on the movements of black people, the prosperity gospel’s reach was limited. But since the start of democracy in 1994, preachers from across the continent have streamed into the country’s townships, converting large numbers to this new gospel.

Today it’s the fastest growing religious movement in South Africa. While precise statistics are lacking, scholars agree that prosperity gospel followers rival, if not exceed, the numbers of so-called mainline churches.

Mark 10:25

25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed Reading from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/ ?p=10334

According to new data released by Stats SA, poverty is on the rise in South Africa. The latest “Poverty Trends in South Africa” report shows that, despite the general decline in poverty between 2006 and 2011, poverty levels in South Africa rose in 2015.

The South African economy in the last five years, notably between 2011 and 2015, has been driven by a combination of international and domestic factors such as low and weak economic growth, continuing high unemployment levels, lower commodity prices, higher consumer prices (especially for energy and food), lower investment levels, greater household dependency on credit, and policy uncertainty.

This period has seen the financial health of South African households decline under the weight of these economic pressures and, in turn, has pulled more households and individuals down into poverty.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Reasons for division:

Self-Indulgence & Greed Reading from: http://www.statssa.gov.za/ ?p=10334

In general, children (aged 17 years and younger), black Africans, females, people from rural areas, those living in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo, and those with little or no education are the main victims in the ongoing struggle against poverty.

We see that while poverty is highest amongst children (aged 0–17), poverty levels tend to drop as one gets older and only starts to increase again from the age of 55 onwards. The poverty gap, as well as the severity of poverty, shows a similar trend to the poverty headcount for the 0–17 age group. Poverty gap values highlight that not only are children more likely to be poor but they are also residing in households that are further away from the poverty line.

Unfortunately, in 2015 this was a reality for over 13 million children living in South Africa.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

2) Misuse of Power

Nehemiah was not dealing with a minor grievance. There was poverty beyond description leading to slavery. Some of the families did not have enough to eat. "For there were those who said, 'We, our sons and our daughters are many; therefore let us get grain that we may eat and live'" (Nehemiah 5:2).

Families had mortgaged their farms. "There were others who said, 'We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine'" (Nehemiah 5:3). Crop failures had drastically reduced their income. Because of the famine, money was unavailable for the farmers to pay their taxes. In desperation they were selling their children into slavery.

The wealthier Jews had taken advantage of the terrible situation of those who were less fortunate even BUYING THEIR FELLOW JEWS.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

2) Misuse of Power

Living in South Africa we are all too familiar with not being able to trust those who are in positions of authority over us. While we are instructed to respect our leaders irrespective, we see through the text that God holds our leaders accountable.

1 Peter 5:1

“So as your fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings and as one who shares in the glory that will be revealed, I urge the elders among you: 2 Give a shepherd’s care to God’s flock among you, exercising oversight not merely as a duty but willingly under God’s direction, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 3And do not lord it over those entrusted to you, but be examples to the flock. 4 Then when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that never fades away.”

Hebrews 13:17

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Famine & Exploitation of The Poor

Reading from: https://bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-5-resolving-conflicts-within-nehemiah-51-19

Showing complete disregard for the Mosaic law that forbade a Jew from loaning money at interest to a fellow Jew in need, the wealthier Jews were not only charging interest, but they were also taking Jewish children as slaves as collateral for the loans.

Operating as heartless businessmen, putting their own financial gain as foremost, without regard for how it hurt their poorer brethren and their families, Nehemiah saw these problems as serious enough to stop the work on the wall long enough to get them resolved.

Nehemiah 1:8

8 “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, 9 but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Famine & Exploitation of The Poor

There is a certain level of irony in the fact that Israel’s exile was a direct result of their disobedience to God’s laws and we see here only 5 chapters in another blatant act of disobedience.

Exodus 22:25

“If you lend money to any of my people who are needy among you, do not be like a moneylender to him; do not charge him interest.

Deuteronomy 23:19

You must not charge interest on a loan to your fellow Israelite, whether on money, food, or anything else that has been loaned with interest.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Famine & Exploitation of The Poor

The scriptures are clear that we have an obligation to the poor.

Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honours God."

Proverbs 22:9

"A generous man will himself be blessed, for he shares his food with the poor."

Proverbs 22:16 "He who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and he who gives gifts to the rich — both come to poverty.“

Its important to note that the aforementioned verses were written by one of history’s wealthiest men.

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

2) Resistance to change

Jesus and the apostles experienced this in their ministry. Too often people place too heavy an emphasis on tradition & resist the moving of the Holy Spirit, as was the case when Jesus performed a miracle on the Sabbath.

Matthew 15: 3-9 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honour your father and mother’[ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honour their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 8 “‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 9 They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

Rebuilding The Wall

A House Divided

Reasons for division:

3) Difference of opinions and vision As human beings we can be petty. Its easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when focusing on trivial differences of opinion.

1 Corinthians 3: 4-5 “Aren’t you living like people of the world? 4 When one of you says, “I am a follower of Paul,” and another says, “I follow Apollos,” aren’t you acting just like people of the world? 5 After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.”

4) Spiritual Warfare Someone once said of a church quarrel, “Satan remains neutral and supplies ammunition to both sides”. We forget that God is not the only spiritual being who has a plan in mind for us.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

Nehemiah’s Reaction

… he laid aside his rights in favour of assisting his fellow man.

Nehemiah, rightly, could have demanded a food allowance as his predecessors had done by taxing the people and then sending their servants out to collect the tax with force.

The governor had a right to such an allowance, and Nehemiah could have imposed it. After all, he had 150 Jews and officials at his table daily, besides those who came in from surrounding nations (5:17). To feed them required one ox, six choice sheep, plus poultry and wine every day (5:18). But instead he set aside his right to the governor’s food allowance and apparently bore these costs out of his own pocket.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

Nehemiah’s Reaction

… he got ANGRY! (Nehemiah 5:6)

Sometimes as Christians we form a habit trying to be ‘politically correct’ and attempt to tailor the scripture to be as well. Being angry might not be the correct answer to give at a Sunday school, but it’s the truth irrespective. Nehemiah was angered by what he heard, it outraged him. Just as Jesus was angered when He saw the temple turned into a marketplace recorded in John 2:13-16.

Poverty, violence, greed... these things should anger us as a people who know this is not what God ever intended for the human race. However, we should not succumb to our anger to the point where we, in turn, act out of God’s will.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

Nehemiah’s Reaction

We don’t often think of the Old Testament as emotive, but its refreshing that in this particular segment of scripture we get a chance to relate to a man like Nehemiah. We all feel a certain degree of anger when faced with the evil in the world.

Ephesians 4:26

Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on the cause of your anger. 31 You must put away all bitterness, anger, wrath, quarrelling, and slanderous talk – indeed all malice.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

Own your part of the conflict Thinking you are not part of the problem, usually is the problem. Don’t be the person with the plank in his eye.

Romans 14:12

So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Be direct Often issues are mishandled because we talk about someone rather than to someone.

Matthew 18:15

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother.”

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

Correct In Love (& Humility) It is important to note Nehemiah’s rebukes never stem from a place of ego or self-righteousness but rather for a deep reverence for God and His law.

Nehemiah 5:15-16

But out of reverence for God I did not act like that. 16 Instead, I devoted myself to the work on this wall. We should aspire , like Nehemiah, to reproach with the intention to restore.

Galatians 6:1-5 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbour. For each will have to bear his own load.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

Prayer & Encouragement Nehemiah submits every decision to prayer. It is difficult to stay angry at someone you are praying for & often helps you empathize with them.

James 5:16

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

& while it is easy to get discouraged ourselves, it is important to remain hopeful and continue to trust that God’s will, will be done. Nehemiah had just been let down by fellow leaders and noblemen but he never becomes disheartened to the point of giving up on the work God entrusted him with.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict

5) Be Accountable

Its worth noting the response of the nobles at the public meeting "Then they said, 'We will give it back and will require nothing from them; we will do exactly as you say.' So I called the priests and took an oath from them that they would do according to this promise" (Nehemiah 5:12).

Words are sometimes not enough. Nehemiah called for a change in behavior. It was a public hearing, a public declaration, and a public promise before God.

Matthew 12:36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment.

Romans 3:19

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict 5) Forgive... & forget. With or without an apology we need to extend the same mercy Christ extends to us daily.

Nehemiah does not harbour any bitterness towards the nobles further in the text. He is satisfied with an apology and a promise of reformation.

Work on the wall could have been halted altogether had he not been able to move passed his personal grievances. We need to remember that God’s will needs to take priority over our pride and fragile egos.

Luke 17:3

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

Matthew 6:12

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Biblically Dealing With Conflict 6) Don’t lose sight of what’s important

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

7) Lead By Example Too many people live by a ‘do as I say, not as I do’ attitude. This was not the attitude of Christ, the founder of our faith, nor was it the attitude of Nehemiah. He tirelessly maintained a close relationship with God to guard himself against going astray. We, like Nehemiah, should aspire to be blameless and upright in our walks with God. Leaders of the faith should be above reproach.

Rebuilding The Wall A House Divided

Conclusion

Mathew 12: 22-28 25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.

As Christians, we need to unite. We need each other. We need to guard against trading God’s plan in exchange for the trappings of the world. &, like Nehemiah, we need to prioritize the well-being of others over ourselves… even when we’re entitled to certain privileges that come with being a leader.

Leading by example, we must hold one another up to the standard expected of us by Christ & should anyone stumble we have an obligation to cover and build up in love. Hoping continually for restoration, rather than rejoicing over a downfall.

Colossians 3:14

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV:

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB:

New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http://www.lockman.org/ ">http://www.lockman.org)




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