FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS—UNFAIR POLICIES
It was bad enough that Nehemiah had to contend with outside hostility, but in his very own camp the people were complaining that the rich were taking advantage of the poorer Jews by charging them exorbitant interest rates on money they borrowed. Taxes were high and with mounting bills, and the threat of foreclosure, many families were forced to sell their children into slavery just to survive.
Nehemiah’s dilemma was not unusual. Today, such practices are still rampant in our society, although they are not as overt. Economists say a huge part of the current economic downturn is attributable to the mortgage crisis in which lenders loaned money to unqualified borrowers at high interest rates. The mortgagees found themselves unable to pay and within a short period of time their homes were foreclosed and they lost the money they had invested in the properties.
How do you define “power”? Why is power so often linked with abuse and injustice?
God requires that “justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry” (Amos 5.24). How can we work to accomplish that? Pray: Lord, in all my dealings let me be fair. Let me forgive those who have wronged me so they can see the light of God shining in me.
BRICK BY BRICK—A SACRIFICIAL TASK
Doing the same tasks day after day from sunup to sundown can become monotonous. But carrying out those tasks with the threat of death hanging over one’s head can be downright dangerous. Why did the people continue? It was a sacrifice of love. Love for their country, love for their families, love for their leader, love for their God!
Employees respect a boss who is willing to jump in the ditch and dig alongside them. A boss who is not afraid to get downright dirty; a boss who will seek to understand the trials of the employee by taking on the job him or herself. Nehemiah was such a leader. Although he was governor, he took on the same guard shifts as his workers and slept in his work clothes to be at the ready should an emergency arise.
More often than not, people learn about us by how we live rather than by our credentials or the things we say. Our willingness to sacrifice on behalf of others can become our real life biography.
As you reflect on the passage above, what traits can you insert into Nehemiah’s character profile? Are those traits qualities your associates would add to your résumé? Did you notice that the people’s weapons were kept close by as they slept? Do you keep your arsenal—prayer and the Word of God—close by as you sleep?
Be willing to make those sacrifices God is laying upon your heart. Work in such a manner that those to whom you minister are eager to emulate you. Pray: Lord, let me not be high-minded and stand on ceremony with those I serve. Let me kneel and wash their feet—one foot at a time.
THROUGH MANY DANGERS, TOILS, AND SNARES…
Thank God for people who are willing to thwart the plans of the enemy! Jewish citizens who lived close by the enemy camp warned Nehemiah of the enemy’s plan. It was not a one-time occurrence, but these plans of attack were made over and over and over again. It was indeed a clear and present danger. This meant the people always had to be on the alert. Like a military strategist, Nehemiah moves to secure those areas of the wall which were vulnerable and he places armed guards to defend them.
Then, he gives the workers a pep rally and tells them not to be afraid. Nehemiah knows that fear brings timidity. Fear brings discouragement. Fear brings defeat. He reminds them that it is God who is their commander-in-chief; it is God who leads them. Furthermore, he tells them to hold a mental picture of God and use that as an incentive to fight for their families.
The text says the enemy tried at least 10 times to attack the Jews as they worked on the wall in Jerusalem. What does this say about tenacity in warfare? Why was it important for the workers to visualize God leading them? What incentive do you use to keep on “keeping on”?
Bullying has become a national issue. Find out how you can get involved in its prevention. Advocate to counsel both the victims and the abusers. Pray: You, Lord, are a strong tower wherein I can find safety. Keep me close when the enemy launches its attack.