Nehemiah 5

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Christian theology has finally arrived full circle to a biblically untenable position which, in effect, maintains that true religion must be “anything but the God of the Jews.” In so doing, the church has embraced the position held by virtually all heathen religions, by monistic New Age philosophy, and by the emerging Neo-Paganism that now threatens not only biblical religion but also the very fabric of civilization itself. When the church and Christianity are divorced from their Jewish context and their Hebrew foundations, they become aberrant forms of religion that neither Jesus nor his apostles would recognize…

The neo-Marcionite heresy of supersessionism argues for a Christian church that has been wrenched from its moorings in the safe harbor of biblically Hebraic truth and set adrift in a maelstrom of ominous abstractions, in the pernicious winds of doctrine that have blown in from the musings of philosophers and mystics, whose views lack foundations in biblical truth, and in teachings and practices that Jesus and apostles would have found ridiculous and heretical. Because it has been divorced from its historical context, the church has come to define itself in diverse and often non-biblical terms. Both the church and its constituent membership, therefore, are suffering from classical symptoms of identity crisis. It has long lost its biblical identity, and it no longer knows who or what it is or where it is going. This endemic and debilitating condition demands a healing balm, a recovery of self-identity. The church must find its way back home, back to the matrix from which it emerged— the Hebraic faith of Jesus and the apostles. – John Garr, Christian Fruit–Jewish Root: Theology of Hebraic Restoration

So, here is my Saturday morning offering…

Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. 2 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.” 3 There were others who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our houses that we might get grain because of the famine.” 4 Also there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. 5 Now our flesh is like the flesh of our brothers, our children like their children. Yet behold, we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters are forced into bondage already, and we are helpless because our fields and vineyards belong to others” (Neh 5:1-5 NASB).

The reason for the great outcry was because of rich Jews loaning money to poor Jews at high interest rates, when they were not supposed to charge any interest at all (Lev 25:35-38). As a result, many were going into bondage, serving in a sense as slaves to pay off the debt.

Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words. 7 I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, “You are exacting usury, each from his brother!” Therefore, I held a great assembly against them. 8 I said to them, “We according to our ability have redeemed our Jewish brothers who were sold to the nations; now would you even sell your brothers that they may be sold to us?” Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. 9 Again I said, “The thing which you are doing is not good; should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies? (Neh 5:6-9 NASB).

The rich Jews paid no heed to Nehemiah when he demanded a change, so he called a great assembly in order to discuss the situation with all the people. Jehovah God had delivered Israel from Persian bondage, and now some of the rich Jews were putting some of the people back into bondage.  When Nehemiah presented the situation in this blunt manner, the guilty parties had no answer.  But to silence them was not enough—nor was shaming them.  Nehemiah wanted to persuade them—and did so by calling to account the potential wrath of God upon such actions.

And likewise I, my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Please, let us leave off this usury. 11 Please, give back to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive groves and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money and of the grain, the new wine and the oil that you are exacting from them.” 12 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. 13 I also shook out the front of my garment and said, “Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said, “Amen!” And they praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise (Neh 5:10-13 NASB).

All of this served as a type of what the LORD had done for us—forgiven us all things. And thus, we should show leniency and mercy to other likewise.  And yet, at the same time, there is no hint here of condoning of laziness on the part of anyone.

Moreover, from the day that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year to the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes, for twelve years, neither I nor my kinsmen have eaten the governor’s food allowance. 15 But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants domineered the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of God. 16 I also applied myself to the work on this wall; we did not buy any land, and all my servants were gathered there for the work. 17 Moreover, there were at my table one hundred and fifty Jews and officials, besides those who came to us from the nations that were around us (Neh 5:14-17 NASB).

Nehemiah wasn’t condemning these former governors—only two of which are known, Zerubbabel and Ezra. He was merely stating what the LORD wanted him personally to do.  Jesus said we must, “render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God that which belongs to God” (Mark 12:17).

Now that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep, also birds were prepared for me; and once in ten days all sorts of wine were furnished in abundance. Yet for all this I did not demand the governor’s food allowance, because the servitude was heavy on this people. 19 Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people (Neh 5:18-19 NASB).

Even though he had the power to tax the people to pay for all of this, he did not.

Then the Angel Who talked with me answered and said unto me, Know you not what these be? And I said, No, my Lord.  Then He answered and spoke unto me, saying, This is the Word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD of Hosts.  Who are you O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it (Zech 4:5-7 KJV).