Harris Malcom, state missionary
Middle Georgia Region
As we walk with God there are times that opposition does not always come from without. There are those attacks that are internal, self-induced and the result of friendly fire. Our study this week gives us a courtside seat to a family conflict.
It is unfortunate when things like this happen within God’s family. When personal preferences and even longtime prejudices infiltrate God’s family it divides and many times destroys.
All the exiles returning to Jerusalem created a hardship and food crisis. Wallbuilding had taken precedence over food production. Although the king had allowed Nehemiah to return and provided resources for his mission there was still the issue of taxes that the king intended to collect and they were obligated to pay.
Here we find those who have taking advantage of those who did not have. People were mortgaging their property to pay their taxes. Indebtedness became a slave master. There were even instances where parents were selling their children into slavery to pay their bills.
The Bible says that Nehemiah became angry but instead of flying off the handle he thought before he acted. Basically he allowed himself to calm down before taking them to task.
“Then I said, “What you are doing isn’t right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies?” Nehemiah 5:9
In other words, Nehemiah called a family meeting and the subject was not up for discussion. He called the family in line with God’s way of conduct and basically said that we have “ticked God off.” He was saying that we don’t treat family the way you have been treating family.
Nehemiah saw that what they needy was a healthy fear of God. Every church and every church member could and should be reminded of our call to walk in the fear of the Lord. When our gaze is on God and our glance is on our circumstances things seem to fall in the right perspective.
There are some who disguise their fear of God masquerading and acting one way at church but totally different during the week. Some are misinformed thinking that they fear God but they really do not. Others have backslid and even bitter.
Walking in the fear of the Lord is the call of God to every believer. Whether we are at church, at work, at recreation or even at rest we are to conduct ourselves in the fear of God.
Every Christian businessman or woman should walk in the fear of God every moment of every day. Every transaction and decision should be done in a godly way regardless of the circumstances.
Previous government leadership had profited at the expense of the people. They either turned their heads or were self-involved in this inside swindle and slave traffic. Some probably expected nothing to change, but Nehemiah was saying that Jerusalem was under new leadership.
He called for a life lived with a different attitude. The fear of God restrains and results in an attitude because of which some things just won’t be tolerated. The fear of God also convicts when we don’t live Christlike and godly in this present world. The fear of God also brings us to repentance and a change in the way we live.
Nehemiah also called for a life lived by a higher standard. He called for repentance, reconciliation and restitution. He was calling for a life lived under new management. It was not to be what is expected nor what is the trend of culture, but what is right in God’s eyes.
Chapter 5 ends in the right way. There is evidence that repentance, reconciliation and restitution did take place. There was an outward confession to act in obedience.
Notice verse 13. It gets real heavy here. In front of everyone at this family meeting Nehemiah “shook the front of (his) garment and said, ‘Thus may God shake out everyman from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied. An all the assembly said, Amen!’” and they praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise.
Nehemiah was saying God is going to hold you to this standard. They were saying we understand that and are ready to do it God’s way.
We have heard sayings like: “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The truth here is “When in Christ, do as Christ would do.”