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Nehemiah instructed everyone to spend the night inside the walls. They were workers by day. And guards by night.
It was a tough time. The people were working hard on rebuilding, but they also had to eat to stay alive. This meant working in their own fields and vineyards, plus all the work on the wall. On top of that, there was a famine and some of the people were running out of food and money. They had to borrow.
Some people would ask the leaders or officials who had more money, “Can I borrow some money for food for my household?”
And someone might loan them the money but say, “I’ll loan you the money IF you pay me back some extra money. So I’ll loan you ten pieces of money now, IF you agree to pay me back eleven pieces later. And if you can’t pay me back, then I’ll have to take some of your stuff, or you’ll have to sell some of your children as slaves so you can pay me back.”
When Nehemiah heard this was happening, he was very angry. He told them, “You are charging your own people extra money when they need help!? Are you kidding me? We’ve all been working so hard to rebuild our city and nation. We’ve gone to great trouble to buy back out of slavery and captivity as many of God’s Family as we can. And now you are enslaving more in the Family because of money? Stop it!”
The people were quiet. They couldn’t find anything to say. They were ashamed and knew they were wrong.
Nehemiah continued, “What you’re doing is not right. This is not a business. We’re the same Family. We have to work together and help each other. Let’s loan each other the money and grain with no more charging extra money! And give back all that extra money you’ve already taken. Immediately. You need to give them back their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, right now.”
“We will give it back,” they said, “and we’ll not demand anything more from them. We will do what you say.”
Then Nehemiah made them promise to do it.
The people all said, “Yes, amen,” and praised God. And they did just as they had promised.
Nehemiah was helping them see what it means to be One Family and to really love each other. To give and give and give of yourself. Not just help others “as long as I get something back” or “as long as I don’t need help myself.”
Can you see the importance of good leadership, leadership that is a Gift from Heaven? These people seemed to want to do the right things. But they had some serious things to change, things that maybe they didn’t even realize were wrong. That’s what happens when God’s people get all scattered due to disobedience. The people’s ways of living had gotten all mixed in with the world’s ways. They needed Gifted leaders like Nehemiah to lead them back into God’s ways and into being Holy and Set apart as special for God. And the people recognized God’s Involvement, His grace on Nehemiah, and they respected it and wanted to follow his lead.
And Nehemiah didn’t lead by just telling the people what to do. He didn’t boss the people around or lord it over them by saying, “Just do what I say.” Nehemiah was a Godly example for others to follow. That means he didn’t just tell the people how to please God — he showed them how with his life.
The Persian king had made Nehemiah governor over Jerusalem. The governors before him had always demanded money and food from the people, but Nehemiah refused to take from the people. He knew the importance of every single person giving his all to God and God’s Work.
So instead of taking like all the other governors had, Nehemiah gave, gave, gave for the work, for the walls, and for the people. And he could have claimed a nice piece of land for himself to live on, but instead he spent all he had (heart, soul, mind, and strength — ALL his energy and ALL his resources) on the Work on the walls.
He could have asked for people to feed him, but instead he fed more than 150 workers at his table every day! And it takes a lot of food to feed 150 people every day.
Nehemiah showed God’s Family how to be a Family — how to take care of each other, how to work as one, how to live life together in ways pleasing to God. Can you see how important that was?
Without Nehemiah, do you think the people would have ever been able to finish the wall or the city? No, I don’t think so either. They would have just stayed some scattered people who knew a little of the same things about God’s Law, but who weren’t really together as one in their hearts and in how they lived.
So Nehemiah not only helped the Family build a safety wall between them and the world, but he also helped them tear down the barriers within the Family of God. No more of this thinking “I have my life and you have your life.” Instead, Nehemiah helped them see, “We are one Family. With One Life Together In God!”
Because “Oneness” isn’t about having all the same rules, but rather it’s about having hearts that are joined together, totally soft and yielded to the Word of God, and leaning on and growing from each other every day.