Hello, friends. Thank you for listening to the Anchored Daily podcast. My name is Matthew, I’m our adult discipleship director here at Bethel and I appreciate you tuning in. Today we are unpacking Nehemiah chapter 5 and talking about how to deal with internal opposition. If you have been following along in our series in Nehemiah, we have seen the people of Israel needing to overcome some serious opposition from the surrounding people. In chapter 5 though, we see it go to another level when the opposition actually comes from within the people of God.
I believe moments like these are some the most painful for us to deal with. It’s one thing when the world opposes us, we expect that. But when we are wounded by fellow believers it catches us by surprise. Shouldn’t they know better? Shouldn’t this be the place where things like that don’t happen? I say all the time, we actually shouldn’t be surprised by sin in the church. Yes, we are being sanctified and without excuse, but we are still sinners. When you put a bunch of sinners together, guess what you are going to get – you’re going to get sin! Still, those wounds hurt and we have to learn to deal with them and we can learn a lot from how Nehemiah handles the situation.
Nehemiah 5 starts with a complaint from the people, they don’t have enough grain, nor the money to buy grain. Why is this happening? There are a number of reasons. Many had left their fields to work on rebuilding the wall, there was a famine at the time, and the king was taxing them heavily. All of those are bad enough but the last reason is the worst. The nobles, the Israelites who actually had wealth, were charging interest to the people needing to borrow money so they could buy food. As the debts of the people compound the nobles are taking land, vineyards, and making it impossible for the people to pay their debts back! Now people are literally being sold into debt-slavery to cover the cost. Charging interest and seizing land like that goes directly against Old Testament law and shows a total disregard for the welfare of their fellow Israelites.
Here is what Nehemiah does. In verse 6 it says he became angry. Nehemiah is real about his emotions. When people hurt us, it is okay to feel angry or sad. We have to work through those emotions, but God doesn’t ask us to hide them or pretend they are not real. Note though, in verse 7, Nehemiah takes time to seriously consider the matter. He doesn’t act out of an emotional response, but takes time to chart a wise course of action. When we are dealing with issues in the church, we need to do the same. Before we write that email, approach that person, or make that phone call we need to carefully and prayerfully consider what the best thing to do is.
Nehemiah then takes action, he calls out the leaders. He explains why what they did was wrong and tells them what they need to do to make it right. In this case, that includes giving back everything they have seized, including any interest they have collected. For us, we are reminded that sin issues cannot be ignored in the church. We need to be brave enough to take action and speak truth into each other’s lives.
The leaders respond well. They recognize Nehemiah is right. They repent and return all that was taken. As we consider how to handle internal struggles in the church, let us also remember we need to have a proper response when we are called out. Before we are willing to call out others, we do well to examine ourselves and make sure we are also willing to be held accountable.
The final half of chapter 5 is an example of Nehemiah’s generosity. He was appointed governor of Judah, but doesn’t take all that is allotted to him because he didn’t want to burden the people. Nehemiah is no hypocrite. He refuses to call out the sins of the nobles while not being willing to take action himself. Instead, he sets an example to follow. As we deal with struggles inside the church, we need to be willing to do the same. We have to be willing to live holy lives and do our best to set an example. We can’t do it perfectly, but we can all set an example by the way that we live.
So, let’s review. How can we handle internal struggles in the church? Let us be real and honest about our emotions. Let us not act out of emotion but instead take time to plan. Let us not be afraid to speak bold truth into one another’s lives. Let us be willing to also be held accountable for own sins and respond with repentance. And let us seek to live holy lives together, setting an example to follow.
Let’s pray. Father, I thank you for the example that Nehemiah sets for us in this chapter. We humbly ask that you help us to be wise like he was when we see sin issues in the church. May we become a people that accepts accountability, humbly repents, and finds ways to move forward together. Amen.