Pastoral Commentary for Nehemiah 5:1-6:14
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
Even though Israel cried out in repentance and a remnant was restored, sin was a continuing reality in the lives of God's people, even as it is in our own lives. With the demands of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem heaped on top of the rigors of everyday life, the burden became too much for the poor among the people to bear. They cried out because of their situation, and Nehemiah listened. He confronted the nobles and officials, who were extracting usury from their fellow Jews and forcing some of them to sell their sons and daughters as slaves. Nehemiah said, "The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies?" How important it is to consider the impact that our actions have on unbelievers! Clearly, Nehemiah was a highly respected leader because on his urging the nobles and officials restored to the people everything they had extracted from them. In a symbolic act, Nehemiah shook the dust out the folds of his robe saying, "So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise." The people said, "Amen" and kept their promise. Nehemiah's courageous leadership led to his appointment as governor, but Nehemiah did not take advantage of his position like his predecessors had, but instead, shared the provision that was made for him by the king. The walls themselves were finished but the doors were not set in the gates, when Sanballat and the other opponents asked to meet with Nehemiah. Nehemiah knew they meant to harm him, and refused to come. After a lengthy exchange that failed to bring Nehemiah into their trap, a man of Jerusalem was paid by Nehemiah's opponents to urge him to hide away in the temple. Such cowering in fear would have greatly discouraged God's people and destroyed Nehemiah's reputation as a leader, but Nehemiah refused to do so. Instead, Nehemiah prayed asking God to remember and deal with his enemies. We should also let God deal with our enemies, rather than seeking vengeance for ourselves.