So far in Nehemiah, we see how the enemies from outside the camp hindered the work, but in this chapter we learn that the injustice wasn't limited to the likes of Sanballat and Tobiah, but also there was injustice inside the camp. Nehemiah show us how to defend the oppressed and rules without harsh burdens on the people. When you see injustice around you, what do you do to respond to the need? We learn in chapter 5 that we should always do right out of reverence for God.
At the beginning of this chapter we find that men and women came to Nehemiah to make him aware of the mistreatment they were enduring at the hands of their Jewish brothers. They had great numbers, but didn't have enough to eat during the famine. In exchange for food, they mortgaged their homes, their fields and their vineyards. They had to borrow money to pay their taxes and sell their children into slavery. They incurred so much debt they had no hope of getting free and were perpetually being oppressed by the rulers of the people. They were powerless to do anything to save themselves as the fields were mortgaged and they were redirecting all their proceeds to pay their debts. They knew the truth of Proverbs 22:7 "just as the rich rule poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender."
The same strategies that keep people oppressed and enslaved today were used in the time Nehemiah. Think about this... whoever controls the purse strings controls your life. This passage in Nehemiah could be a page from our newspaper today. I was very encouraged to see that Nehemiah was a strong leader who was not afraid to confront wrong. I wonder if the same could be said for me. Do I go to the effort to make things right when I see wrongs being committed?
Nehemiah was outraged that the leaders would treat the people this way. He called them together to give them an opportunity to speak for themselves about the charges that were brought to him. When they were confronted they had nothing to say in their defense. I think they knew that what they were doing was wrong and they couldn't defend it. They were caught.
I think of the recent news with Governor Mark Sanford being caught in adultery. When he was caught by the media he didn't defend his actions, but renounced them. Interesting though that he didn't renounce them before being caught. Before we point our finger to others too much, how many times have we done the same thing justifying our wrong choices and rebellion. Have you ever said "I am sorry, officer when caught speeding?" Do you ever knowingly speed? Do you ever use your employer's materials and equipment for personal purposes? We go down a very slippery slope accusing others and evaluating ourselves by a lesser standard.
It demonstrates that we need enforcement to keep us honest. Nehemiah needed to stand against the wrongs being committed in order to correct the situation. If we merely say that we can't judge another's behavior, we will never stand for right and we will be guilty of allowing the wrong continue. People who are guilty of wrong do not want their deeds exposed because they know that they would have to change their behavior. What deeds are you doing that you don't want exposed. Change now before the light is shone on them. Encourage others to change their sinful ways before they stand before judgment with no defense as these leaders did.
Nehemiah had sufficient burdens as a leader just confronting the opposition of Sanballat and encouraging the workers to keep progressing in the face of the enemy. Now there is internal strife that must be dealt with. He needs to stand boldly against internal abuses. He is a true leader in that he forfeits what he could require as governor in order to strengthen the people and set the example for them to focus on the task of rebuilding.
Nehemiah was a man willing to do right out of reverence for God. He stood for justice, he had compassion for the oppressed and he led as a benevolent leader. Will you take courage to stand against the wrongs around you? Nehemiah kept his focus on the Lord and because he was strong in the Lord he was able to boldly confront wrongs and to enforce right. Can you?