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Relationships Are Everything!

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Arise And Build!  All Things Are Possible With God’s Help

Relationships Are Everything!

Nehemiah 5:1-13

Verbs-In Hebrew Order

       A Christian teacher was once addressing a group of students in his English class.  “All of you know,” he said, “the verb which is used as follows: ‘I am, you are, he is.’  Perhaps you are not aware of it, but the verbs in English, German, French, Italian, and Latin are all conjugated the very same way.  They always occur in this order, ‘I love, you love, he loves.’  But do you know that that is a very bad way for a verb to run?  The Hebrew people, with better discernment, arranged their verbs just the other way around.  They say, ‘he is, you are, I am’!”  Then he added, “That is the way in which Jesus also told us to look at life.  You should fix your attention on God, saying, ‘He is to be first in my love.’  Then, looking at your neighbor, declare, ‘You are to be second in my affections.’  Last of all you should humbly consider yourself and say, ‘I am to be the least.’  Remember, first there is God, then your neighbor, and finally yourself!  That is the Scriptural way to think and live.”

       The most important thing in the universe is relationships.

·        The Tri-unity of God is an eternal relationship.

·        We were created as a relationship:  “Male and female created He them!”

·        We cannot be healthy without healthy relationships!

·        When we accept Jesus Christ, we are born into the Family of God and come into an everlasting relationship with God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost and His body, the Church, our spiritual brothers and sisters.

·        When everything is consummated and Jesus reigns eternally from the throne of David, the only things that are going to remain from this earthly way of life is our relationships.

Relationships are everything!!!

This brings us to a very important section of this narrative concerning Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  We have observed the criticism, ridicule, and open opposition to this Godly building program, which was headed by Nehemiah.  But, now we come to a problem that is more serious than the ones I have just mentioned.  Because of the times in which they lived there was a money crunch.  The people had not long moved back to their land and times were hard.  During these hard times, a certain class of Jews was enslaving their Jewish brothers.  That was worse than anything that could happen on the outside.  This was a cancer that would destroy them from within, if it were not removed.

The right kind of business and personal relationships had to be established and Nehemiah wasted no time.

(Notice with me please Nehemiah 5:1-13.  In this portion of Scripture we see:)

I.     The Outcry Of The Jews (vv. 1-5).

We should be able to identify with this situation, because our economy is also in very bad shape.  We must be concerned with money and using it wisely.  We must also be concerned about adopting a treacherous business attitude.  We must balance our financial values with our people values.  We must develop biblical business ethics.

       With situations like Enron and people like Martha Stewart, do I need to make a case that ethics have all but disappeared from America business?  All business people seem to be interested in today is wealth.  And once they obtain that wealth, they have no plans to use it for the good of society.

       In Mediterranean culture, this was considered evil!  The Israelites believed that wealth should be distributed for the good of everyone around them.

3187: Japan And The U.S.

       In an article by Robert S. Bachelder entitled, “Japan and the U.S.:  The Economics of Equity,” the author maintains that a major reason for the success of Japanese business and the decline of U.S. business is that the former is more ethical.  U.S. business has been interested only in profit.  The Japanese are interested in the worker.  U.S. companies fire workers or reduce wages because such cost-cutting yields higher profits and stock prices.  The churches should speak to these issues and teach servant leadership to the corporation executives who still sit in the pews.  “Perhaps we need a different approach, one that devotes greater energy to helping businesspeople understand the moral necessities of their daily work...to point the way to a new American society in which all people can enjoy the fruits of the earth.

       “Japan and the U.S.:  The Economics of Equity” by Robert S. Bachelder. Christian Century, Aug 26-Sep 2, 1987. Pages 719-723.

(All right, back to the story.)

       Evidently there was a class of Jews who were more well to do than the rest.  They evidently were doing a booming business at the cost of their brothers.  Doesn’t this sound like America?  So, the people and their wives began to cry out or complain.

Likewise, the people of America are crying out, but no one seems to be listening.  Those who do listen don’t seem to have the power to do anything.

(Let us go on to verse 2:)

Evidently there was a population explosion and there was a shortage of food.

The people had no money or other sources of income so they mortgaged their fields, vineyards and houses.

       When you are hungry you can’t eat land and houses.

       In addition, the interest rate was exorbitant.  Verse eleven says it was a hundredth part, or 1% per month, or 12% a year.  That is pretty stiff even today.

Not only did they have to borrow to live, they had to borrow to pay the king’s tax on their property.

The Jews said to themselves, “Aren’t we like our brothers, aren’t our children like their children, aren’t we all Jews?”  Yet they were selling their sons and daughters to stay alive, and their fields belonged to the mortgagers.

       We had better look at this situation carefully.  God wants us to use our money wisely.  The Jews were in a pitiful condition.  Likewise, this nation is in a sorry condition.  And this church is going to be in a sorry financial condition, if we don’t pay attention to these lessons.  Minister Warfield gave me a powerful verse that we must consider.  The Israelites state in

Nehemiah 9:36 (NLT), “So now today we are slaves here in the land of plenty that you gave to our ancestors!  We are slaves among all this abundance!”

Because we are not submitting our money and business practices to the Lord, we are slaves in the midst of all of this abundance!!!

(We have seen the outcry of the Jews, but we can also see:)

II.    The Outrage Of Nehemiah (vs. 6).

When Nehemiah heard the outcry of the Jews, he became angry or outraged.  Why?  One reason is that they had taken their eyes off of the work and centered them on themselves.  No effective work could be done while people were concerned and worried about themselves.


       Many Christians are good stewards in many areas, but their personal finances are in shambles.  We cannot effectively work for God and honor Him, while our budgeting and giving is in ruins!  Our eyes are centered on ourselves, not on the work of God, and we are allowing ourselves to be trapped in debt!  The Bible says in

Proverbs 22:7 (NASB-U), “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”

(We have seen the outcry of the Jews and the outrage of Nehemiah.  Now we are ready to look at the opposition of Nehemiah to these Israelite capitalists.)

III.   The Opposition (vv. 7-13).

(I can see several stages in Nehemiah’s opposition to these Jews.  First I can see:)

A.    The Consultation (vs. 7).

First Nehemiah consulted with himself.

consulted 4427b malak “To counsel, advise” (James Strong).  “i.e. I considered carefully, Nehemiah 5:7” (Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius).

Think before you act.  Every leader needs think time.  Every person needs think time.

(Next we see:)

B.    The Confrontation (vv. 7-9).

Nehemiah thought about the situation, and then he contended or confronted the nobles and the rulers.

       We need a person of God who is not afraid to confront sin.  By God’s help, I’m going to be that man!!!


Now, what was the charge, “You are exacting usury (interest), each from his brother.”  Nehemiah called a meeting to discipline those nobles and rulers.  Some of you may be saying, “What was wrong with charging interest?”  It was expressly forbidden in the Word of God!

Leviticus 25:35-37, 42 (NASB-U), “Now in case a countryman of yours becomes poor and his means with regard to you falter, then you are to sustain him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you. [36] Do not take usurious interest from him, but revere your God, that your countryman may live with you. [37] You shall not give him your silver at interest, nor your food for gain.  For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale” (emphasis mine).

       Why were the Jews in the condition they were in?  Why were the Jews in bondage?  Because, they refused to heed the Word of God.

Why is the U.S. of America in the condition it is in?  Because, we refuse to follow the Word of God!

Why are individualistic Christians and the church in financial difficulty, because we refuse to heed the financial principles of God’s Word.  There are more financial principles in God’s Word then I have time to deal with, but let me simply say that one very important principle is giving and sharing.  If you do not give and share with your natural family and your church family, you will not be blessed.

When Nehemiah confronted them, they couldn’t say a word.  What could they say?  They knew the Word of God, yet they disobeyed it for gain.

       Many of us today would do the same thing to our brothers and sisters, if slavery were not illegal.  We cheat our brothers and sisters in the Lord to make a dollar.


Testing Your Love for God

       If you have ever had the opportunity of seeing a large boiler in action, you may have noticed a tiny glass tube running up its side.  As the water stands in this gauge, so it stands in the great tank.  When it is empty, the boiler is in the same condition.  Do you sometimes say to yourself, “I love God, but I wonder how much”?  Well, look at the gauge!  The Bible tells us that our regard for our brother is the true measure of our love for the Lord!

(Let’s move on to verse 9:)

This is a matter of biblical values against business values.  They wanted to make money more than they feared the Lord.  Their deplorable behavior brought reproach on God in the sight of their enemies.

       Many Christians today have business values that conflict with the Bible.  They believe in making money no matter what the cost and who gets hurt.  The biblical values for the value of life and relationships do not come into view when they are dealing with money and it hurts God and Christianity.  Sinners look on and say, “Is that the way Christians are supposed to live?”  We must get our business, financial, and interpersonal relationships straightened out.  We must get them straightened out, if not for ourselves, for the sinners who are watching us.  If during these hard times we steal food stamps and do other illegal and immoral things, what kind of witness will we be for Jesus Christ?  But if we handle our business and finances with integrity showing respect and love to the people involved, this will speak well of Jesus Christ.  The most important things in this world are love and relationships, not money and profit.

(We have seen the personal consultation, the confrontation and now:)

C.    The Counsel (vv. 10-11).

Nehemiah counsels them to leave off this interest.

       At least between members of The House of the Lord, let us help one another without charging exorbitant prices and looking for interest.  Let us help one another without trying to make top dollar.


Nehemiah had a plan to reduce the indebtedness of those who were poor.  He suggested that the lenders return property that was being held as a security deposit and not charge interest, so those who were poor would not be entrapped by debt.  And Nehemiah counseled them to begin doing that the same day.  Some things are too important to procrastinate about.

       Perhaps America should take a look at the advice of Nehemiah.  Some poor people are never going to get out of debt because of the situation that they find themselves in.  Perhaps if we forgave all debts and started over, we could get our economy on the right track.  Even if we just forgave all interest and allowed people to start paying on the principle, many could get out of debt and our economy would start turning around.

Do you know that if you buy a $50,000.00 home at 14% interest for 30 years, your payment will be $592.44 @ month and you will pay $213,120.00 for that home.  That is roughly three times more than what the house is worth.  Without the interest you could pay off the principle amount in 7 years.

No wonder the Bible says in

Proverbs 22:7 (NASB-U), “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.”

For those of you who are making house payments.  If you can put yourself in the position to make your regular monthly payment, but also make a second payment on the principle, you can pay off your mortgage in about 7 years.  So you can see that forgiving debts and doing away with interest would free the poor Israelites.

I suggest that we periodically retire someone’s debt, until we are all out of debt.

      

(In this process of opposing the capitalistic Jews, we have watched Nehemiah’s personal consultation, his confrontation of the Jews and his counsel of the Jews.  Now, we are ready to look at the commitment of the Jews.)

D.    The Commitment (vv. 12-13).

The Lord moved miraculously in the hearts of the rich Jews.  The Holy Spirit used the significant emotional event of Nehemiah’s confrontation to convict them.  Keep in mind that Nehemiah’s values and confrontation were based on the Word of God.  What a response Nehemiah got from the nobles and rulers!!!  They committed to forgive all debts and not charge their brothers interest.

       I think it is time for us to forgive all debts to our brothers and sisters.  I believe that a lack of forgiveness is one of the biggest hindrances in many irreconciled relationships.

Working On the Wrong Side

       A young boy asked his mother if he could help her wash the windows.  She welcomed his offer and told him to begin with the one in the kitchen because it was the dirtiest.  He went outside and worked diligently until he thought it was clean.  Then with a dry cloth he rubbed until his arms were tired, but the pane of glass still had many smudges.  Frustrated, he called his mother and asked her what was wrong.  Looking at what he had done, she said with a smile, “You have been spending all your time washing the glass out here.  What’s wrong is that the dirt is on the inside!”  The boy went into the house, and soon his efforts made the window clean and sparkling.

Many times we are working on the other person, when the dirt is in our hearts.  If we are saved, we are part of the body of Jesus Christ and organically joined together by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  We are brothers and sisters in the Lord.  On that basis let us forgive all debts.

·        Let us forgive financial debts.

·        Let us forgive personal debts.

·        Let us forgive moral debts.

·        Let us forgive spiritual debts.

Let us forgive any kind of debt that we may be holding against our spiritual brothers and sisters.  Right relationships are more important than personal profit!

Nehemiah wanted the people to realize the seriousness of their vow, so he made an object lesson for them.  He prayed that God shake out every man from his house and his possessions who did not keep his commitment, just as he shook out the front of his garment.  All the assembly accepted and ratified the commitment by saying, “Amen!”  Knowing that they were doing right caused them to praise the Lord.


(We have considered the outcry of the down trodden Jews, the outrage of Nehemiah and the opposition of Nehemiah against the capitalistic Jews.  Now we can see that the Jews were faithful in their commitment to forgive the indebtedness of the poor Jews.)

IV.   The Faithfulness (vs. 13).

But they didn’t just make a commitment and praise the Lord, they also kept the commitment that they had made.

I have a plan that can be used to handle any kind of sin in your life after you are saved (Adopted from Hand Me Another Brick, Charles Swindoll):

1.     Determine to stop it.

2.     Make specific plans to correct the situation as quickly as possible.

3.     Declare your plans for correction in a promise before God.

4.     Realize the serious nature of your vow.

Apply this plan particularly to interpersonal relationships and debt.

(Now is the Day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship

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