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Opposition through Extortion

Nehemiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Nehemiah 5:1–13 NIV84
1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” 6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. 9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them—the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil.” 12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.” Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of his house and possessions every man who does not keep this promise. So may such a man be shaken out and emptied!” At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.
Sometimes, things at home are just bad.
The bills pile up.
Aunt Sally is sick again and the family needs you to travel to care for her.
The dog needs surgery, a meeting was inadvertently missed, and the tires need replacing all while you are at your busiest in life.
Sometimes the bad things happen because of us:
We haven’t learned boundaries, so we think everyone else’s problem is ours.
We didn’t budget properly. “I had no idea Christmas was coming again this year!” or “You mean to tell me it gets cold in the winter and a trailer house doesn’t hold the heat like a brick and mortar home? Well, now I know!”
Sometimes we are forgetful or even worse, too lazy to take care of things. We don’t like the word lazy, so we use the phase, “I put it off.”
Other times bad things happen and its not our fault.
You just bought tires, and now you need more because you hit a board with nails in it at 9pm on the way home from the basketball tournament.
The mortgage company hit your bank account for two payments this month instead of one and now you have penalties to other companies because you had insufficient funds.
Or you get a sickness that the doctors can’t figure out or maybe even like some of you can attest to like me-a family member with lung cancer and they didn’t smoke a day in their lives.
In this passage today, we see the Jewish people in a bind. You might say they were being extorted.
Today we are briefly going to look at this passage in light of what the Jewish people were feeling and how that can relate to us.
ex•tor•tion
(14th century)
1 : the act or practice of extorting especially money or other property; especially : the offense committed by an official engaging in such practice
2 : something extorted; especially : a gross overcharge
ex•tort
Today we are briefly going to look at this passage in light of what the Jewish people were feeling and how that can relate to us.
[Latin extortus, past participle of extorquēre to wrench out, extort, from ex- + torquēre to twist — more at torture]
(1529)
: to obtain from a person by force, intimidation, or undue or illegal power
They were struggling so bad, they were selling their kids into slavery.
They were mortgaging their lands and crops and homes.
They were mortgaging their property to pay the kings taxes.
And what was happening was wrong.
Should they be working to buy their food and pay their light bill? Yes! The previous chapter told us how hard they were working!
In fact, the Bible takes a hard line on this; especially in regards to believers.
2 Thessalonians 3:8 NIV84
8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV84
10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
2 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV84
12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
2 Thess.
Today we are briefly going to look at this passage in light of what the Jewish people were feeling and how that can relate to us.

Believer-take care, not advantage

Check out what was going on here in chapter five.
They have sold their kids off.
Notice what verse 2 says.
Nehemiah 5:2 NIV84
2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.”
There is a slight textual variant in one of the words here.
The word translated “many” is one gutteral sound difference from the word “mortgage” that you see in verse 3.
As I was studying this, I asked myself, “why would the writer record the complaint as “our kids are many, we need grain” AND “we’ve mortgaged our lands and mortgaged money to pay the king’s tax?”
So I contacted a Hebrew scholar friend, and he found this interesting as well. He agrees that it probably sound read, “we have mortgaged our sons and daughters that we might buy corn.”
They are in bad shape! Selling off their kids!
Not only that, they...
Mortgaged their land and vineyards and houses.
2 Kings 25:11–12 NIV84
11 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.
They were already poor! Now they’ve been forced to mortgage what little they have left.
They had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax
You see, the Persians are akin to Americans in that they were famous for building projects that took a lot of money that drained the national treasury.
The Babylonians were one of the first nations to start a taxation on those they conquered and the Persians followed suit.
What is the take-away for the believer?
As a Christian, we don’t force a poor person into a worse situation.
Can we always give them what they want? No.
Can we always offer them help they need? Yes. Every single time.
Make a practice never to lead money to someone struggling. Gift it to them.
Don’t hold conditions over the person you are helping.

Believer-recognize and do

Nehemiah 5:6–8 NIV84
6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say.
Nehemiah 5:6-
Notice what Nehemiah did here.
He recognized the situation.
He took time to think about what was going on.
He publically rebuked those in sin.
Matthew 18:15–17 NIV84
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
1 Timothy 5:20 NIV84
20 Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that the others may take warning.
The take-away for the believer is:
Christian, you recognize when your brother/sister is being harmed. Recognize when a lost person is being abused and be their advocate.
Be careful not to speak out of haste. Spend time in prayer.
When you encounter those in sin, deal with it Biblically.

Believer-your lifestyle IS a witness

Please be sure to mark this down, highlight it, and save these notes. You all know what I think about “lifestyle evangelism.”
Generally it’s a cop-out for those who don’t want to open their mouths and share the Good News.
It’s a way a person can feel good about evangelism, yet not really be Biblical about it.
But, at the same time, we need to remember that without a life or a lifestyle backing our words, the Gospel will not only be hindered, but damage for the future will occur.
Nehemiah 5:9 NIV84
9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?
There is something to be said about the way we “walk” as Christians.
James 2:14–17 NIV84
14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Friend, when you are sharing the Gospel with someone at the front of Wal-Mart, there will inevitably be someone there listening to you and will see you again in the back of the store on the phone. Be careful what you are saying. They are listening.
Believer, people love to say, “the Bible says not to judge,” but are the first to judge you when they know you go to church and hear you bad-mouthing a fellow member, maybe even the pastor, deacon, or Sunday School teacher publically.
Christian, we sit as a group, pray over our meal, and leave a Gospel tract, but we are the worst complainers of food that we didn’t make and dishes we don’t have to wash, nastiest to the wait staff, and notoriously bad at tipping. Friend, eat what comes out, smile at the waitress, and love someone well with at least a 20% tip!
How many of you have worked as a waiter/waitress? How many of you funded your 401k doing so or have gotten rich as a waiter/waitress?
Our lifestyle is A witness.
In closing today, I want to encourage you to help the poor among us and those who are not Christians. Use generosity as
a tool to witness.
Be sure to use words when you witness though.
Non-C
The Gospel message is a precious one.
God’s design was perfect. In the beginning the Bible says, “It is good.”
In , Adam and Eve sinned, broke fellowship with God, and passed that down to every single person on Earth.
The Good News is that God still loved us, even while we were sinners.
Romans 5:8 NIV84
8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Because of this sin, we are separated from God.
Ephesians 2:3 NIV84
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
But God still loved us and sent His Son to die in our place, taking the punishment we are due.
Romans 3:23 NIV84
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 6:23 NIV84
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Mark 1:15 NIV84
15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
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