This is Episode #145 and today we’ll read Nehemiah chapters 4-6 together. Weapons in one hand, tools in the other. Social injustice righted; intrigue and intimidation. This episode has is all!
Joy: You’re listening to Season 2 of the Lifting Her Voice podcast. This is Episode #145 and today we’ll read Nehemiah chapters 4-6 together. Weapons in one hand, tools in the other. Social injustice righted; intrigue and intimidation. This episode has it all!
Welcome to the Lifting Her Voice podcast, Season 2! I’m your host, Joy Miller, and I invite you to grab your Bible and join me – from the beginning – simply reading God’s word together. We built some spiritual muscles in 2020 with just the New Testament. But this year we’re going all out, cover-to-cover, Old Testament and New. So, whether with your first cup in the morning, your commute to work, or as the last thing on your mind before sleep, God’s Word will equip you for every good work. I’m really glad you’re here!
Nehemiah Chapter 4
Progress in Spite of Opposition
When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became furious. He mocked the Jews before his colleagues and the powerful men of Samaria and said, “What are these pathetic Jews doing? Can they restore it by themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they ever finish it? Can they bring these burnt stones back to life from the mounds of rubble?” Then Tobiah the Ammonite, who was beside him, said, “Indeed, even if a fox climbed up what they are building, he would break down their stone wall!”
Listen, our God, for we are despised. Make their insults return on their own heads and let them be taken as plunder to a land of captivity. Do not cover their guilt or let their sin be erased from your sight, because they have angered the builders.
So we rebuilt the wall until the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had the will to keep working.
When Sanballat, Tobiah, and the Arabs, Ammonites, and Ashdodites heard that the repair to the walls of Jerusalem was progressing and that the gaps were being closed, they became furious. They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and throw it into confusion. So we prayed to our God and stationed a guard because of them day and night.
In Judah, it was said:
The strength of the laborer fails,
since there is so much rubble.
We will never be able
to rebuild the wall.
Nehemiah Stationed Guards
And our enemies said, “They won’t realize it until we’re among them and can kill them and stop the work.” When the Jews who lived nearby arrived, they said to us time and again, “Everywhere you turn, they attack us.” So I stationed people behind the lowest sections of the wall, at the vulnerable areas. I stationed them by families with their swords, spears, and bows. After I made an inspection, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the great and awe-inspiring Lord, and fight for your countrymen, your sons and daughters, your wives and homes.”
Sword and Trowel
When our enemies heard that we knew their scheme and that God had frustrated it, every one of us returned to his own work on the wall. From that day on, half of my men did the work while the other half held spears, shields, bows, and armor. The officers supported all the people of Judah, who were rebuilding the wall. The laborers who carried the loads worked with one hand and held a weapon with the other. Each of the builders had his sword strapped around his waist while he was building, and the one who sounded the ram’s horn was beside me.
Then I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, “The work is enormous and spread out, and we are separated far from one another along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the ram’s horn, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us!” So we continued the work, while half of the men were holding spears from daybreak until the stars came out. At that time, I also said to the people, “Let everyone and his servant spend the night inside Jerusalem, so that they can stand guard by night and work by day.” And I, my brothers, my servants, and the men of the guard with me never took off our clothes. Each carried his weapon, even when washing.
Nehemiah Chapter 5
There was a widespread outcry from the people and their wives against their Jewish countrymen. Some were saying, “We, our sons, and our daughters are numerous. Let us get grain so that we can eat and live.” Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, vineyards, and homes to get grain during the famine.” Still others were saying, “We have borrowed money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. We and our children are just like our countrymen and their children, yet we are subjecting our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters are already enslaved, but we are powerless because our fields and vineyards belong to others.”
I became extremely angry when I heard their outcry and these complaints. After seriously considering the matter, I accused the nobles and officials, saying to them, “Each of you is charging his countrymen interest.” So I called a large assembly against them and said, “We have done our best to buy back our Jewish countrymen who were sold to foreigners, but now you sell your own countrymen, and we have to buy them back.” They remained silent and could not say a word.
Then I said, “What you are doing isn’t right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God and not invite the reproach of our foreign enemies? Even I, as well as my brothers and my servants, have been lending them money and grain. Please, let’s stop charging this interest. Return their fields, vineyards, olive groves, and houses to them immediately, along with the percentage of the money, grain, new wine, and fresh oil that you have been assessing them.”
The Nobles and Officials Repent
They responded, “We will return these things and require nothing more from them. We will do as you say.”
So I summoned the priests and made everyone take an oath to do this. I also shook the folds of my robe and said, “May God likewise shake from his house and property everyone who doesn’t keep this promise. May he be shaken out and have nothing!”
The whole assembly said, “Amen,” and they praised the Lord. Then the people did as they had promised.
Good and Bad Governors
Furthermore, from the day King Artaxerxes appointed me to be their governor in the land of Judah — from the twentieth year until his thirty-second year, twelve years — I and my associates never ate from the food allotted to the governor. The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking from them food and wine as well as a pound of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but because of the fear of God, I didn’t do this. Instead, I devoted myself to the construction of this wall, and all my subordinates were gathered there for the work. We didn’t buy any land.
There were 150 Jews and officials, as well as guests from the surrounding nations at my table. Each day, one ox, six choice sheep, and some fowl were prepared for me. An abundance of all kinds of wine was provided every ten days. But I didn’t demand the food allotted to the governor, because the burden on the people was so heavy.
Remember me favorably, my God, for all that I have done for this people.
Nehemiah Chapter 6
Attempts to Discourage the Builders
When Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall and that no gap was left in it — though at that time I had not installed the doors in the city gates — Sanballat and Geshem sent me a message: “Come, let’s meet together in the villages of the Ono Valley.” They were planning to harm me.
So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.
Sanballat sent me this same message a fifth time by his aide, who had an open letter in his hand. In it was written:
It is reported among the nations — and Geshem agrees — that you and the Jews plan to rebel. This is the reason you are building the wall. According to these reports, you are to become their king and have even set up the prophets in Jerusalem to proclaim on your behalf, “There is a king in Judah.” These rumors will be heard by the king. So come, let’s confer together.
Then I replied to him, “There is nothing to these rumors you are spreading; you are inventing them in your own mind.” For they were all trying to intimidate us, saying, “They will drop their hands from the work, and it will never be finished.”
But now, my God, strengthen my hands.
Attempts to Intimidate Nehemiah
I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was restricted to his house. He said:
Let’s meet at the house of God,
inside the temple.
Let’s shut the temple doors
because they’re coming to kill you.
They’re coming to kill you tonight!
But I said, “Should a man like me run away? How can someone like me enter the temple and live? I will not go.” I realized that God had not sent him, because of the prophecy he spoke against me. Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired, so that I would be intimidated, do as he suggested, sin, and get a bad reputation, in order that they could discredit me.
My God, remember Tobiah and Sanballat for what they have done, and also the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who wanted to intimidate me.
The Wall Completed
The wall was completed in fifty-two days, on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul.
When all our enemies heard this, all the surrounding nations were intimidated and lost their confidence, for they realized that this task had been accomplished by our God.
During those days, the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. For many in Judah were bound by oath to him, since he was a son-in-law of Shecaniah son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam son of Berechiah. These nobles kept mentioning Tobiah’s good deeds to me, and they reported my words to him. And Tobiah sent letters to intimidate me.
Now, we know that Deuteronomy 23:19, says, Do not charge your brother interest on silver, food, or anything that can earn interest. And God’s law repeats that in several other places too. So we can understand why Nehemiah was so incensed by those with, taking such terrible advantage of those without. And he was equally as serious about seeing his twelve years of service as just that – service. He was a true public servant, using he own resources to undertake even the social responsibilities expected of the governor.
I think our country would be better off if we resumed Nehemiah’s example. Do your couple of years in public service and then get back to your real job. There’s much less risk of greed drowning out the servant’s heart when a person isn’t lured by the temptation of coming out richer than he or she went in. I’m sorry…I seemed to have tripped over a soapbox. I’d much rather know what you think about Nehemiah’s request that God remember him with favor at the end of chapter 5. Let me know at Lifting Her Voice.com, Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
See You Tomorrow!
Thank you for joining me here today. I pray that by spending time in His Word every day, you will by changed. Visit me at Lifting Her Voice.com with your comments and questions. And don’t forget to visit the Blog page while you’re there. If you like the podcast, it would be great if you’d give it a five-star review and share it with everyone you know. Don’t forget to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. See you tomorrow!
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Christian Standard Bible(r), Copyright (c) 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible(r) and CSB(r) are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
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