Thursday 18 June 2015

Bible Book:

“The thing that you are doing is not good.” (v. 9)

Nehemiah 5:1-13 Thursday 18 June 2015

Psalm: Psalm 25


The story so far ... in common with many others, Nehemiah was inexile. He was a cupbearer to the foreign king Artaxerxes, in thecapital city of the Persian empire, Susa. The king noticed howupset Nehemiah was and asked why. Nehemiah had discovered about thedownfall of Jerusalem and its ruins (Nehemiah 1:3; 2:3). Such was the esteem andregard that Artaxerxes had for Nehemiah that the cupbearer wasdispatched back to Jerusalem with the king's blessing and materialwith which to rebuild Jerusalem. (The story is told far better inthis short video from the University ofNottingham.)

Nehemiah sets about rebuilding the walls of the city ofJerusalem. He divides the ruined remains into sections andallocates each section to a group or family who then becomeresponsible for the repair.

But why was the reconstruction of Jerusalem so important? Forthe Jews living in Judah, Jerusalem was central to their identityboth politically and spiritually. They viewed the physicalcondition of the city as symbolic of their status and relationshipwith God. And something needed to be done - things needed to be putright.

And then we come to today's passage, where we see the result ofan economic crisis with people being unable to feed their family,and having to mortgage their land or borrow money at exorbitantrates in order to do so.

Nehemiah's response is interesting. He doesn't create a feedingprogramme for the people, although it's mentioned in passing that"I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money andgrain" (v. 10). Instead he turns his attention to "the nobles andthe officials" (v. 7). He challenges their behaviour arguing thatit isn't right to "[take] interest from your own people" (v. 7),and that it's time to stop. Rather than just addressing thesymptoms of hunger, Nehemiah focuses on a cause - not so much theeconomic crisis which he can't do anything about, but the behaviourand greed of people which exacerbates the situation.

Surely it is not too far a link to make between the physicalrestoration of people's relationship with God in the rebuilding ofthe walls, and the moral restoration of people's treatment of oneanother?

To Ponder

  • What is your faith built upon?
  • How does your behaviour reflect your faith? How might thisbecome closer linked?
  • When looking at issues that affect people, how do you identifythings that you can do to make things better, both in addressingthe immediate needs and tackling the more structural problems? Andwhat do you do about it?

(You may be interested to look at the work that the MethodistChurch (under the auspices of the Joint Public Issues Team) isdoing both in relation to Foodbanks and food poverty, and one ofits underlying causes, benefit sanctions.)

Previous Page Wednesday 17 June 2015
Next Page Friday 19 June 2015