Nehemiah 5:1-19

Dealing with Strife and Division


We have noted that the book of Nehemiah is about a building project

A) Rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem – Security / Safety / Freedom


B) One thing that you can always expect in any building project is OPPOSITION { We need to learn from this as a Church

1) Opposition comes in various forms – Saw two forms last time


C) External Opposition: Mocking –

     Lesson: Pray, Keep working, set a watch!


D) Internal Opposition: Discouragement

     Lesson: Don’t focus on the rubbish, focus on the Lord.


E) Today we see another form of opposition: Strife and Division

1)  Lesson: Building is a time for unity and a time for Sacrifice


                             RD V 1-5      


In the midst of a “great work” for a “great God”  came  a “great cry”

A) We read in v.1 that a great cry was heard among the Jews.


B) They were not crying out against the Samaritans, the Ammonites, or the Arabs, but against their own people!


C) As we come to ch. 5 this group that had rallied together – who had a mind to work – who were rejoicing in the greatness of their God

1) Were suddenly dealing with internal Strife and Division


D) One of the things that does the most harm to God’s work is dissention among God’s people.

1) If the work was going to succeed unity would be essential.




A) Economically times were hard – the people were dealing with famine


B) The city had not been tilled and cultivated to meet all the demands of the hundreds of people who had suddenly flooded in to build the wall.

1) The current crop could not meet the demands – shortage of food supplies.


C) Not only that but the people were also dealing with heavy taxation that was coming down from the King – the Persians were ruling at this time

1) And all the regions were taxed


D) So in order to get food and to pay their taxes – the people were borrowing against their farms and their homes


Now one of the things that you need to understand is that there wasn’t banks at this time –

A) So they were borrowing from the wealthy Jews – the rulers & the nobles


B) But there were two problems associated with what was happening

1) The first is that the rulers and the nobles were charging interest


C) Now God had clearly outlined rules for lending & borrowing in his word- they were allowed to lend – but they were not to charge interest


Deut 23:19-20  "You shall not charge interest to your brother -- interest on money or food or anything that is lent out at interest. 20 To a foreigner you may charge interest, but to your brother you shall not charge interest, that the LORD your God may bless you in all to which you set your hand in the land which you are entering to possess.


Lev 25:35-38 'If one of your brethren becomes poor, and falls into poverty among you, then you shall help him, like a stranger or a sojourner, that he may live with you.36 Take no usury or interest from him; but fear your God, that your brother may live with you.37 You shall not lend him your money for usury, nor lend him your food at a profit.

D) So the first problem was that the rulers and nobles were Charging interest – which went against God’s word


The second problem was that when someone couldn’t pay back their loan the lenders were taking their homes their land & in some cases their children for slaves

A) This practice was also forbidden by the Lord –


Lev 25:39-41 'And if one of your brethren who dwells by you becomes poor, and sells himself to you, you shall not compel him to serve as a slave.40 As a hired servant and a sojourner he shall be with you, and shall serve you until the Year of Jubilee.41 And then he shall depart from you -- he and his children with him -- and shall return to his own family. He shall return to the possession of his fathers


B) SO God forbade his people to treat one another as slaves – and he provided a way to balance the economic system

1) In the 50th year which was called the year of Jubilee - . All debts had to be forgiven and all land restored to its original owners, and all servants set free.


C) So these rulers and nobles were clearly acting in a way that was contrary to God’s word in their EXPLOITATION OF  their brethren


D) Now we noted in our first study in the book of Nehemiah that it is also an excellent study in leadership – How to lead – how a leader is to act

1) How a leader deals with problems – this case the problem of strife and Division.


E) Consider what we can learn from Nehemiah about how to deal with this type of Problem.


1st consider his response :V.6  And I became very angry when I heard their outcry and these words.

A)  The first mark of a good leader: He becomes angry at injustice


B) When Nehemiah hears about the abuse that was taking place – he gets upset

1) This was not the flaring up of a sinful temper but the expression of righteous indignation at the way the rulers were oppressing their brothers.


C) He doesn’t turn a blind eye – he doesn’t ignore the problem –

1) Nehemiah was not a politician who asked, “What is popular?” or a

    diplomat who asked, “What is safe?”

2) but a true leader who asked, What is right?”


D) His was a holy anger against sin, and he knew he had the Law of God behind him.

1) He was angry at the greed and compassion of the rulers – He is angry that their actions were affecting the unity of the people & stopping the work.


E) Now I am sure that Nehemiah’s reaction gave him greater credibility in the eyes of the people.

1) They knew that he care AND  that he cared about them deeply!


David wrote in Ps 4:4 Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.

A) We see that Nehemiah followed David’s advice –


B)  The second response : he consulted before he confronted   V7 After serious thought, I rebuked the nobles and rulers,

NASB  I consulted with myself and contended with the nobles and the rulers


C) Nehemiah was a man passionate enough to get angry; but wise enough to not act until he had considered the matter carefully.

1) I admit that I have faltered in this area more times than I care to admit

I get frustrated w/ people things – I react in the flesh – angry

2) Instead of responding in the Spirit !


D) But I am learning – to Slow down think things through.

1) A couple of Wed nights ago – things went wrong – areas not covered

Another thing I have learned over the yrs is the need to prepare my heart –

A) Each morning before coming here – Devotions prepare my heart to come here and minister. Respond in the spirit / instead of react in flesh


B) But you know what I have discovered is when I am leaving here to go home I also need to prepare my heart to go home and minister

1) First ministry: Most important ministry – We used to live two minutes away – I found – I was never ready to be home – mind was still here


C) Now live 10-15 minutes away – Drive home prepare heart – tape worship pray about things that happened during the day

1) The last thing I want to do after a tough day is dump on Denise or be in a bad mood when I get home


D) Sometimes I stop and get an iced tea – sit at the Park – pray before going home – It helps a lot.


Nehemiah is a wise leader – He consults before he confronts !


So that was his response – He became angry at injustice and consulted before he confronted

A) Next we want to consider his actions – Nehemiah does 4 things here that were essential for dealing with this situation


B) He rebuked / He corrected / He asked for accountability and He led by example    


C) #1 He rebuked: RD V.7- 10


Nehemiah starts by rebuking these guys – He calls them on the carpet and points out where they were wrong.

A) The word rebuke means to reprimand sharply


B) In his rebuke he reminds the rulers of four very important things

1st he reminds them that these were their brothers – He uses the term brother or brethren 4 times in these verses

A) Now this is a good thing for us in the body of Christ to remember – we are  FAMILY – services – not to be cute – true


B) Brothers and sisters in Christ – Older – Father in the faith or a mother in the faith – we are family


C) Linked by Blood – the blood of Jesus Christ - 


Ps 133:1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!  

A) Father came upon his sons who had been fighting w/ each other


B) He took the strongest of the boys and handed him a stick – he told him to snap it – The boy did so with contempt

1) Then he handed him two sticks & said again snap these – the boy had to strain a little but he was able to break the sticks


C) Then it was 3 sticks – the boy had to strain a little harder to snap them – Next it was 4 sticks – He had to admit defeat

1) Then the father cautioned his sons – A house divided cannot stand

Anyone can over throw you one by one  But Stand together in unity and your united strength will give your enemies second thoughts


Lee Iacocca once asked legendary football coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team.

A) He noted that Some teams are sound fundamentally but they don’t win / Some teams are well disciplined -

third ingredient: if you're going to play together as a team, you've got to care for one another. You've got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself: 'If I don't block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.'  "The difference between mediocrity and greatness," Lombardi said that night, "is the feeling these guys have for each other." 

A healthy Church is one that realizes – we are family – we are connected by Blood and cares for each other accordingly


So first he reminds them that they are Brothers – the 2nd thing that he does is reminds them that they have been redeemed in v.8 And I said to them, "According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?"


Apparently there had been an effort to free those who had been taken captive by the Babylonians – now free

A) But in the even bigger picture as  a nation they had been set free from the captivity of Egypt


B) They were a redeemed people – rescued by God – redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb –

1) Nehemiah’s question is simple – how can you put your brothers & sisters back into bondage?


C) We in the body of Christ also need to be careful of this – we can put people that God has redeemed and set free back into bondage

1) How do we do that ? Through Guilt – Some people are really good at making others constantly feel guilty


D) They manipulate others through guilt – like rewinding the tape on the video machine to show it again and again


E) Nehemiah’s question is a good one for us to ponder and consider – Are we going to put those that God has set free into bondage.


The 3rd thing that Nehemiah does is he reminds them of the word of God and their need to walk in the fear of God – V. 9 Then I said, "What you are doing is not good. Should you not walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the nations, our enemies?

A) Walking in the FEAR OF GOD – means that I am Not looking at for what is best for me but what is best in God’s eyes


B) If a situation benefits me but is outside of the boundaries of God’s will then I don’t want any part of it

4th Nehemiah tells them they needed to remember their witness (v. 9b).

A) Their behavior would be a reproach to the nations – They were to be an example to the other nations of how to treat each other.


B) Problem was there were acting just like the nations around them –

1) There was no difference


C) I ask this question how will those who don’t know Christ – be drawn to Christ if they don’t see any difference in the Church

1) We sue each other – we divorce each other – we gossip about each other


D) We do everything that they do – So why be a Christian ?


 So first Nehemiah rebuked – 2nd He corrected v.11

11 Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them."


A) Nehemiah exhorts them to make the situation right by restoring what they had taken – their lands their houses


B) “The reference to the hundredth part” was the interest charged for the money, Which was probably applied monthly,

1) making a total of 12 percent interest a year.


C) Being a man of action, Nehemiah told the brokers to restore both the interest and the security they had taken from their fellow Jews.


D) So Nehemiah doesn’t just rebuke but he has a answer and a plan for the problem : The response V.12

So they said, "We will restore it, and will require nothing from them; we will do as you say."


The 3rd thing He does is hold them accountable v. 12b  

Then I called the priests, and required an oath from them that they would do according to this promise.

A) As I picture this scene in my mind , I see Nehemiah pointing to the money-lenders: “You make a promise to these workers.”


B) Then he looks at the priests: “You remember their promise before God.”

1) This was a way of saying that the promise was not just between the bankers and the builders but between them and the Lord.

2) He was asking the Priest to hold them accountable – { Accountability


C) Nehemiah concludes this meeting with a very serious visual illustration

V 13 Then I shook out the fold of my garment and said, "So may God shake out each man from his house, and from his property, who does not perform this promise. Even thus may he be shaken out and emptied."


Nehemiah wants these people to realize the serious nature of their promise to God.

A)Nehemiah shook out the folds of his robe, which symbolized what God would do if they broke their vow.


B) We might say it this way: If you don’t keep you promise, here’s what will happen.

1) God’s going to turn you upside-down and shake you until you have nothing left in your pockets.


C) Then He’s going to grab your wallet and empty it!

1) If you don’t assist the poor, you will yourself become poor.

v.13b And all the assembly said, "Amen!" and praised the LORD. Then the people did according to this promise.

D) What started as a great cry of outrage led to a confrontation which led to a commitment to change and concluded with shouts of praise in a corporate worship service.


E)  SO Nehemiah Rebuked / Corrected / held them accountable

Finally we see that  Nehemiah LED BY EXAMPLE :RD v 14-19

D.L. Moody said, “A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.”


A) Nehemiah never read Philippians 2:1–13, that great passage where Paul illustrates the example of Jesus { Selfless servant -

1) Nehemiah didn’t know that passage – it hadn’t been penned yet - but he certainly practiced it.


B) Nehemiah became the governor in Israel – a position that he held for 12 yrs – It was a position of honor & Privilege

C) But Nehemiah didn’t use any of that Privilege – instead he Sacrificed and he gave

1) He took none of the provisions allotted to him as governor


D) Instead of taking from the people – He gave to the people – daily he fed 150 of his countrymen

1) As well as visitors


Nehemiah illustrates a very important principle – Building is a time for Sacrifice and sharing –