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"The church has never been in as much danger from woodpeckers on the outside as termites on the inside," (Vance Havner). Sanballat and Tobiah had led an attack on the Jews to try to stop the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls in Nehemiah 4. So, the people met this threat with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. But, now in chapter 5, progress is brought to a halt as trouble arises from among the Jews. They stopped fighting against the devil’s crowd and began to fight each other. The great need was reconciliation with each other.

Let’s consider first, THE PROBLEM, (v. 1-5). There was a famine in the land and families were struggling to get enough food to eat, (v. 2-3). On top of that, they had mortgaged their property to get the funds for the food. It got worse—they had to borrow money to pay taxes to the government, (v. 4). That led to slavery, (v. 5). Yet, there are always those who will take advantage of the needy. Some of their brethren were getting rich by loaning the money at exorbitant interest rates—usury as it was called, (v.6-11). This was disobedience to God as we read in Lev. 25:36-37. Your church's situation may not be identical, but it is applicable. The bottom line is this: division was distracting them from the work. Is this an issue with your congregation?

We have diagnosed the problem, but now we need to take THE PRESCRIPTION, (v. 6-13). There are four ingredients to this medicine.

Number one, we note righteous anger, (v. 6). There is a proper anger. Jesus never sinned, yet when he saw the money-changers in the Temple, he became angry and took action!  Anger toward injustice and iniquity is proper. We should be passionate about what God is passionate about. How we deal with our anger is crucial.

See what Nehemiah did. The second ingredient is restraint, (“after serious thought,” v. 7a). He did not explode, but neither did he evade. He exercised restraint. The Hebrew word suggests he talked with himself.  That way he could answer in a constructive rather than destructive way.

Next, we stir in rebuke, (v. 7-10). After calming down, he confronted the issue. He called for an assembly of the people to deal with it, (cf. Matt. 18:15-20). There is a process for bringing reconciliation for those who refuse to repent. Letting it go is like allowing a malignancy of malice to spread that will be terminal to the church.

There followed a call to restoration, (v. 11-13). The wrong must cease and the right must be done. If there were true repentance then there would be reconciliation. The object of church discipline is not punitive, but restorative. Note Nehemiah’s dramatic demonstration, (v. 13). If these continued to make trouble, then God would trouble them!  We need the fear of God!

Thus, we have THE PATTERN, (v. 14-19). Nehemiah was an effective leader because he practiced what he preached. He refused to take the provisions he was rightfully due out of compassion for others. We are to feed the flock, not fleece the flock. Yet, many celebrity preachers live like kings while poor widows support them. The prosperity preachers are right—except they are the ones who prosper!

The conflict was solved and the work continued. Nehemiah did not add to the burdens of the people but helped lift the load by denying himself. Let me ask you—in the sight of God—do you care more for your preferences or the progress of the church?  Real leaders show sacrificial service. Too many preachers and deacons want to lift their voices to boss others around, who will not lift a finger to help!

The fear of God makes a difference, (v. 9, 15).

The Devil will use conflict to distract us. How can the church be focused to be on its mission, if they are fixated on being mad?

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