“Others said, ‘We have mortgaged our fields, vineyards, and homes to get food during the famine.’
And others said, ‘We have had to borrow money on our fields and vineyards to pay our taxes.'”
Nehemiah 5:3-4 NLT
Last time we took a look at the larger political landscape affecting our rebuilders, focusing on how the famine impacted large families’ ability to eat. Today we see two other groups and their hardships during a drought: landowners who had to mortgage their property and those who had to borrow money to pay taxes to the king.
The Hebrew word for mortgaged is arab – given in pledge, exchanged. And borrowed is lavah – join, abide with, cleave, unite, remain. If those two definitions don’t sound like a serious venture I’m not sure what does. The people had to give their vineyards and homes in exchange for food and unite themselves to those with greater means just to pay taxes (middah – garment, a feminine form of mad – measurement, cloth, robe, stature). And remember, while these taxes were ultimately going to the king, they were conducting these transactions not with the government but with their fellow Jews. And their brothers were likely not honoring God in the compassionate way He instructed His people to deal with each other.
How about us, Believers? In what way are we keeping a record of wrongs with each other, exchanging harsh, public words to feel superior? Or cleaving to each others’ faults, racking up debts no one but the Ransom from Heaven can truly pay?
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”
Romans 13:8 NIV
“When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along. The law code—don’t sleep with another person’s spouse, don’t take someone’s life, don’t take what isn’t yours, don’t always be wanting what you don’t have, and any other ‘don’t’ you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.”
Romans 13:9-10 MSG
Friends, no doubt there was government oppression at play in our rebuilders’ situation. But the focus here is on how kinsmen, countrymen, brothers were taking land from those who needed it and charging high fees on loans to those who couldn’t repay. This was not following what our generous Yahweh had commanded, nor what was loving.
Let’s release each other in our day. Just open our hands and allow God to work in His Bride. Marvel in our differences and how He uses the variety of expressions of church worldwide to show off His character. And allow Him room to work in areas in which we are needy or are not releasing our brothers and sisters from debt. None of us could pay the price He did. Let’s stand in awe then turn around and love like Him.