“About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews. They were saying, ‘We have such large families. We need more food to survive.’”
Nehemiah 5:1-2 NLT
Well, we have arrived at a point requiring a bit more explanation about the background of our rebuilders during this time in Jerusalem. You see, during their days a famine had swept across the land. When Nehemiah arrived families had already been struggling to survive. Add to that people halting their daily routines of farming or selling products to help build the wall, and we can understand the financial strain many of them felt.
There are three ways we can know this was serious: One is the use of great (gadol – exceedingly great, bitter) describing the outcry ( tseaquah – cry of distress) of the folk (am). The second is that the wives (ishish) joined in the protest. They were unable to feed their families during this time which was a situation needing solved before the work could continue. (source) They couldn’t go on until this was addressed.
The final way we can know this was indeed a grave matter is the use of against (el – about, concerning) their brothers (ach – countrymen, kinsmen, relative). “…their complaints were not lodged against the foreign authorities but against their own fellow countrymen who were exploiting their poorer brethren at a time when both were needed to defend the country. The poignant cry of the oppressed people is a cry to God for justice…Economic conditions forced even the considerable property owners to mortgage to the aggrandizement of the wealthy few (see Isaiah 5:8). The rich got richer, the poor poorer.” (source)
What a mess. Fortunately, our God is able and willing to step into our mess. And it seems clear from Scripture that when unity among His people is threatened, particularly in the sight of the watching nations, Yahweh takes it seriously. I believe the same is true for us as New Testament believers. Due to our interconnected, media-driven culture, the world is watching us, too, as we work to deal with injustice and disunity and grave outcries in our day.
Believers, may we take the lead against any sin affecting our people and our witness. May we not shy away from difficult truths, peace-keeping instead of peace-making, even as we seek to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. And when abuse or criminal offenses are involved, may we consult the proper authorities and take a clear stand against evil our Heavenly Father Himself is against.
And why do we obey in these matters? So we may live (chayah – make alive, nourish, revive; from chavah – declare, show). To declare among ourselves in the sight of a watching world we are alive in Him – rooted and built up in Him, nourished as we abide and revived by His energy daily, powerfully at work in us.
Friends, we are alive in Him. Let’s deal with grave issues so healing and building may continue. In the sight of all.