Nehemiah leads by example & helps the poor

Nehemiah’s leadership in the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls is noteworthy due to his reliance on prayer and his wisdom in decision-making. Despite facing external threats of terrorism and internal issues with his own people, Nehemiah navigated the difficult circumstances with divine assistance. He also led by example in helping the needy members of the community as they rebuilt the walls and struggled to provide for their families.

Nehemiah 5:1-5 records the problems: “Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. Some were saying, ‘We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.’ Others were saying, ‘We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.’ Still others were saying, ‘We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.'”

The Bible says that Nehemiah pondered the situation before speaking. But when he spoke, he used the Word of God to convict his countrymen of charging interest to their fellow citizens and taking advantage of the needy among them. Nehemiah 5:9-11 says, “So I continued, ‘What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.'”

Thankfully the people responded to the conviction by Nehemiah. They repented and promised not to charge interest but to help their countrymen. Moreover, Nehemiah was sensitive to the circumstances that his people faced. They were burdened with the wall rebuilding as well as providing for their families. In light of this, Nehemiah chose not to take the privileges due him as governor. He did not use the food alloted to him as their ruler. He did not charge excessive taxes, and he did not grab land in this time of economic hardship. Nehemiah led his people in both words and actions by living out Proverbs 22:22-23–“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.”

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