90 Day Challenge – Day 72

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Bible Time Period:Return

You brought the exiles back to Canaan; they rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem and were taught once more from your Law: Rebuild my broken heart and life as I return to you.

Reflection

Nehemiah’s task is not easy.  He faces severe opposition from within and without but continues steadfastly, resolutely, and with a deep faith to get the walls of Jerusalem built while introduce some needed administrative reforms.  After concluding the work on the wall, they take a census and then read the Law before the people.  As a result of what they read, they celebrate the Feast of the Tabernacles (“booths” or tents) — a week-long feast held in remembrance of the 40 years the children of Israel spent dwelling in tents in the wilderness before entering Canaan.

Today’s Reading

Nehemiah 5-8

Today’s Question

What crises does Nehemiah confront in chapter 5, and how does he solve it?

Join the discussion below!

Sarah Christmyer

Sarah Christmyer is co-developer with Jeff Cavins of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. She serves as Strategic Consultant of The Great Adventure and is author or co-author of a number of the studies. Sarah has thirty years of experience leading and teaching Bible studies. She helped launch Catholic Scripture Study and is co-author of "Genesis Part I: God and His Creation" and "Genesis Part II: God and His Family," published by Emmaus Road. Sarah has a BA in English literature from Gordon College in Wenham, MA, and is working toward a Masters of Theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. Raised in a strong evangelical family, she was received into the Catholic Church in 1992. Sarah also writes at comeintotheword.com/.

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  • Carla Archuleta

    People were going against the wishes of God and leading through human greed and control. Early on, once Nehemiah was made aware of such happening he shared with them how they would deal with God on this. Immediately they stooped the wrong they were involved in.

  • Marian Potts

    Nehemiah addressed the wrongs and the people obeyed. Their consciences came to life. Nehemiah was a good leader. His words were.” I took counsel with myself,” before he acted. Sounds like he was trying to calm his anger and let the Lord restore reason before he spoke.

  • Margie

    As I began to read Ch. 5, I became sad because my first reaction was the memory of the Exodus when Moses struggled to bring the people away from the oppression, and here they are again suffering, losing their children to slavery and loss of their land because of the extreme taxes. I understood the anguish Nehemiah faced with this problem and was glad to see he had the position to take hold of his leadership position, and confront the oppressors. Even though his life was threatened he stood his ground through his faith in God which in turn brought the people back to their faith, as they listened to Ezra read from the “Book of Law.” Believing in God and trusting with faith is a lesson we all must realize. When there is so much despair in our lives, by just praying with pure devotion, we soon learn God will always grant us mercy.

  • pnkyB4brain

    So few speak for the poor. Nehemiah stood up to the “opportunists” of the country and admonished their actions against their own people. How easy is it to slip into a false sense of security using hard work from others to created a facade of contentment. Nehemiah prayed to God and received an answer for this problem that existed. He asked the nobles to cease what they were doing to this group so beloved by God. They nobles acquiesced. God really does work in mysterious ways. It is as if God sends watchdogs, if you will, to oversee His flock and keep them in the straight and narrow.

    • Carla Archuleta

      So true.

  • Susan

    Many of the great revolutions in the history of the world started because the lower strata of people were downtrodden, disenfranchised, hungry, burdened by taxes and had no reasonable way out of their predicament because those in charge continually took more and more from the people to the point of slavery and bondage. Chapter 5 in Nehemiah has some of these earmarks meaning that there could be rebellion against all that the Israelites were trying to rebuild in Jerusalem. Only great leaders that see outside themselves are able to quell such a swell of destructive energy. Showing himself the man of God that he was, Nehemiah “shook himself out” as the others did and committed themselves to carry on as God’s people by returning to the Law, additionally, the enslaving and bondage was eradicated as the people were give back what was theirs thereby renewing their belongingness to the community as a whole. Nehemiah lead by example and had the support of the kings of the land. God’s people were working as one once again.

  • Social Abuses ‘against their (own) Jewish brethren’. The story of the oppression of the poor by the rich is a familiar one. It is distressing to see how quickly in a poor and struggling community greedy ‘capitalism’ had revived. The poor had no resource but to borrow from wealthy money-lenders, and, as security, to give either their property, when they had any, or their children. Deprived of the profits from their holdings and the labour of their children, there was little hope of ever paying off the debt; hence their children would remain slaves and their vineyards be seized. A proportion of the taxes was allotted to the governor and his establishment for their maintenance. This allowance Nehemiah waived. After all, a good conscience confidently hopes for a reward.

    • Carol

      It is an interesting parallel to our current day. Just like America’s founding fathers said, “capitalism” doesn’t work unless you have a moral, God fearing society. We see examples of envy and greed, brother against brother today. Love Nehemiah for focusing his anger to do good works for God’s purpose.

      • Truly I say to you :-)– The world, if it doesn’t repeat itself, sure does a great imitation! I see M A N Y parallels today. A Monsignor friend once told me “The wheel goes ALL THE WAY AROUND!” And doesn’t it make you understand the old adage “If you don’t learn a lesson from History You’re doomed to repeat it”. In our country not only do I see the Romans in us, but the Israelites as well.

  • Carla Archuleta

    Nehemiah became angered that his people were doing wrong. Therefore, he made it clear to them that they are to live out of fear for our God rather than fear of reproach of the Gentile enemies.

    He went further to let them know that for those who continue such practice that “Thus may God shake from home and fortune every man who fails to keep this promise, and must thus be shaken out and emptied!”. The entire assembly praised him with an “Amen!” They were back on the path of God and did as they promised.

    God is continually having to remind us all to stay focused and live in fear of not following him, and not to fear the human race trying to bring in false gods, idols, and beliefs. Being in an administrative position my biggest struggle, which eventually cost me my job, was staying true to God and not to the politicians in the high positions of the district who were leading others a stray to make one feel important and powerful. The governing board and the majority of the admin stuck tight to their beliefs and lost sight of making decisions that were driven by God. I am thankful for not working with such a group. Know I put my trust in God and ask for him to put me in the position that is best suitable to serve others.

    • Carol

      At the time, were you in fear of losing your job? How did that play out? Did you eventually just let go and trust God? Or was it a constant struggle? I battle with fear myself and I am just curious. How did God guide you?

      • Carla Archuleta

        I was in fear of losing my job, not being able to financially make it, my character totally being destroyed, so many things I feared at the time. What happened is that I was fired.

        I live in such a small community that jobs are difficult to find and anything scandalous makes it more difficult. Although I was fired they paid my contract out for the remainder of the school year (9 months) so financially, for the time being that was not a stresser. During this time I prayed and asked God to strengthen my trust in Him and really asked for guidance, faith, trust, and to put the Lord first (Let go and let God lead us the way). This took a lot of work on my end and what I am finding out each and every day that when I open my heart and soul to putting God first he leads one to a more peaceful life. I do believe my problem is the not having control of my life, but now I say God I trust you lead me the way. This has made a huge difference of knowing he is in control of my life and I so do trust Him.

        Before my nine months of employment was up I was hired and have been working since. GOD is Great! Many or most people in the community know I did no wrong doing, but more important is that I live every day believing that God knows why I went through my trail and so I work every day to put it behind me.

        Words of advise, is that I believe my fear was and at times still is evil wanting to work through my life. Therefore, I know I want to choose God over satan and that means I have to trust that a God is in control of my life. This has really helped me to trust God and not fear of the unknown. I hope this was helpful.

        I read a lot of scriptural books, and since that instance read scripture almost every single day. Amazing how this has helped me realize my journey in this life is all about working towards eternal glory with God someday.. I will pray for the two of us to overcome fear. God bless.

        • Carol

          Hi Carla,
          Thank you so much for sharing! Yes, I believe my fear is from not having control and Satan. I think you give good advice. I have been praying “Jesus, I trust in you” from the Divine Mercy chaplet whenever I feel scared and I love reading the scripture everyday and I want to continue after this challenge is over. Also, I am trying to pray the rosary every day. I think you are right to pray for guidance and open up my heart every day for God. I can visualize that – opening my heart – and that helps me too – thank you. Yes, and keeping focused on the reward of heaven and eternal life – that this life is temporary – is good too. Thank you. I will pray for you too! God bless.

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    Nehemiah found out that the people were not treating their justly. In fact they were being downright dishonest. Nehemiah gave them a good dressing down (Wow I wish that I could have heard that lecture) He said they were not providing a good example to the Gentiles. He then made them promise to return the lands and vineyards to the people and practice usery no more. He then shook his clothes and said “Thus may God shake from home and fortune every man who fails to keep this promise, and may he thus be shaken out and emptied!” This is what Jesus told the Apostles to do when a town rejected them.
    Slowly Nehemiah is restoring the practice of the Law the the Israelite people

  • Avila

    It seems to me that Nehemiah had assumed that people were living to the same standard as himself and I could imagine his distress when he realised that they were undoing his giving and not following the law. As chuck said Nehemiah deliberated and I imagine this must have involved emptying himself or anger and disbelief. He took the time to explain the wrongness of their actions and how he was living, so that they understood that he wasn’t expecting them to make a bigger sacrifice. Knowing how the people had lost their knowledge, he battled the threats but did not neglect the education of his people.

    Nehemiah reminds me of new priests arriving in the parish, who just ask that people carry on as usual and take the time to deliberate on who does what and how. Slowly they move between individuals and ministries listening and asking for slight changes and explaining why. Most of the time, the changes are smooth and other times a little more challenging. This story is a good reminder to value and pray for the Nehemiah’s of today who give us spiritual direction and never ask us to give even a tenth of what the give.

    May our priests walk as Josiah did (turning neither right nor left) with God, protected by His love, guidance and graces. Amen

  • chuck

    it says ” after some deliberation” nehemiah took action. i think this was the gift of the holy spirit that allowed nehemiah ‘s action to be so effective. deliberating – when his understanding meets his experience . the people embraced his wisdom.

  • mg

    Nehemiah solves the issues at hand by suppressing his anger with prayer and reflection, making a direct plan with how to deal with the situation…focused, direct, unwavering action. He also modeled and practiced what he preached, something any good leader and role model must do. This chapter has helped me to see how we must face challenges head on, be an example and role model for others, and above all else, rather than jump to anger, pray to find peace and direction. This Lenten season, let us remember to pray, especially when we need prayer the most. Let us also be great models of fasting and almsgiving so that we may be role models and examples to others, like Nehemiah was in his day.

  • Luz

    The hardships of life were heightened by the famine, heavy taxes, and on top of that, greed was avidly present among the people – the Jews were being taken advantage of by their very own people. Usury is a major violation of God’s law, since Moses (Exodus 22:25). “If thou lend money to any of My People that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.” Nehemiah therefore reminds the people of God’s law and asks them to restore their lands and give back all the excess interest. Amazingly they agreed, maybe their conscious kicked in.

  • pnkyB4brain

    When the people complained to Nehemiah about their lack of food due to taxes and loans the rich and powerful of their tribes exacted upon them, Nehemiah was angry. He prayed to God and went right to the source of the problem; the rich and powerful. He proclaimed that they did not follow the statutes of the Lord when it came to loans and slavery and consequently the people suffered a great deal. The rich and powerful listened to him! Of this I was surprised! Perhaps the Holy Spirit entered their hearts and made them realize that God’s wishes were not being followed.
    Nehemiah was a generous leader and a tremendous role model for these people. At this particular time of reentry into Jerusalem, having a role model was so crucial. I also think that since he gave from his heart, the people listened to him. Nehemiah was also a teacher. He utilized genealogy to show the Jewish people where they actually came from. That must have been a proud moment for all and to get together to worship God must have brightened their spirits considerably.
    There have been so many outstanding people that have made their presence known through God in the Bible. These people should be my role models!

  • Liza

    The people were being reduced to slaves of their fellow Jews because their land and property was pawned. Nehemiah spoke out against the usury of the people to the nobles and magistrates and brought justice to the people who were oppressed.

    Nehemiah dealt with several challenges and was just and politically astute.

    I was struck by the lamenting of the people when they heard the law read to them (and I assume they realised how they fell far short of what God wanted for them) but Ezra told them not to weep “…for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD is your strength!” I was reminded how we have to weep in Lent over how far short we fall of God’s Grace and continue to engage with sin and death, but for us every day is also a day of celebration as Christ has saved us and we live life in him with the Holy Spirit. This is the Joy of The Gospel. I hope I can learn to share this Joy and give others hope in their lives.

    • Ann Basile

      Thanks for your insight, Liza!