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Week 5 Nehemiah 5
***Discussions Questions

Oppression from without is tough enough; but when oppression presses from the inside, it can be doubly difficult. Nehemiah was able to rally the people to continue building even when they were required to keep guard while maintaining the work. The people were working hard, guarding their families and trying to survive. It all became too much for them to bear. They were exhausted, overcome with pressure and began to cry out. As we study this week, let’s consider how we react when feeling overwhelmed and under pressure. Often, when we have a consuming task in front of us, we push our problems down inside us. The people became focused on building the wall, while inside they were falling apart.

Day One:
Today, let’s read verses 1-5. 1) The people began to complain out of sheer misery. Beyond harassment from Tobiah, Sanballat and their allies, what other problems did they face?

2) The people, both men and women, found themselves in dire straits. They were suffering under the greed of their own wealthier, more powerful Jewish brethren. More than likely, the people of verse 1 were the same people mentioned in Nehemiah 3:5. What is said about them there?

3) In order to pay the king’s taxes, the poor Jews borrowed money from the more wealthy Jews in the land. In complete disobedience to God’s Word, the wealthier Jews required payment of debt through taking the poorer Jews’ houses and their children as slaves. There was no way for the poorer Jews to redeem (buy back) their homes or children. All of this was a direct violation of God’s law in Deuteronomy 15:7-15. What did God tell His people about helping one another in this passage?

4) How did God provide a way for redemption of property and family? (Leviticus 25 explains God’s plan.)

5) ***In weaving the thread of redemption through the history of God’s people, how did God create a prophetic picture of the Ultimate Redemption to come in His Son, Jesus?

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Day Two:
We all experience anger at one time or another. Anger is a response that can be dealt with in one of two ways: 1) Godly or 2) Ungodly. Psalm 4:4 says, “Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.” Ephesians 4:26a says, “Be angry, and do not sin.” Today, we’ll examine the root of Nehemiah’s angry reaction, as well as his godly action. As you study, consider issues or situations that stir anger in your heart. Compare how you handle anger and ask God to lead you in handling it in a godly way. Read Nehemiah 5:6-7. 1) Nehemiah listened to the cry of the people over the oppression they faced from their own brethren. How did he react?

Can you imagine how he must have felt? They were working so hard and had come so far. Yet, the people simply could not bear the weight of the situation any longer. Dedication of the people to the work is to be commended; yet, I can’t help but wonder what could have been done if they had expressed their difficulties to Nehemiah at the start. All work on the wall had to be halted while Nehemiah dealt with the issue. 2) Let’s consider the opening phrase of verse 7. My version says, “After serious thought…” The wording indicates that Nehemiah did exactly what Psalm 4:4 says we should do. He took the time to think and meditate on God’s Word. Consulting Strong’s Concordance, we see he “communed with his heart,” or “feelings, will and intellect.” Nehemiah took their cry to heart. How does this step allow us the chance to react in a godly manner when we are angry?

Let’s unpack the rest of verse 7 phrase by phrase. “I rebuked the nobles and rulers…”

3) What did Nehemiah do to the nobles and rulers?

“Each of you is exacting usury from his brother…”

4) Nehemiah pointed to their individual sin of relentlessly oppressing their own people by charging impossible interest. God’s people were commanded to be generous to one another. We’ve seen this teaching in Leviticus. Check the cross reference of Deuteronomy 23:19-20. What does this passage say about the same principle? Of whom were the people allowed to charge interest? Why do you think God gave this command?

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Day Two: (continued)
5) ***Nehemiah called the people together to deal with the problem once and for all. It was important that they be obedient to God’s command. What does Psalm 133 say about the unity of brothers and sisters in the Lord?

Is there another Christian who brings up angry feelings in you today? Have you prayed about the situation? Have you considered your feelings, thoughts and knowledge against the Truth of God’s Word? (Some great verses to help are: Romans 12:18, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, Hebrews 12:14) Have you talked to the person calmly and humbly? Are you seeking unity? If not, follow Nehemiah’s example through these steps, beginning with prayer today. Ask God to bring unity where there is disunity, especially with a believer in your life.

Day Three:
As Nehemiah laid out the reality of their sin before the people, they were left with nothing to say. Conviction does that. It leaves us without excuse and without defense. In what Nehemiah says, however, we find a remarkable example of humility and love. Using his own money, Nehemiah had redeemed some of his Jewish brethren in Babylon. What an example! Read Nehemiah 5:8-9. 1) Nehemiah stood as an example of obedience before the disobedient leaders. According to Leviticus 25:47-52, what was the process of redeeming their Jewish brethren?

2) In asking the two questions Nehemiah asked, he struck the hearts of the wealthy Jews. He called them to think about the horror of what they were doing – selling their own brothers to profit themselves. It was a devaluing, dehumanizing practice. You and I certainly may not carry the guilt of physically selling our brothers or sisters; but we can fall prey to the temptation to devalue others in our treatment of them based on status or cultural standing. How does James 2:1-4 describe showing preference to one person over another?

3) After hearing Nehemiah’s accusation, how did the leaders respond? Why do you think they responded this way?

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Day Three: (continued)
4) Verse 9 bluntly describes the practice of the people. Nehemiah said, “What you are doing is ________ ____________.” How did their actions affect their testimony?

5) Nehemiah reminds the leaders of their place before God. Even if there was no love between the leaders and their people, what should have stopped them from the oppression they committed?

Take a look at how Joseph resisted sin in Genesis 39:9. Here is a man sold into slavery by his own brothers. Yet, his view of God caused him to fear when tempted by sin. How do Joseph’s words and actions give us a clear example to follow when we are tempted by any sin?

Day Four:
Nehemiah called the people to recognize their sin, remember their God, repent from their evil way and go one step further by making things right. These are godly steps for each of us to take in order to live in unity in the Body of Christ. Today, look for the way Nehemiah continued to point people back to God. If God is the focus of each believer’s heart, mind and actions, we can’t help but be unified in Him. Read Nehemiah 5:10-13. 1) In verse 10, Nehemiah demands the leaders stop charging interest on the poor. How does he use his own actions as an example to follow? When seeking to change sinful behavior and move forward in obedience to God’s Word, how helpful is it to have a godly role model?

2) Verse 11 reveals all that had been taken from the poor Jews. List it all here:

What did Nehemiah tell the guilty people to do?

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Day Four: (continued)
3) Luke 19:1-9 is a very familiar account of a man whose life was completely transformed from that of a greedy, rich tax collector into a grateful, generous restorer of all he had robbed people of in the past. What made the difference in his life?

The evidence of Zacchaeus’ heart transformation was his desire to make things right by restoration. Nehemiah called on the greedy Jewish leaders to act on the heart change they experienced. Change of heart prompts change of action. Sometimes, in order to see God at work, we have to go out on a limb. Is God calling you to go out on a limb, stepping out in faith to restore a relationship today?

4) How did the people respond to Nehemiah’s words and the Lord’s conviction?

What did Nehemiah do to ensure there was follow through on behalf of the commitment the leaders made?

5) Nehemiah gave a startling visual demonstration of what God would do to anyone who failed to fulfill their promise. Describe what he did and said in verse 13.

The people all responded in unity. Explain how the end of verse 13 showed their heart of repentance.

Day Five:
Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.” I think we can all agree, Nehemiah was a righteous man. As you study the remainder of chapter 5 today, think about how God used this righteous man for a great work in the land as well as a great work in the people. Let’s read verses 14-19 of Nehemiah chapter 5. 1) Obviously, Nehemiah was a great leader. Because of his leadership and God’s good hand on him, the people appointed him to what position?

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Day Five: (continued)
2) Although Nehemiah could have taken advantage of the “perks” of his position, he didn’t. As a matter of fact, what specific perks did he refuse?

How was this refusal completely different from the previous governors and their servants?

3) What drove Nehemiah to not only lead the people in a godly manner; but also to serve them in a godly manner? (verses 15 and 18)

4) In the New Testament, Jesus repeatedly taught about money. Using a concordance, take a quick look at some of the verses in the Gospels under the heading of “money”. Take note of what Jesus says about the handling of money in our lives.

Paul carried on His teaching with strong words in 1 Timothy 6:10. What does he say and how have we seen the reality of this Truth in Nehemiah chapter 5?

What have you seen greed do in the lives of others?

5) In contrast to the dark oppression by the selfish acts of previous leaders, Nehemiah’s selfless acts shined the light of righteousness over the land. As a Christian, we each must be the Light of Jesus in a dark world. One way to be His Light is to follow the example of Jesus and of Nehemiah in generous giving of ourselves and our possessions. Selflessness shines Jesus in the face of selfishness every time. Take a look at Philippians 2:14-15. Considering the godly character displayed by Nehemiah, and the directive of these two verses, is there some heart work you need to do to “shine Jesus” in the face of selfishness in your own life? If so, take that to the Lord today. I’m certain He will do a transforming work in you. (Philippians 2:13) Building Block: Keeping our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, gives us the ability to keep anger under control, give generously of ourselves and hold all of our possessions loosely for God’s Kingdom use.

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