Representing God Well2
As disconcerting as the disturbance in Nehemiah 4 was, in Nehemiah 5 an even more troubling disturbance occurs. This time the actors causing the disturbance are not from outside the community, but from inside.
Having an outside enemy can unite a community. Consider the unity in America after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Having an enemy within, however, can divide a community. Consider the division during the Civil War.
The division these people were experiencing was between the nobles/officials and the poor/hurting.
Considering that the Temple, walls and gates being rebuilt were meant to represent the re-uniting of God and man, we can understand how important this situation would have been to God.
God, we are told, is no respecter of persons. All are equally precious in His sight. Consequently, His people—His image-bearers and character representatives on earth—are misrepresenting Him when they mistreat one another.
This particular mistreatment happened during a famine. Through a variety of self-serving schemes, the well-positioned men offered pseudo-help to the poor. It was “help” sure to put the poor even deeper in debt while increasing the holdings of the wealthy.
When Nehemiah got wind of what was going on he was angry. But instead of rushing to confront, he pondered. When he did confront, then, it was with well thought out accurate undeniable information. That is why when he accused the wrong-doers, “They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say” (Neh.8b).
When he enumerated their wrong-doings and what they needed to do to rectify the situation, their response was “We will give it (fields, vineyards, houses, interest, etc.) back. And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say” (Nehemiah 5:12a).
Nehemiah had represented God well. He confronted the wrong-doers in a straightforward way. This demonstrated respect for them and gave them the opportunity to acknowledge—rather than deny, defend or dismiss—their hurtful ways.
The wrong-doers, in turn, represented God well in that they repented of their sin and promised to do the right thing by those they had harmed. Which they did.
The poor who had been wronged represented God well because they were fed and their property restored to them. Through this, others could see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
By the actions of people representing God well, a divided broken community became unified and rebuilt.
Ponder this: We are God’s representatives and able to contribute to community rebuilding.