Day 110 Coming Home--“Injustice” Nehemiah 5:1 – 7: 73
April 20, 2021, 7:50 AM

Day 110 “Injustice” Nehemiah 5:1 – 7:73

It is a beautiful day in Belfast, Maine! The sun rises earlier here in the morning, and by my usual wake-up time, light flooded the windows of the place where we are staying, making me feel like I had gotten up late—oh no!! But it was simply the lack of trees and buildings and mountains and the direct light of the sun cutting across the open water and filling the sky. Somewhat nearby is Cadillac Mountain, where you can watch the sun come up, and it’s the place where the sunlight first touches the east coast—the entire east coast! I love that idea, but not so muchthe idea of getting up realllyyy early or the driving in the dark and not being sure the sky will be clear once we get there. My friend made the trip a few years ago and told me that they got to the top of the mountain---pure fog! Some journeys are like that.

Ezra and Nehemiah are kind of like that, to be honest. They are attending to essential tasks that present themselves—resettling the Israelites after the period of exile, reminding the people of their covenant with God, rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, but neither man truly knows that they are preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah, and that their books are among the last to be written in the Old Testament. The only book that is written after Ezra-Nehemiah is Malachi, which spiritually does the same thing—prepares the hearts of the people for the coming Messiah.

We don’t know this either because we are reading the books of the Bible in canonical order—the order that was established by those who decided that the books would be grouped by TYPE, not by chronology. This is why I strongly suggest you keep a Bible timeline handy on your computer. Ezra-Nehemiah are books of history. They will be followed by the final book of history, the book of Esther, which, by the way, takes place before Ezra-Nehemiah!!

Quick baby timeline:

478 BC            Esther Becomes Queen                                   Esther 2

458 BC            Ezra Journeys to Jerusalem                            Ezra 7

444 BC            Artaxerxes Sends Nehemiah to Jerusalem     Nehemiah 2

430 BC            The Word of the LORD by Malachi               Malachi 1 - 4 (FINAL Old Testament book)

In fact, after these books, plus Malachi, the Israelites enter the 400 year period of ‘silence’ for which we have no biblical information to bridge the gap between the Malachi and the beginning of the gospels. We know, however, that Jesus becomes the answer to all the prayers ever prayed as the gospels begin.

So, back to our friend, Nehemiah the builder.

First of all, I thought the Bible Project fellows were very hard on Nehemiah. He’s not perfect, but he is focused on his mission, and then some. I found that his care for the poor and the oppressed spoke volumes during a time when people, even other Jews as we read here (chapter 5), could be treated like property, and were being additionally mistreated in a variety of ways.

Nehemiah’s job is to rebuild the walls of the city, not to attend to the mistreatment of the worker bees. But Nehemiah addresses the problem directly: “Stop it! Stop overcharging the people the king’s tax! (Remember that the builders did not need money—the king paid for all the repairs to the wall.) Stop forcing them to give up their land and their children to you as payment!” And Nehemiah brings charges against the nobles and the officials!!! Who gets away with that? We can’t manage to do this in our own time, much less over 2,400 years ago!

“Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” Proverbs 21:13  Nehemiah heard the cry of the poor, and by the grace of God, he was the answer to their prayers. This is still a possibility for us today—to hear the cry of the poor, and to answer their prayers.

Nehemiah, In the continuing spirit of restoration, commands that the officials give back the fields, the vineyards, the olive orchards, their homes AND the interest they were charged unfairly! And the people, the officials, the rich folks—they AGREED!!! “We will restore everything and demand nothing more from them,” (Nehemiah 5: 12)

The wall is finished in a record 52 days, and the scope of the work literally frightens the enemies who surround them because even these enemies could see the hand of God in the work of God’s people. Remember those nearly-comic figures: Sanballat and Tobiah who try to thwart the building of the walls? They are overcome with envy and with petulant anger because they were not able to stop the walls from being built. It will now be much more difficult for them to attack Jerusalem and to overcome the people again.

We end with these verses of quiet celebration—to be settled means that the heart is at peace, that families can rest, that homes can be established, that the LORD can be worshipped. “The priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the musicians and the temple servants, along with certain of the people and the rest of the Israelites, settled in their own towns.” (Nehemiah 7: 73)

How does it feel to come home? Nehemiah has just given the Jewish people their new “security system” in rebuilding the walls, and they will now begin to resettle, rebuild and restore their city.  May you be so blessed in your own home.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

 

 

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