Be Still Know
Nehemiah 5.6-7 NLT
When I heard their complaints, I was very angry. After thinking it over, I spoke out against these nobles and officials. I told them, “You are hurting your own relatives by charging interest when they borrow money!” Then I called a public meeting to deal with the problem.
These verses give us a fascinating insight into Nehemiah’s leadership. First of all, he listened. The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem might sound a simple and straightforward task however it proved to be anything but. The problem, as so often, was money. People were struggling to pay their taxes. Some things never change! This problem was made worse by the fact that, in order to pay their taxes, they were needing to mortgage their properties and fields and even sell their children into slavery. Nehemiah listened to the complaints. No leader will ever succeed unless they learn to listen carefully. This sounds simple enough, but true listening is incredibly demanding. It demands our full attention, compassion and wisdom. It’s easy to listen to pleasant and comforting things, but listening to people’s problems and complaints is never easy.
As Nehemiah listened it’s no wonder that he became angry. Some of their people saw the crisis as an opportunity to exploit the poor and needy. They were lending money at huge interest and forcing people into slavery. Fired up with his anger, it would have been very easy for Nehemiah to have gone off and sorted the people out. But he didn’t. He tells us that he thought it over. The Hebrew literally means “he took counsel with himself”. This is the only time we find this word in the Bible. Nehemiah drew breath and calmly thought things over. Often the most important response to a crisis is to sleep on it.
Having calmly thought matters through, Nehemiah took action. He had a conversation with the nobles and officials and gave them a piece of his mind. He accused them of acting inappropriately and then he called a meeting. When they gathered, he faced them clearly and forcefully with the error of their ways and the result was that they owned up. They admitted that Nehemiah was right and they promised to mend their ways. Result! But it only happened because he had, first of all, listened carefully and spent time reflecting.
QUESTION: What has this story taught you?
PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for the powerful example of Nehemiah. Help me to be humble enough to learn from it. Amen
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