And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.
I. First let me put the main principle that lies here in these words: nothing will go right unless you dare to be singular. "So did not I." The chief field for the exercise of this resolute non-compliance with common practice is in the region of moral action in the daily conduct of your lives. (1) He who yields is wrecked and ruined. (a) The absolute necessity for this sturdy resistance is plain from the very make of our own natures, (b) It is enforced if we think of the order of things in which we dwell. (c) It is chiefly enforced by the fact that every one of us is thrown more or less closely into contact with people who themselves are living as they should not, and who would fain drag us after them. (2) Remember that not only does easy yielding to such enticements bring all sorts of moral confusion and failure into a man's life, but that such compliance is in itself weak and unworthy. Surely there is nothing that walks the earth more contemptible, as well as more certainly evil, than a man that lets himself be made by whatever force may happen to be strongest near him, and fastening up his helm and unshipping his oars, is content to be blown about by every vagrant wind and rolled in the trough of each curling wave. (3) Another very solemn consideration may be suggested, enforcing the need of this vigorous non-compliance with the temptations around us, from the remembrance of what a poor excuse for wrong-doing they will be found to be at last.
II. You cannot resist the evil around you unless you give yourselves to God. "So did not I, because of the fear of God." God in Christ, trusted in, loved, reverenced, obeyed, imitated—God in Christ alone strengthens a man for this resistance and non-compliance. (1) In Christ we have an all-sufficient pattern. There is a Man whom it is safe and blessed to imitate—the Man Christ Jesus. (2) That fear of God which is all transfused and mingled with the love of Him gives us next an all-powerful motive. (3) The fear of God strengthens us for resistance because it gives us an omnipotent power in ourselves whereby we resist.
As the secret of all negative forbearance from evil, take for your watchword "So did not I, because of the fear of God." As the secret of all positive allegiance to God, let your motto be "The love of Christ constraineth me."
A. Maclaren, Sermons Preached in Manchester, 3rd series, p. 89.
Reference: Nehemiah 5:15.—H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1716.
Nehemiah 5:19If we use this motto of Nehemiah, we must live in the spirit of Nehemiah.
I. We must think on God and God's glory. Let us be interested in Zion, concerned in the decay of Jerusalem, grieved because religion does not make the progress it ought to do. Let us be concerned about the assaults made on Jerusalem, whether by scepticism, or worldliness, or superstition. Let us care for Jerusalem and be zealous for its building up and its defence.
II. Let us be willing to sacrifice ease, and luxury, and pleasure for the toils and sufferings of the people of God. Nehemiah gave up much. He laboured for the benefit of Jerusalem and Zion. Let us follow his example and be practical in our sympathy. Let us be diligent in service, and then we may leave our welfare and our earthly happiness to God's care. "Think upon me, my God, for good."
III. There are two essential things in saying, "my God"—a personal reliance on Him for salvation and a personal consecration to His service. Faith in Christ involves surrendering ourselves to Christ. Are we imitating Him and walking in His way? Let us yield ourselves to Him and avow that the Lord is our God.
Newman Hall, Penny Pulpit, No. 711.
Reference: 5—Parker, Fountain, Sept. 27th, 1877.
For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live.
Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth.
There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards.
Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words.
Then I consulted with myself, and I rebuked the nobles, and the rulers, and said unto them, Ye exact usury, every one of his brother. And I set a great assembly against them.
And I said unto them, We after our ability have redeemed our brethren the Jews, which were sold unto the heathen; and will ye even sell your brethren? or shall they be sold unto us? Then held they their peace, and found nothing to answer.
Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?
I likewise, and my brethren, and my servants, might exact of them money and corn: I pray you, let us leave off this usury.
Restore, I pray you, to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the hundredth part of the money, and of the corn, the wine, and the oil, that ye exact of them.
Then said they, We will restore them, and will require nothing of them; so will we do as thou sayest. Then I called the priests, and took an oath of them, that they should do according to this promise.
Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise.
Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in the land of Judah, from the twentieth year even unto the two and thirtieth year of Artaxerxes the king, that is, twelve years, I and my brethren have not eaten the bread of the governor.
But the former governors that had been before me were chargeable unto the people, and had taken of them bread and wine, beside forty shekels of silver; yea, even their servants bare rule over the people: but so did not I, because of the fear of God.
Yea, also I continued in the work of this wall, neither bought we any land: and all my servants were gathered thither unto the work.
Moreover there were at my table an hundred and fifty of the Jews and rulers, beside those that came unto us from among the heathen that are about us.
Now that which was prepared for me daily was one ox and six choice sheep; also fowls were prepared for me, and once in ten days store of all sorts of wine: yet for all this required not I the bread of the governor, because the bondage was heavy upon this people.
Think upon me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.