Relaxing and Reflecting, Part 1

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Let’s rest, relax and reflect on what God has taught us through His servant Nehemiah.

In a little while I’ll be on my annual family vacation. We routinely head to the beach to rest and relax. I do those two things but I have another reason for taking a vacation: I need to reflect.

Life is busy for me with a full-time job, a blog, writing two devotionals and having a wife with seven children with us. Because of this crowded schedule, I have a tendency to get so forward-looking that I forget to look back and learn from my previous experiences. So in the spirit of a vacation from our normal week, let’s rest, relax and reflect on the lessons we have learned from chapter 1 through chapter 6 of Nehemiah. In order to keep this article to a reasonable length, these lessons learned will be short. But by all means, look back and re-read Nehemiah 1-6 and see if you agree with me.

I’ll break this up into two articles. This week we’ll look at the lessons we learned from Nehemiah chapters 1 – 3.

Prayer first, planning later – Ch. 1

There is a movement that seeks to make the church completely insulated from the culture. This is a mistake. We must be aware of what is going on around us if we hope to reach those in need. Being in touch with society doesn’t mean being part of it. In Nehemiah 1 we learned that Nehemiah was absolutely broken over the state of Jerusalem and the state of those still living there. The walls were down and the people seemed content in the rubble. This bothered Nehemiah greatly. But he didn’t rush off to fix anything. No, he went to God in prayer, pouring out his heart before our mighty God.

Nehemiah’s action should resonate with us in these days. When we see the broken culture around us – both in the Church and outside the Church – we must, before doing anything, pray. Far too often I tend to formulate a plan then ask God to bless it. But if I listen to what Nehemiah did, I will slow down – or even stop – and pray for guidance from God. We need to plan, that is for sure. But that plan must be preceded by prayer. We should always remember that “our plan” is the plan that God gives us after we pray. We should never approach God with a plan of action that is devoid of prayer.

We should always pray for God to bless us with a plan rather than asking God to bless our plan.

So how burdened are you by our society? When you see the broken down walls of the Church – compromising doctrine to attract people – are you broken by that? Are you so broken that it spurs you to prayer? In the craziness and fast-paced nature of life in general, it is  difficult to stop and pray. But it is the most important thing we can do.

Prayer is an indispensable part of the Christian’s life. DO it often.


Being real with God – Ch. 2

We find out at the end of chapter 1 that Nehemiah is a high ranking official. He risks that position – and his life – by allowing the king to see him when he was sad. This was a huge no-no in those times. The king required all his subjects to be happy around him. But Nehemiah was just himself – sadness and all – around the king. When the king asked why he was so sad, Nehemiah didn’t hold back. He let his concerns be known.

This is an important principle for us. Many times we go around and think that if we are sad that somehow God is going to thump us on the head. We try to lie to God when we pray by putting on a happy face, dutifully saying all our “Thee’s” “Thou’s”  and “Thine’s”. But God, of course, knows better. We need to be honest with God when we are sad and let Him know – the one true King – why we are downcast.

Seeing beyond the rubble

Far too often we see only with our eyes. We need to see with God’s eyes. If we see with only our eyes, the task of sharing Christ will seem hopeless. Our culture is in ruins. There are many who claim to know Christ yet they violate and try to vitiate his Word every day. We need to see beyond the rubble of all this and remember that God’s plan will never be defeated. We need to remember to always see beyond the rubble to what God has promised.

The right tools for serving God are already present in the church

The ministries of the Church are vast and numerous. We have outreach, discipleship training, prayer groups, small groups, preaching and teaching ministry. Then there’s VBS, Operation Christmas Child and short-term missionary journeys. The task for the church can seem daunting and discouraging. However, a lesson learned here in Nehemiah is that God has already given every tool necessary to finish the job.

Size of the task doesn’t matter – only the size of God

When we consider the task ahead of us – the evangelism of the world and disciple-making of Christian – is so much bigger than any one body of believers, we can get discouraged. But we should never focus on the size of the task. No, rather than seeing the size of the task we need t remember the size of our God. He is bigger than any task ahead or any opposition we face…even the boogeyman!


Working for Christ according to MY gifts and talents – Ch 3

We see here in chapter three the use of various talents and gifts to build the wall around Jerusalem. We should learn from this that God supplies all we need to complete the mission God has given us. Rarely though – perhaps never – are all the necessary gifts and talents reside I only one person. We need each other. We need our diversity. While I may be strong in one area, you may be strong in another area. And each area of ministry is necessary and important. Furthermore, even of we share the same gift, we need to remember that the expression of the gift will be different because the life experiences are different for all of us. And this fact is a blessing. Imagine all the workers in Nehemiah’s time were only stone masons. Who would have guarded? Or if they were all military types? Who would have built the wall?

My wife is a stay-at-home mom. That role is quite often reviled in the culture of the US. Sometimes it is even reviled in the church. But my wife is so gifted in caring for our children and teaching them (we homeschool), that I can’t imagine her doing anything else so valuable. That is why we have only one joint bank account. She has equal access to the money I earn because without her I would not be in a position to earn it. In many ways, her job is much more difficult than mine. So relax church, the many gifts and talents are necessary for the good functioning of the church.

Diversity in gifts and talents is a blessing, not a curse.


So how are you doing with these lessons from Nehemiah? Are they as convicting to you as they are to me? There is much more to learn from this wonderful book. But before we learn new things, next week we’ll look over chapter 4 through chapter 6. So, let’s take a vacation from our normal hectic life and relax and reflect on the wonderful truths we have learned in Nehemiah.

Listen to Your Commander

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“People hear what they are listening for.”

November 2, 1982 is a day that I will remember for the rest of my natural life. That was the day that I graduated from Marine Corps Boot Camp aboard MCRD Parris Island, SC. “I made it” I thought as we marched around the parade deck. I was part of First Battalion, B Company, Platoon 1071. We were the worst platoon in the history of Parris Island. I arrived on the Island on August 10, 1982, mere months after graduating high school. “I’m almost done. Almost done” I silently exclaimed as we formed up for the final order. We were last in the series of platoons to be dismissed. The entire group would have to wait on old platoon 1071. Heh heh heh….


Our Company Commander yelled “Senior Drill Instructors, dismiss your platooooooons!” Everything was silent – at least it seemed to be silent to me. The only thing I wanted to hear was my Senior Drill Instructor’s voice. My ears strained to hear his voice. Then my ears heard that which they wanted o hear. Staff Sergeant Hodges, my Senior Drill Instructor barked his order: “Plaaaaatoon ten sevumty one, DISMISSED!” Then silence.

The band broke the silence. An explosion of yells ensued from recruits – former recruits, now Marines – in jubilation. I shook the hand of the Marine to my left and my right. I hunted down my drill instructors to thank them. Yes, I thanked them. Then I left the Grinder (the not-so-fond nickname given to the parade deck). I saw my dad, a twenty-year veteran of the Marine Corps, standing and smiling. I approached him and he stuck out his hand and said “Congratulations, Marine.” TO hear my dad say that to me was like pouring water on a dying plant. As I walked over to grab my junk (my seabag and uniform bag) I thought “It’s over!” “I’m done. I’m finally done. It is finished!”

But I was wrong. So very wrong. My journey in the Marine Corps had just begun. I would need to remember the lessons learned in the swampland of Parris Island many times over the next few years. I had graduated boot camp. But I was far from being done.

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. Also in those days many letters went from the nobles of Judah to Tobiah, and Tobiah’s letters came to them. For many in Judah were bound by oath to him because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah, and his son Jehohanan had married the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah. Moreover, they were speaking about his good deeds in my presence and reported my words to him. Then Tobiah sent letters to frighten me. Nehemiah 6:15-19 NASB


The End in Sight

Fifty-two days to build a thick wall around the city of Jerusalem. Fifty-two days. That was really quick. Sometimes I wonder why it takes the department of highway two months to pave a highway when it took under two months for Nehemiah and his crew to build a wall. But I digress…

Lets take a look at a few notable things here in chapter six.

The wall was finished in the month of Elul, which corresponds to the month of August. Now that is a hot month. These guys built the wall around Jerusalem during the hottest time of the year. Yikes! Imagine the sweat that was pouring off the workers. Now look at the effect this had on the enemies of Nehemiah in v. 16

When all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations surrounding us saw it, they lost their confidence; for they recognized that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God. 


The Enemies Lose

They lost their confidence because they recognized God’s hand on Nehemiah and the workers. Isn’t that amazing! Here are angry folks surrounding Jerusalem. Some are Jews others are not. Regardless of their ethnicity, they were trying to discourage Nehemiah and the workers from completing their task. But when the task was completed in rather quick fashion, the enemies recognized it was God who was with the workers and they (the detractors) lost their confidence. Thats pretty cool in my book. Even the enemies of God can recognize God’s hand of blessing.

But this recognition wasn’t just an “A ha!” moment. I think it had been realized over the course of the rebuilding project. In v. 17 we are reminded of one of Tobiah’s methods of intimidation: letters. Tobiah had been writing letters to discourage the builders. He also had threatened in other ways. But these letters, it seems, were the constant thing. Imagine getting a letter (or in our day an email) on a routine basis that blasts you and your service. Has that ever happened to you? What has been your response?

Nehemiah responded by not listening to the lies of the enemy. He knew he had a job to do. He rallied the workers around the knowledge that what was being accomplished had God’s blessing and indeed was God’s will. This paid off in the end because the wall was completed and the enemies recognized that God was behind it all.

So what are you listening for today? Whose voice dominates your ears? If you are listening to your Tobiah, stop. Tune your ears to the voice of God and listen to Him.

The Character Tobiah

We also get a glimpse of this Tobiah character here in v. 18. He evidently was part Jewish, having intermarried to a Jewish family. People were “bound by oath to him” and spied on Nehemiah and reported back to Tobiah what Nehemiah had said and presumably done. The result of all this spying and gossip was that Tobiah would send letters to frighten Nehemiah. But that didn’t work. Nehemiah led his workers to accomplish the task in spite of opposition.

So what does this mean to us? Well first lets commit to practicing saying “yes” to the priorities of God rather than the priorities of man. Too often we get sidetracked by what we think is urgent only later to recognize it was a distraction from what God has for us.

So, take time to discern what God would have you do and then do that thing, whatever that thing is.

Hearing what We Need to Hear

I remember hearing a story once of a Native American named Running Bear visiting a city with his friend Bob. As Running Bear and Bob were walking down a busy street Running Bear stopped and said “I hear a cricket.” Bob, amazed by this because all he could hear was the traffic, said “No way”. Running Bear  looked around for a moment, stooped down and picked up a cricket.

“That’s amazing” exclaimed Bob. “You must have really sensitive hearing!”

Running Bear smiled and asked Bob for some coins. He obliged and gave Running Bear a couple of quarters and a dime. Running Bear smiled at Bob and then dropped them on the sidewalk. Although the sound of the coins hitting the concrete were no louder than the chirping of the cricket, a number of people stopped their walking and tried to pick up the dropped coins. Bob cocked his head to one side and said “Wha…”

Before he could finish, Running Bear said “People hear what they are listening for.”


So what are you listening for today? Whose voice dominates your ears? If you are listening to your Tobiah, stop. Don’t listen to the voice of the enemy. If you are listening to the shouts of praise from man, stop. You’re not all that. Tune your ears to the voice of God and listen to Him.

While the other voices may be louder, there is no voice as valuable as God’s voice.

Go build your wall.






The Intimidator

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 When we do the work God has called us to do, we will have people opposed to us.


Serving God is rarely easy. It is sometimes dangerous. Our faith shines when times are bad, not when the times are good. You see it is easy to be brave when the weapons are in the armory. But when the weapons of our enemy are  pointed at us, well, things change. Fear creeps in. Questions like “Did God really, REALLY, call me to do this” rise up. We wonder. We think. Sometimes we pray. Most often we plan. Most of the time we try to get out of the sticky situation. But we’ll see here in Nehemiah that there really is only one thing to do when we are opposed because we are doing God’s will. Let’s see what God has for us today.

When I entered the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined at home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you, and they are coming to kill you at night.” But I said, “Should a man like me flee? And could one such as I go into the temple to save his life? I will not go in.” Then I perceived that surely God had not sent him, but he uttered   his  prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. He was hired for this reason, that I might become frightened and act accordingly and sin, so that they might have an evil report in order that they could reproach me. Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me. Nehemiah 6:10-14 NASB


The Intimidator Begins

Shemaiah claimed to have received a prophecy from God (v. 10). This false prophet claims to have hidden knowledge. Some suggest that the phrase “who waas confined at home” suggests this man thought himself as prophet. Others suggest it means that he was somehow crippled and could not leave his home, or he had imprisoned himself to demonstrate his (Shemaiah’s) life and Nehemiah’s life was in danger. This last view makes the most sense to me. This Shemaiah character had access to the Temple which makes some to infer that he was a priest, perhaps on good terms with Tobiah. Whatever his connection, the text demonstrates that this guy is just bad news.

So what does Shemaiah suggest? Well he simply states it here (my paraphrase): “Nehemiah, we are in trouble with a capital T. We need to take cover ’cause there are folks wanting to kill us” This seems like a good plan considering the threats and taunts Nehemiah has received in the near past. But Shemaiah goes even further and suggests that they take refuge in the Temple. Hmmm. I’m not so sure about this.

Nehemiah, after hearing the invitation to the Temple evidently detected something wrong. But why? Well the Temple could be a place of asylum where the one hiding in it would be protected from those desiring to hurt him. That makes good sense to me. But not to Nehemiah. Why? Well Nehemiah smelled a rat. And he was no coward or one unwilling to face down those who opposed God’s work.

We must stand God’s ground in God’s strength.


The Man of God Stands

Nehemiah asks a rhetorical question “Should a man like me flees” Of course he was looking for the answer to be “No!” He went on to say he would not take refuge in the Temple. Nehemiah resisted the urge to leave the work God had called him to complete. And that is difficult to resist. Seeking self preservation is a strong urge in us humans. But Nehemiah didn’t seem too affected by it. Why is that so?

Look folks, when we do the work God has called us to do, we will have people opposed to us. We will live with threats and intimidation. We will be encouraged to hunker down and seek cover. But that is precisely the wrong attitude! When we are faced with these difficulties, we should – no, we MUST – stand our ground. It is not us the enemies of God are opposing. They are opposing God HImself. And if we identify with God, how can we ever seek protection from the threats of mere men? Nehemiah stood with God. We need to stand with Him too. Even when the threat is great.

Nehemiah saw through this false prophecy. Nehemiah knew – perhaps supernaturally – that Tobiah and Sanballat had hired Shemaiah for this dirty deed. Nehemiah knew this was intimidation pure and simple. They wanted desperately for Nehemiah to flee. They wanted to give a poor report on Nehemiah presumably to the king and I think the workers. If Tobiah and Sanballat could get Nehemiah to cower in fear in the Temple, he would look both guilty and afraid. Neither of which are good things to demonstrate to those you lead. This was probably their last best hope of defeating the rebuilding effort.  And. They. Failed.

It is not us the enemies of God are opposing. They are opposing God Himself.

The Man of God Prays

Instead of being cowered by fear, Nehemiah towered in prayer. He went to God in prayer in the midst of this frightening discourse and stood firm on God’s integrity. Nehemiah didn’t look to natural resources to get him out of this jam. He didn’t try to reason with this man. He simply said “I ain’t gonna run”. Nehemiah stood firm because he knew that God had brought him to this point. It was God’s ground on which Nehemiah stood. It was God’s will that Nehemiah remained. Nehemiah simply asked God to remember what these oafs had tried to do. I’m thinking it didn’t work out to well for Tobia, Sanballat, Shemaiah and their allies. Nope, I’m sure it didn’t work out too well for them.

This is a wonderful lesson for us. When the enemies of God try to get the Church to cower in fear, we should tower in prayer. We must stand the ground God has given us. Not in our strength. Oh no, may that never be. But we must stand God’s ground in His strength, totally convinced that He will have His will done.

So how are you doing? I have no doubt you have been intimidated in the past. Perhaps it is happening now. Maybe your government is telling you to shut up. Maybe your co-workers are telling you to cool the “religious talk”. Maybe your society – like mine here in the United States – is saying that Christianity is old fashioned and useless. Maybe they are trying  or have already criminalized your convictions. Don’t give in.


Stand firm on God’s ground. Don’t hide, cower, or flee. Stand firm my brother. Stand firm my sister. I am praying for you though I do not know your name. Please pray for me. Tough times are here. Its going to get worse. But together – as the family God wants us to be – we must stand God’s ground in God’s strength.

Instead of being cowered by fear, we must tower in prayer.  

The Plot Thickens

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Our response to the threats of the opposition says everything about our commitment to God and the work He has called us to do.

We begin chapter six as the wall is being built.  In spite of previous problems from within to the workers as well as opposition from those around Jerusalem, we now see this opposition intensify. Let’s see what Nehemiah does in response to the threats and learn what we should do when those who oppose the work of God try to lure us to places we shouldn’t be.

The Plan

Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way. Then Sanballat sent his servant to me in the same manner a fifth time with an open letter in his hand. Nehemiah 6:1-5 NASB

We’ve seen previously that Sanballat and Tobiah have thrown verbal stones at the workers and Nehemiah when they began to make some progress in reestablishing the walls around Jerusalem. When that didn’t work Sanballat and Tobiah changed tactics. Their plot unfolds here in chapter six.

They, with their various allies, began to entice Nehemiah to a meeting in a place that is pretty far from Jerusalem. Chepherim in the plain of Ono is located west and slightly north of Jerusalem. It is approximately 30 miles or so from Jerusalem. If Nehemiah met these men there, he would have been away from Jerusalem for at least three days; and that is a very short estimate.

Nehemiah was truthful in his response but that did not deter them as they sent four more letters in the same manner. They were begging Nehemiah to come 30 or so miles away from the other workers to meet them for what Sanballat and Tobiah portrayed as a friendly meeting. Evidently Nehemiah knew their plan was more than a friendly meeting. Was it in the letter? Was it in their tone? Maybe the place? Perhaps it was something else that tipped Nehemiah off to the danger here. Maybe, just maybe, Nehemiah was tipped off by history.

Remember earlier how both Sanballat and Tobiah reacted to the rebuilding project? They were critical of the efforts to make the wall stand again. They hurled insults and threats at the workers. They massed armies and tried to intimidate Nehemiah. And then they send a letter saying “Hey, let’s get together and have a cup of coffee together!” and expected Nehemiah to meet with them.

When the enemy of God’s work suddenly become friendly we should take note and remember history.


The Letter and Lie

In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Gashmu says, that you and the Jews are planning to rebel; therefore you are rebuilding the wall. And you are to be their king, according to these reports. You have also appointed prophets to proclaim in Jerusalem concerning you, ‘A king is in Judah!’ And now it will be reported to the king according to these reports. So come now, let us take counsel together.” Nehemiah 6:6-7 NASB

We now begin to see what the enemies of God’s work believe. They say to Nehemiah that they have read that the Jews are planning to rebel against the king. This is the very king who allowed Nehemiah to rebuild the walls. These lies no doubt were told to subtly suggest that the king would be notified of the rumor. I’m sure these enemies wanted Nehemiah to think of the ways that the king would react.

Imagine for a moment you are the most powerful person on the planet. You can do whatever you want without fear of being opposed. I guess you can be opposed, but you know you have the means and attitude necessary to annihilate the opposition. How would you feel is someone whom you granted a major favor decided to rebel? Wouldn’t you feel betrayed? Wouldn’t you want to slam that person? If left to myself in that type of situation, I know I would. It is the way of the world – might makes right.

The motives of Sanballat and his allies are becoming clearer. They sent these threats through an open letter. That type of letter could be read by anyone. They were trying their best to discredit Nehemiah and the workers to the very person who granted them leave to do the work they were doing. The king even gave letters to protect the workers as they worked and supplies to get the work started. They were also trying to scare the workers. Yikes, these guys play dirty and play for keeps.

“Come on, Nehemiah” they said. “Let’s get together and talk about this.” The not so subtle threat is clear: meet with us or else. Nehemiah didn’t take the bait. Wow, that takes some serious guts to dent their request. Why do you think Nehemiah refused to meet? I can think of a few.


The Response

Then I sent a message to him saying, “Such things as you are saying have not been done, but you are inventing them in your own mind.” For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands. Nehemiah 6:8-9 NASB

Nehemiah expressly denies the lies in the letter. This is important. When those who oppose the work we do for the Kingdom of God threaten us with lies designed to discredit us, we need to stand firm in the knowledge of the truth. Nehemiah saw through their threats. He knew that his opposition wanted the work to stop. The opposition wanted desperately to keep things as they were before Nehemiah showed up. Perhaps the presence of Nehemiah, rebuilt walls, another temple and a restored people to Jerusalem reminded the opposition that there is a God who will judge. I’m sure that wasn’t too comfortable for the opposition.


Isn’t this true of those who oppose the work of God today? They lie about us. They try to intimidate us. The opposition – who is really Satan and not those he sues – have not changes tactics in many thousands of years.And why should they? Sometimes they achieve their goal of getting us to stop doing what is right so that we will be safe.

But that is not our call. We are not called to live a safe life. We are called to live a faithful life. We must remain faithful to God and His word in spite of the difficulties and opposition. Hard times are coming, persecution of Christians will only increase with the passage of time. How will we respond?

Our response to the threats of the opposition says everything about our commitment to God and the work He has called us to do.

Friendly Fire: Handling Internal Conflict Biblically

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So where are we in dealing with conflict? Do we hide from it or cause it? Do we deal with it or ignore it? Do we conduct ourselves in a manner that we want God to remember or do we act in a manner that we would like God to forget.

Conflicts are a way of life for us, right? Who among us has lived their life without ANY conflict? The answer is none. So while we will have conflict we don’t have to allow that conflict to divide us or destroy our fellowship. Sadly far too often this division and destruction is what happens. But why? If we are all filled by the Holy Spirit and have the same Savior, why do we let conflict make us into strangers? The answer, to quote Sherlock Holmes, is “elementary my dear Watson”. Conflict divides and destroys because we don’t deal with it in a biblical manner. We ignore it. We sweep it under the rug. We (wrongly) assume that the admission of conflict in one’s life is an admission of failure. In short, we don’t do the right thing when there are problems. And that relatively small problem grows and grows until it explodes. We are then left with a ruined relationship and an astonished look. But really it doesn’t have to be this way.

Nehemiah teaches us here in chapter 5 how to handle conflict. There are six principles I’d like to address that I have gleaned from this chapter. Each one is important enough to stand on its own so I’ll address each one separately. Let’s dig in and learn how to resolve conflict because is we ever want to do the Lord’s work, we must – MUST – resolve the conflicts we have with others in a biblical manner.


Righteous Reporting

Now there was a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers.

While chapter four dealt with opposition from outside, chapter five is going to help us deal with opposition from inside.

So what was the complaint? Well, they were being charged exorbitant amounts of money for food. See in v. 2 that they were mortgaging their possessions so that they could eat. These folks felt helpless and some of their children were being forced into slavery because the workers no longer owned their fields because they had mortgaged them to either eat or pay taxes. Pretty tough, huh! But this situation should not have existed within the community there. There were some who were taking advantage of others through high interest rate loans (we find this out later). These weren’t happy campers!

In order to deal with conflicts biblically, those in authority need to know about the problem. That seems obvious but it is overlooked quite a bit. Now here either they told Nehemiah directly or Nehemiah heard about it through the proverbial grapevine. How do you deal with things when they don’t go your way? Do you let the ones in authority know or do you act in a different way? We must remember that when something is wrong, we must address it to those who are in a position to effect change. Nehemiah is a wonderful example regarding how we should deal with conflicts.

Righteous Anger

First he got some righteous anger. Look at the beginning of verse 6 “Then I was very angry…”

This may surprise some of you reading this. “Nehemiah got angry? Really?” You may ask. Yep. He got some holy heat going on. Anger is not wrong (Eph 4:26, 31). It’s the motivation and the result of that anger that controls whether it is right or wrong. Anger that causes one to sin is likely unrighteous. Anger that causes one to act in a positive manner is righteous. To be angry about something that is corrupt, anti-God, anti-Christ is no vice. It may well be a virtue.  When we who know God and are His friend hear His name used as part of a cuss word, how can we not be angry? When we see His word perverted into some weird list of rules one must follow a specific way in order to gain eternal life, how can that not cause some discomfort in the people of grace?

If our anger motivates us to right a wrong, stand up for an oppressed person, or help someone in dire need, that anger is indeed righteous.

Righteous Discipline

The next thing that Nehemiah did was he stopped and thought about his response. He showed some control over his emotions. He showed some discipline.  Look in v. 7 “I consulted with myself…”

Nehemiah took time to reflect on his situation. He didn’t go off and start blasting away at those causing these conflicts. He took some time to ponder the situation and maybe even his response. We’re taught in Proverbs 16:32 that the one who is slow to grow angry is better than the strong ones or the mighty army rulers (my paraphrase).

So are you short-fused or long-fused? I hope you have a long fuse. If you don’t, look for ways to extend your fuse and remember that reflecting on your situation that is causing anger is an important step in handling the situation biblically.

Righteous Confrontation

Third Nehemiah followed the principles of biblical confrontation. You know sometimes when we cool off after being initially hot with anger we can decide to do nothing. But that is exactly the wrong response! Although cooling off is vitally important, we can’t cool off so much that we don’t care anymore.

Nehemiah situation was a significantly sticky one. He had to talk to the rich and powerful folks who were financing the project and providing labor. What would happen if these folks withdrew their support? Well, the facts seem to point to the fact that Nehemiah didn’t worry too much about these complications. He went to the ones causing the problems: “[I] contended with the nobles and the rulers and said to them, ‘You are exacting usury, each from his brother!’” Nehemiah confronted those who were part of the problem. We are taught this principle in the New Testament (see Matt 18:15-16). Nehemiah privately confronted these rich men before her did anything in public. We could stand to listen to Nehemiah here. If someone has caused conflict, go to them first. Talk to them before anyone else knows. We don’t know if Nehemiah was successful in this private confrontation. We do know that this confrontation moved on to the public realm because he recounts that he held a “great assembly” against them.

In this public forum, Nehemiah spells out the problem. He doesn’t hold anything back. But notice what he doesn’t do. Nehemiah doesn’t attack the rich for who they are. No, he points out what they are doing that is wrong. He rebuked them (v. 8) and pointed out that their enemies would mock the Jews (v. 9) for the Jews treatment of their own people. Have you ever experienced this in the church? I have. And unsaved folks love to mock us. Oh boy, we should learn how to treat each other so that we would not be the object of ridicule.

We cannot allow fear to keep us from confronting other Christians about their sin. We must be willing to love someone enough to point out where their actions oppress others and cause others to stumble.

Righteous Behavior

The next thing Nehemiah did was that he set an example of godly behavior. He had redeemed (purchased out of slavery) some of the Jews with his own money (v. 8). He loaned money without charging interest (v. 10). He didn’t do this out of pride but as an example of godly leadership. He didn’t use his position or power to extract anything from the people (vv. 14-15), he feared God and genuinely cared for those who were hurting (vv. 15b, 18b), he was committed to the work at hand (v. 16) and he was generous (vv. 17-18).

Do you live your life as an example to others?


Righteous Accountability

The last principle is that if we want to handle conflict biblically, we must be accountable and willing to submit to God, His word, and His leaders.  In v. 13 we see that Nehemiah demanded accountability:

I also shook out the front of my garment and said, ‘Thus may God shake out every man from his house and from his possessions who does not fulfill this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.’

Nehemiah sets the standard here. This was a serious charge before God. Do you think God would shake someone or empty someone easily if that person continued to take advantage of others? Later, in v. 19 Nehemiah asks God to remember him for what he has done. He has no fear of asking God to remember him for his actions. But can we do this when dealing with conflict? Hmmmm.


So where are we in dealing with conflict? DO we hide from it or cause it? Do we deal with it or ignore it? Do we conduct ourselves in a manner that we want God to remember or do we act in a manner that we would like God to forget.

Our answers to those questions really determines if we desire to handle conflict biblically or simply expediently.