LIVE: In preparation for this lesson, fast from one
meal. (Use discernment regarding
fasting; check with your doctor before doing it. If you can't do it for whatever reason,
that's okay.) When you feel the pangs of
hunger, use that discomfort as a catalyst for this devotion.
READ: Nehemiah 5:6-11 - Read
I got really angry when I heard their protest and complaints. After thinking it over, I called the nobles
and officials on the carpet. I said,
"Each one of you is gouging his brother."
Then I called a big meeting to deal with them.
I told them, "We did everything we could to buy back our Jewish
brothers who had to sell themselves as slaves to foreigners. And now you're selling these same brothers
back into debt slavery! Does that mean
that we have to buy them back again?"
They said nothing. What could they say?
"What you're doing is wrong. Is
there no fear of God left in you? Don't
you care what the nations around here, our enemies, think of you?
"I and my brothers and the people working for me have also loaned them
money. But this gouging them with
interest has to stop. Give them back
their foreclosed fields, vineyards, olive groves, and homes right now. And forgive your claims on their money,
grain, new wine, and olive oil."
THINK: While in Babylonian exile as a cupbearer to a
foreign king, Nehemiah has a God-given burden:
to rebuild the ransacked walls of the forgotten city of Jerusalem and,
in the process, to restore the hope of his people. But in the midst of this massive
architectural restoration project, the people are being abused by their own
Nehemiah's burden grows larger. His burden now includes poverty and
injustice. Imagine yourself in
Nehemiah's shoes today. What does this
burden feel like? Consider your empty
stomach and write down how you feel.
PRAY: Begin praying by listening for God's heart
regarding justice. Ask him to show you
people who need your prayers. Then ask
him to point out when you need to speak up on their behalf, and ask for the
courage to actually follow through with it.
thing I've discovered about justice over the course of our situation is that it
is seldom swift. Maybe as swift as
possible, but never as swift as we'd like.
Think about it. Whenever someone
has done you wrong, is it ever remedied fast enough? When the courts get involved, things slow
down to a snail's pace. Then, evidence
or no, the case goes the way the people trying it think it ought to go, or
whichever way is going to make the appropriate people look as good as possible,
or prevent them from looking horrible. I
don't mean to sound cynical, but the truth of the matter is: the truth rarely counts for much. Except with God.
commands us to seek justice, to love mercy, to take care of the widows and
orphans. Seems like those commands match
up with the burdens of poverty and injustice Nehemiah was feeling. Sad to think so little has changed over the
years. Jesus talks about how, when we
visit the people in prison, or feed people without food, or clothe the naked,
we are doing the same to him. The book
of James warns against seeing someone cold and telling them to "Go, in
peace, and be filled" without offering them what they need to actually be
filled because judgment is without mercy to those who've shown no mercy.
I sit in my hotel room, waiting to leave to go visit my husband who sits in
jail, this verse hits home. I am getting
to visit my husband because of the people around me who've fed and clothed a
widow and her orphaned children. This is
a bit of a stretch, I realize. My
husband is not dead. My children still
have both of their parents. But
considering our source of support has been taken away from us, we resemble a
widow and orphans. I do not wish this
position on anyone, really; but the lessons it is teaching are invaluable. And humbling.
I don't really need to pray for God to show me who needs my prayers. I'm about to go to a place full of people I
may never know that need prayers, who have families that need prayers. Though I am not personally in a position to
be able to physically or financially help these people, my husband has been
doing all he can to help those around him who've not received justice from one
of the only systems in the world that - supposedly - prides itself on
preferring that 100 guilty men would go free than one innocent man would go to
so…Dear Heavenly Father, You alone know for what purposes you have placed each
one of us here. If there are people
around us that need what we have to offer, please show us. If "all we can do" is pray for
them, let their names be on our lips in prayer as often as we pray. If you have given us the financial
wherewithal to help those folks, give us an urge to do so that we cannot
ignore. If they merely need a listening
ear, may we be willing to be inconvenienced enough to give them the time they
need. Relationships are messy and dirty,
Lord. Help us to be willing to get dirty
and messy with the people who need it the most, and let us do so without
reservation when that's what you require.
In Jesus Name, I pray, AMEN.