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April 19 | Nehemiah 5:1-12


 

DAILY READING

 

REFLECTION


Those in Need

by David Thompson


Many reading this passage might take away that this is negative. And, quite honestly that is how I took it the first time I read it as well. After reading this devotional, reread the passage with the insights you developed as you read.


The passage opens up (vv. 1-5) with the poor and downtrodden crying out to God with their plight. These were newer arrivals from exile or those that lived away from Jerusalem after the exile ended and had little to support themselves and their families, especially in times of famine. Who were the rich folks that were oppressing the people? They were Jews who became wealthy during the exile or those that became wealthy in the hundred years since the exile. These were well established Jews who neglected God's established plan for how you treat people who were Jews in Jerusalem.


So, what was the problem? Instead of those, who had the means to support the poor, were doing the direct opposite. The rich were charging usury (interest) and some were raising the rates higher due to the famine and their ability to control others. Charging interest was against God's plan (see Exodus 22:25). God said to not charge any interest for fellow Jews.


This reminds me of a time in Alabama when it turned bitterly cold. Most people, including my dad, had heat pumps that didn't work below twenty degrees. To make matters worse, over the three days of this cold spell, the electrical would go out. So what did some of the hardware stores that carried Kerosun kerosene heaters do? They doubled their prices. Those with means got the heaters and those without the means were cold. The backlash on the hardware store's owners was immediate and understandable. People just quit shopping there. God chose to use a more direct approach.


What happened in Nehemiah's time? He went to the rich and the nobles and had a heart to heart. He spoke for God in telling them that to help, not hurt the poor was central in following God. This is found throughout the Old Testament (Exodus 22:22-27, Leviticus 25:35-37). He told them that those that give to the poor would lack nothing (Proverbs 28:27). And this is what we need to take from today's passage. Not the negativity, but the admonition to help and support those less fortunate than ourselves.


PRAYER

Lord, help us see those in need around us and give us wisdom of what to do to help. Perhaps it is a listening ear, giving time to help with a leaky pipe or roof, if You gave us that skill. Perhaps it is a monetary donation. Whatever it is, give us the courage to step out in faith and fulfill the need to the best of our ability. Amen.







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