- Grievance time. Things seemed to be going fairly well on the outside for the Jewish community, but why is there so much worry and despair on the inside? What are some of the troubles the Jewish community is facing at this time when it seems that rebuilding prosperity should be the highest priority? How did a famine and stiff tax payments required by the Persian government affect the spirits of the Jewish people? What was “debt slavery” and how did the Jewish families handle this hardship? Do you or I ever face tough times financially? Do we ever complain that government restrictions are working against our need for a just income and pray earnestly for relief from the situation? Should we?
- Against the spirit of the law. How did Nehemiah show that he cared deeply for the problems faced by his fellow countrymen? Imagine living in a culture where slavery is practiced openly. Why do you think God allowed this practice? “God is on the side of the oppressed and needy,” our lesson author declares. Although paying interest wasn’t illegal, why did Nehemiah oppose it? Why was his attitude toward slavery and interest approved by God?
- Nehemiah acts. Why do you think Nehemiah called a huge assembly of God’s people together in one place to discuss this issue? If you had been there, do you think you would have approved of God’s disdain of slavery? What about taxes and the presence of poverty among God’s people? if you had visited the Jewish community about this time, what would you say to Nehemiah about the way God’s people were treating each other and the poor among them?
- An oath. What is going on? How does Nehemiah decide to punish the people who did not agree to the requirements set by God Himself regarding interest? Why was an oath needed to seal the agreement for the repayment of confiscated funds? Nehemiah gathered garments of his and after putting grain or other substances in them, he shook the contents out of the cloth. What did that demonstrate? Do we take the same care in deciding what we will do as we do in determining how we will make necessary payments? Should we?
- Nehemiah’s example. Does it surprise you at all that while Nehemiah felt the brush of wealth during the years he worked for the government on Judah, he never expected or requested payment for his efforts? Well, you might say, he had plenty of money and didn’t need to be paid by the government. That being the case, what principle guided him not to claim the funds that legally were due him? If you had enough money to live comfortably and provide for your family as well, under those circumstances would you consider working without a salary? Why did Nehemiah make that choice?