Read for This Week’s Study: Neh. 5:1-5; Exod. 21:2-7; Micah 6:8; Neh. 5:7-12; Deut. 23:21-23; Neh. 5:14-19.
Memory Text: “Restore now to them, even this day, their lands, their vineyards, their olive groves, and their houses, also a hundredth of the money and the grain, the new wine and the oil, that you have charged them” (Nehemiah 5:11, NKJV).
To this day, we humans struggle with the question of wealth, poverty, and the gap between the rich and the poor and what can be done about it. Yes, Jesus said that “you have the poor with you always” (Matt. 26:11, NKJV), but that’s hardly an excuse to do nothing about helping them. On the contrary, Scripture admonishes us to do our part to help. We can barely call ourselves Christians otherwise.
How fascinating, too, that even amid the trials and tribulations of the returned exiles in rebuilding Jerusalem, this theme appears, not just that of poverty and the poor, but that of the even more problematic question of the rich oppressing the poor. This was a problem before the exile, and now, even back in their own land, it reappears.
This week we will see another manifestation of this age-old theme, and how Nehemiah worked to deal with it. As we will see, what made this oppression even worse was that it was being done within “the letter of the law”, so to speak, a powerful example of how we need to be careful not to let rules and regulations become an end in and of themselves rather than a means to an end, which is to reflect the character of Jesus.