About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews.
Nehemiah and the people have been hard at work building the wall around Jerusalem. But, it didn’t take long for their dysfunction and brokenness to show itself. It wasn’t just the wall that had been beaten down and destroyed, the people were just as broken and just as messed up. Nehemiah had more to do that just a construction project. He had to lead the rebuilding of a people and part of that was not ignoring them and their mess.
It is approaching that time of year where families and friends will be getting together to celebrate various holidays. These groups will gather and there will inevitably be someone in that group you don’t want to see or that “gets on your nerves.” But, at the end of the day that’s you, that’s us. We exist, all of us, in messiness and brokenness. There is no need trying to ignore it. In fact if we want things to be better, to be different, we can’t. We are a fallen humanity with plenty of imperfections. As God sent Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem, He has sent Jesus to rebuild us.
Nehemiah took time to listen to the cry of the oppressed people in Jerusalem. He then took time to think about, which I think means he took time to pray about. It also seems he reflected on his role in the problem. The main thing is he didn’t try to excuse it away or shift the blame. He took an honest look at what the people were saying and came to the conclusion, this just isn’t right.
Next, he took some steps to make it right. He admitted their mistakes and said it has to stop. Let's stop beating the people up economically and let’s start working together. He recognized their need for each other, the rich needed the poor just as much as the poor needed the rich. This wasn’t about one group or the other, this was about them. This is us.
In the end there were two groups of people. Those who needed to repent and those who needed to forgive. It was going to take both groups to rebuild the wall and to rebuild the people. The people responded to this challenge with an “Amen” and sang praises to God. It seems they did what was required of them. Today, there are two groups. Those who need to repent and those who need to forgive. Which are you? Are you willing to take that step for us? Jesus did.
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.