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Bible Commentaries

Smith's Bible Commentary

Nehemiah 5

Verses 1-19

Chapter 5

Now in chapter 5, further problems arose, and this time from within. If Satan can't defeat you from his forces from without, then he seeks to wreck you from the forces within. Many times the greatest enemies of the church aren't the atheists or those godless forces outside the church, but it is actually the church itself. Factions within the church. And usually the thing behind it all is jealousy, which springs, usually, in the church from greed. "Oh, the church is being blessed more than we are." And the tragedy of the infighting that goes on within the church! You would think that the church would wake up to the fact that we are all one body working together for one King, one Lord.

Someone this morning was telling me of some pastor here in Orange County who warned his people not to go to Calvary Chapel. Well, that's fine. We don't have room for them anyhow. But I'm not worried about you going to another church. I thank God that people from Calvary Chapel are filling all the churches around the area, because wherever they're going they're taking the love of Jesus Christ with them, and the love of Christ is sparking revival and a work of God all over the place. And to me that's exciting that God is working.

And it's a tragic thing that the churches cannot realize that we should be striving together for the cause of Christ. Our problem is that we haven't properly identified the enemy. Our enemy isn't the church across town that's being greatly blessed of God. Far be that from being an enemy. That's a joy and a blessing and something to rejoice and praise God for, not to get jealous about or envious because the Lord is working in their behalf in such a wonderful way. "Oh, but they're Baptist, you know." God loves the Baptists, the Nazarenes; He even loves us. And we need to realize the oneness of the body, and when one member is exalted, they are all exalted. And when one area is being blessed, we're all being... it's the kingdom that's being blessed. I'm a part of the kingdom.

How thankful I am for the day that God delivered me from narrow sectarianism and allowed me to see the whole body. Where I didn't any longer have to feel jealous because another church was prospering or being blessed. But I could rejoice because the whole kingdom of God is expanding and rejoice with all my heart. And I believe that I can say with all honesty, and of course, only God knows my heart, but I rejoice in every great work of God around the country that people are being brought to Jesus Christ. I thank God for the ministry of Jerry Falwell and for the ministry of Pat Robertson and these others who are touching so many people for God. Rex Humbard. So many of these fellows who are just being used to reach so many lives. Praise God for it!

Now, I may not agree with their methods. Nor I may not agree with them all the way in the various aspects of the doctrines. And yet, I shouldn't allow what minor differences that we may have to stand in the way of the rejoicing and the fact that God is using them, and through them people are being brought into the kingdom of God.

Paul acknowledged that there were people there in Rome who were preaching Christ from different kinds of motivations. He said, "I could care less. Christ is being preached. Praise the Lord! They think that they're adding to my own bonds and afflictions. They think that it's bothering me but not so. I rejoice that Christ is being preached." And that needs to be our attitude.

But the next problem that came to them actually came from within. It's no longer Tobiah and Sanballat and the outside forces that are seeking to hinder the work of God. But now it's forces from within. And so often Satan will begin to strike from within. And not only will he strike by divisions and strifes within the body, but also by the introduction of many what I call sterile ideas or beliefs that he will inculcate within the body of Christ. And these sterile doctrines have the effect of destroying a person's fruitfulness. When a person is sterile he can no longer reproduce. And there are certain doctrines that will create spiritual sterility. They're not so evil or awful of themselves, but the effect of them is that they will keep you from really beginning to or continuing to reproduce for Jesus Christ. You become sterile.

So many of the doctrines that make the person so totally inward. Looking at myself. Looking at my own conditions. "I'm not worthy to bring anybody to Christ until I'm mature enough to shepherd them into full maturity. Therefore, I shall not witness anymore until my shepherd tells me that I'm capable and mature enough to shepherd someone to full maturity." Well, what is the effect of that? It stops me from witnessing. It creates a sterility. And soon those groups are just feeding off of themselves. They are no longer really a real light within a community.

The deliverance. Devil, devil, who's got the devil? And so anxious to go around and exorcise whatever demon may have come into the room tonight. And if you burped, you're guilty of having the demon of gluttony and so exorcism is in order. Well, you get so inbred, and of course, you know the effect of inbreeding is idiocy. And it's also sterility. You get to where you just don't reproduce healthy sheep any longer. Satan, his attacks from within the church.

What happened here in Israel is that there were certain people, and the priests were among them, and the rulers who took advantage of the people's plight. And the people needed to borrow money in order to plant their crops and these guys were charging exorbitant interest so that they weren't able to pay back the money and they were having to give their crops for the money. Then they started selling their children as slaves in order to get enough money to exist. And they were having large families; they just couldn't feed their families. And the rulers were just taking advantage of the people and putting them into total bondage. And here were families selling their daughters and their sons as slaves in order that they might just get by. And it was great discouragement to the people because of the high interest and the advantage that the wealthy class were taking over the poor class. Actually, just making themselves richer and richer while they were oppressing the poor.

And this really got to Nehemiah and he called these rulers together and he said, "What you are doing is not right. Let's get rid of this usury. These high interest rates that you're charging. Set the servants that you bought free and let's start having an equanimity among us." And so they hearkened unto Nehemiah and they obeyed his voice. He was so upset he just shook his lap and he said, "And so let God shake the person who is guilty of this exorbitant interest rates and the oppressions over his brothers." And so the people agreed to it. They all said, "Amen," and they praised the Lord together.

Now Nehemiah was a beautiful example unto the people in that he did not take a salary from the people. He did not take of their taxes, but he supported himself completely all the while that he was there. Not exacting taxes upon the people in order that he might live a luxurious kind of life. The governors that had been there before him all lived off of the people, but Nehemiah lived off of his own resources, showing really that his heart was in his office. It was not just a job; it was a real calling of his heart. And he even fed his guests, and he had 150 people eating at his table everyday. So it took one oxen, a half a dozen sheep and all to feed all of these people that came. But he took all of that out of his own pocket. And at the end of the chapter he says:

Lord, think upon me for good [because I'm a pretty good guy] according to all that I have done for this people ( Nehemiah 5:19 ).

Now Nehemiah went a step further than I would ever dare to go at that point. I have never asked the Lord to think upon me for good, for the good that I have done. I always just say, "Think upon me, Lord, in grace and in mercy because You are gracious and merciful. Lord, think about me." And I come to God on the basis, not of what I have done or the good of my own life, but I always come to God on the basis of His grace and His mercy.

There are times when I might be tempted to come to God on my own goodness right after I have done some gracious, benevolent act. But I'd have to come in a hurry, because I might not be able to come in ten minutes because I can blow it so quickly. So I would just rather come on the basis of God's grace and mercy, because then I can always come. The door is never closed. It's always open to me. I'm never turned away, because God is gracious and God is merciful unto those that call upon Him.

But Nehemiah had done a very magnanimous job and in a magnanimous way, and thus, he asked the Lord to think upon him for good for the good that he had done to the people. "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Nehemiah 5". "Smith's Bible Commentary". 2014.