The challenges within

Cafe Bethel
2.15.12

Title: Leaving a legacy of wealth of character

Intro: the Destruction of the Starship Challenger was the result of the failure of certain critical rubber O-rings under the stress of cold and rigidity. It was inevitable that given the unrealistic schedule for Shuttle flights, and lack of the necessary precautions, that such stress points would lead to failure under the perfect storm of conditions.

Review: if we examine the whole of world history we discover a consistent, insidious,strategic, and demonic pattern of creating stress and inciting a destructive response “within”, whether this within represents the inner strongholds of a believer’s life or the inner sanctuary of fellowship and covenant support we enjoy in the local assembly. Rather than intermittent, plodding and obvious, the Devil’s strategy for our destruction is sophisticated, relentless, and subversive. Just ask our Friend “Screwtape”.

TESTING OR TEMPTING:
It is clear that throughout our lives a battle is being waged for the beachheads that drive our souls. God’s is at work in our lives and testing is part of the finishing process: ( Deut 8:2,16) Notwithstanding, the Devil is at work as well, probing us for cracks in our consistency or character, looking for a beachhead of his own. ( I Thess. 3:2-5)
Text: Nehemiah 5
Transition: the chapter breaks down along three specific themes:

THE NATURE OF THE OUTCRY
This may have been a problem simmering for some time and the combination of timetable and stress,lad combined to create this outcry.
From the wives and mothers of the abused, the cry went up…
Who was affected?
Those without land who were short of food (2)
Those with land who were forced to mortgage their property (3)
Those faced with borrowing money because of excessive taxation(4)
Those faced with selling their children into slavery (5)

The what: the complaints were delivered to their own countrymen ( maybe the more wealthy nobles and officials), who indirectly were exploiting the poorest in their midst. This, all the while the nation was asking them to defend and repopulate the country.
(Oppressed and a call to justice: Ex. 3:7; 22:22-23;Ps. 9:12; Is. 5:7)
Derek Kindner, quips of the response, [ Well], you can’t eat walls…]
One man writes,
It is estimated that the Persian king collected the equivalent of 20 million darics a year in taxes. Little of that sum was ever returned to the satrapies. It was the custom to melt down the gold and silver and to pour it into jars which were broken and the bullion stored. At Susa alone, Alexander found 9000 talents of coined gold (about 270 tons) and 40,000 of silver (1200 tons) stored up as bullion. As coined money was increasingly taken out of circulation, inflation became rampant.
Finally, Dandamayev notes,
Documents from Babylonia show that many inhabitants of this satrapy too had to mortgage their fields and orchards to get silver for payment of taxes to the king. In many cases they were unable to redeem their property, and became landless hired laborers; sometimes they were compelled to give away their children into slavery. According to some Egyptian data, the taxation was so heavy that the peasants fled the city, but we’re arrested by the monarchs and brought back by force. pg. 707

In times of economic distress, families would borrow funds using family members as collateral. The irony? At least in Mesopotamia, their families could remain together. Now, in freedom, their children were being sold out from under them and into slavery.

THE COMPREHENSIVE AND CRITICAL RESPONSE
What leaders do! Leaders must be able to enter the critical moment and respond in ways that encourage their “charge” and sustain progress .
His outcry was strategic not personal: Not “doing a mad” because his project was halted.
The Public response:
The steps back to respect and dignity:
They are to stop the present practice. This is an affront agains God: An insult to God and a blot upon our testimony: Prov. 14:31; I Peter 2: 12-15.
They are to start what will build inner character as much as outer walls.(5:10-11) Jubilee!

The Personal response:
Nehemiah: unknowingly had likely been participating in the same program, not realizing how this must have exacerbated the problem. (5:10) Shortly after the terrible Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, Lee reported to his superiors and his troops, “it was all my fault”, and submitted his resignation to Jefferson Davis.

Extra notes: The need to speak out agains social injustice: Matt. 21: 18-19; Mark 11:12-18; Luke 19:45-48; Eph. 4:26
The issue of profit: Not a prohibition of commercial loans, but rather a protection against charging the impoverished and the gain drawn out of the helplessness of ones neighbors.

There has always been a true elite of God’s leaders,” said John White. “They are the meek who inherit the earth. They weep and pray in secret, and defy earth and hell in public. They tremble when faced with danger, but die in their tracks rather than turn back. They are like a shepherd defending his sheep or a mother protecting her young. They sacrifice without grumbling, give without calculating, suffer without groaning. To those in their charge they say, “we live if you do well. Their price is above rubies. and Nehemiah was one of them.” pg. 125 Packer.

THE PERSONAL EXTENSION OF THE LEADER.
A statement of principle: Like Paul, Nehemiah determined that he would take the higher ground. ( I Cor. 9; 2 Thess 3;8)
A governor was expected to entertain lavishly; but as such, Nehemiah ( See vs. 18) Solomon’s daily provisions: ( I Kings 4:22-23) Compare with Nehemiah’s provisions.

PRINCIPLES FOR FURTHER STUDY:
We must be courageous enough to face our own inconsistencies and respond on the basis of truth.
We make the best decisions when we have determined the facts.
Inner character determines outward courage.

Done

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