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I Was Very Angry When... 

The Scriptures openly contest that - "anger resteth in the bosom of fools"(Ecclesiastes 7:9). However, there comes a time when "anger" is justifiable - especially when it is directed against sin or any dishonor done to God or wrong to man. This message deals with a godly man in the Bible who became very angry with the internal evils or flagrant wrongs that were happening all around him. His hatred for sin and love to God and man stirred him to call for reform. That man's name was Nehemiah.    

"Anger at sin is not evil..."

- John Wesley's Explanatory Notes 

"Thus indignation at dishonor done to God, and wrong to man, is justifiable anger."

 - Jamieson, Fausset & Brown Commentary  

"If we would be angry and sin not, we must be angry at nothing but sin; and we should be more jealous for the glory of God than for any interest or reputation of our own."

"Even nobles and rulers, if they do that which is evil, ought to be told of it by proper persons. Let no man imagine that his dignity sets him above reproof."

- Matthew Henry  

What would you do if you were in a leadership role and heard the shrill cries of an oppressed people - knowing that you were the only one to whom they could come for a redress? Would it bother you that the rich were oppressing the poor to the extent whereby they were having to sell their children into slavery in order to keep from starving to death? What would be your reaction if you found out that it wasn't the Babylonians who were oppressing the poor but their own brethren?  

What Nehemiah faced as the governor over the Jews is recorded in Nehemiah 5:1-5 and says - "And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, We, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, We have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, We have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards."  

The poor - especially the women(Mothers) who were about to lose(or  were losing) their children to slavery - gave out a shrill lament. The others complained of debt, mortgage, and bondage to the rich who were taking advantage of their necessities. They came to Nehemiah because it was his job to deliver the poor and needy and rid them out of the hand of wicked oppressors.  

There were several causes for their ongoing poverty. First of all, their families were larger than they could provide for. Hence, they were forced to purchase corn upon unreasonable terms and at exorbitant prices. Otherwise they would starve.  

Many were suffering poverty because of a famine in the land due to the lack of rain. Resultantly, they were forced to "borrow money" to obtain food. When they couldn't pay the debt, they gave up their houses and lands as a pledge against the loan.  

Also, there was a heavy taxation imposed on the people by the Persian monarchy. In order to pay this, they "borrowed money" from the rich who placed a heavy interest on their loans.  

The worst circumstance they faced was the selling of their daughters to be concubines or secondary wives and their sons for servants in order to procure subsistence. And in six years or the next year of Jubilee, they would have no "power to redeem" them because they lost everything as far as houses and lands go. There was no possible way to ever get them back.  

Nehemiah - being the godly leader that he was - certainly reacted in a godly fashion. Nehemiah 5:6 tells of his response - "And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words." 

Did you catch that? He was "very angry."  

Way to go, Nehemiah! Thank God for such a responsible and conscientious leader. Would to God that we had more like you today!  

He could have taken sides with the rich as most crooked politicians do and have done! But as we read further in the account, we find that he was kept in check by the "fear of the Lord" - "Also I said, It is not good that ye do: ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?"(Nehemiah 5:9) - and that is what made all the difference!   

It was the duty of the rich in time of scarcity to avoid pressing hard upon the poor. They were to alleviate their necessities in every possible way. Nehemiah personally did so to the utmost of his power. But the other rich brethren made all the profit that they could out of the dire need of their countrymen. The report of their injustice and cold-heartedness caused him to become - "very angry."  

Look around you today. Can you hear the cries of the poor who are undergoing suffering and humiliation at the hands of wicked and selfish oppressors? Are you one of the "poor" who is suffering so, or are you one of the "rich" taking advantage of another's unfortunate situation in order to enrich yourself?  

"And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words." 

Who is crying out to you for help? And how are you reacting to their suffering?  

Read the rest of Chapter 5. Nehemiah did something about the injustice. He brought reform.  

What will you do?  

What does it take to make you "angry" enough to bring change for the oppressed?  

Just remember - Nehemiah's "anger" was filtered through the "fear of God." Be sure that yours is as well.  

May God Bless His Word.

Connie

 

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