SNAKEBITE!

Nehemiah had a big job to do. He was chosen by God and sent by King Artaxerxes to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. God had allowed the city to be destroyed because of Israel's disobedience. Nehemiah had to be very careful. The king had given him some supplies for the job but it was hard for the people to live in a burned out city with scarce supplies.

Nehemiah kept his heart close to the Lord and he was able to keep his enemies away and rebuild the city at the same time. He hadn't counted on having any enemies inside the city however and shortly after he had made a good start on the wall he found out that some of the men were lending money and charging interest. This was against the law that Moses had taught the Jews. The greedy men who were lending the money must have picked up this idea from their enemies and decided that this would be a good time to try it. Maybe they thought that since the nation of Israel was busy trying to rebuild the city, they could get away with this. Perhaps they thought that Nehemiah was a weak man and that he didn't have enough authority from the king to stop them.

As soon as Nehemiah heard about it he gathered all the people who had been cheated in front of the greedy money lenders. The Jews had a word for lending money with interest, it meant "to bite like a snake"! Nehemiah reminded the money lenders that God was watching them and that their enemies would like nothing better than to see the Jews hurt each other. He made the money lenders ashamed. When he was done talking they could see how they had been like snakes biting their brothers. They looked at the crowd of people. Some of the people in the crowd were very hungry looking, others had no money, only the clothes on their backs. Charging interest on money means that one man will give another man money if he promises to pay him back with more money than he borrowed, sometimes until he has paid back twice as much as he borrowed.

God calls it usury. Thanks to Nehemiah's obedience the money lenders were out of business. The enemies of the Lord could not say that God's people didn't love each other! Do you know the verse in Proverbs where God warns against usury?

Taken from Nehemiah 5

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