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
Taken from Nehemiah 5