9 So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? 10 I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let us stop charging interest! 11 Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the interest you are charging them—one percent of the money, grain, new wine and olive oil.”
12 “We will give it back,” they said. “And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say.”
Then I summoned the priests and made the nobles and officials take an oath to do what they had promised. 13 I also shook out the folds of my robe and said, “In this way may God shake out of their house and possessions anyone who does not keep this promise. So may such a person be shaken out and emptied!”
At this the whole assembly said, “Amen,” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.
As we began this week by celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., we come to the end of the week with a scripture passage that is bold, forthright and full of justice. The governor of Judah in 445 BC, Nehemiah, brings to light the practices of many in his province. He graciously and directly names the cries that he has heard from the women and men in the area with “What you are doing is not right…”
He uses his position of power to name a currency of truth. Listening to the people who had less power, the workers and the women. He heard their cries and asked questions to persuade the powerful to examine what they were doing. Then, he gathered the priests and the nobles and asked them to take an oath to do what they promised. And they did.
As Nehemiah tells his first-person narrative story in what scholars call “Nehemiah’s Memoir,” he recounts his leadership in reconstructing Jerusalem. Throughout the book, Nehemiah names four prayers containing the word, “Remember.”
We are in positions of power all around us. On this Saturday, may we be aware of the neighbor. To hear the cries of the people and to graciously name the truth that we see. May we raise questions, allow the people who have the least amount of power in the room to speak first, and to pledge that we can do life differently. May we remember who we are and who we are called to be in our communities.
Prayer: O God, we remember who you are and who you call us to be. Help us to see around us the ways that your earth can look a more like your kingdom. We pray we may be the leaders you call us to be. Amen.
For a link about Nehemiah’s and our leadership, check out: https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/ten-leadership-lessons-from-nehemiah/