In movies, I love the scene where the villains are confronted by the good guys and forced to make a decision: will they change or will they double-down on their evil deeds? It’s so satisfying when the protagonist has all of the information available to him or her and calls the antagonist to the mat. And that’s exactly what unfolds in Nehemiah 5.
If this was a Hollywood creation, the nobles and officials who had taken advantage of the people would’ve ended up with nothing in the end. They would’ve gone from the penthouse to the streets in no time flat and those who had been taken advantage of would have more money than they knew what to do with. But that’s not real justice and that’s not real life.
Nehemiah confronts the rich folks and they stand there silently, unable or unwilling to respond to his very accurate accusation. So Nehemiah continues with his speech:
“So I said, “The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God to prevent the taunts of the nations our enemies? Moreover, I and my brothers and my servants are lending them money and grain. Let us abandon this exacting of interest. Return to them this very day their fields, their vineyards, their olive orchards, and their houses, and the percentage of money, grain, wine, and oil that you have been exacting from them.” Then they said, “We will restore these and require nothing from them. We will do as you say.” And I called the priests and made them swear to do as they had promised. I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised.” Nehemiah 5:9-13 (ESV)
This whole scene reminds me so much of Jesus. I’ve read that Nehemiah is a type and shadow of Jesus and we see that very clearly here: he spoke with truth and love, wasn’t willing to stand for the mistreatment of others, and rejoiced and praised the Lord.
Nehemiah didn’t shame the people for their poor decisions, nor did he shame the rulers for being greedy and taking advantage of the people under their influence. He listened and empathized with them. He felt an emotion which led him to take the action of speaking truth to the rulers. He wasn’t afraid to confront those who were in the wrong, nor was he a bully about it. He wouldn’t stand for injustice and wouldn’t allow himself or others to be taken advantage of.
True justice took place on that day.
Justice looks like Jesus.
It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to get revenge. I often want to be vindictive when others hurt those around me, but that’s not my job, nor is it in line with the character of God. I’m having to learn to take a step back, remind myself who God is and who I am, and then trust that he’s going to handle the situation that I find inappropriate.
Do you ever want to take things into your own hands and handle things unlike Jesus?
Do you think that justice looks like Jesus?
To go Deeper: Check out A Proverb A Day
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