Two weeks ago I wrote about finishing what you started. After taking a break over Easter, I’m back with another look at Nehemiah. In chapter 5 of the book of Nehemiah we see some internal problems arise. Nehemiah was new in Jerusalem. His mind was occupied with the project of rebuilding the wall and keeping the enemies at bay.
And when he thought he had it all figured out, the internal problems came to the surface. “About this time some of the men and their wives raised a cry of protest against their fellow Jews.” (Nehemiah 5:1)
It wasn’t just a complaint, it was a cry of protest. And since not only the men, but also their wives got involved, it was pretty serious. The problem didn’t just happen over night. Things had been going on for a while, things that were wrong. Why did it then surface at the worst possible time?
I honestly believe that a crisis can bring a lot of good, but it can also reveal some pretty ugly things. Here the people of Jerusalem were facing some enemies and their wall was broken down, leaving them defenseless. They united on this project with enthusiasm. But even before Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem, there were things going on among the Jews that weren’t according to God’s Law. There was a famine, and the poor had mortgaged their land and houses and had sold their children into slavery just to get food and to survive. But these problems were pushed back by the arrival of Nehemiah. There was excitement in the air and the enthusiasm for the physical work distracted them for a while.
But their internal problems did not go away. And so the people raised a “cry of protest against their fellow Jews”.
I’ve seen it over and over again in my family, with my kids. It doesn’t help to get distracted with some busyness or even ignoring it, if there’s a problem with one of my kids. This problem hardly ever goes away. And if I refuse to deal with it now, it will come back to haunt me a few weeks or months from now. And when it comes back it’s usually way bigger than in the beginning. And I always wish I had dealt with it when it first came up. Ever been there?!?!
One of my former bosses would often say: “If you wait long enough, the problem will solve itself.” And sometimes it did. But always at a cost. While he was waiting the problem to go away, to disappear, there were disgruntled people, there were impatient people waiting for him to do something. And with every wait there was loss of respect. Why? Because he didn’t have the courage to confront someone.
I haven’t always had the courage to confront my kids or a problem I was facing. In the end I did have to face the problem. I don’t believe that a problem will solve itself. It gets pushed aside for other things that occupy me in the moment, and when a crisis hits, these old problems surface. Often they are even unrelated to the crisis, and the timing of the reappearance of these problems couldn’t be worse. And then I think, why now? And it’s all because I have not dealt with them when I should.
I’ve got lots to learn from Nehemiah. He was determined, and he was courageous by confronting his people and getting this problem resolved. I had to think about the words God spoke to Joshua in Joshua 1:9: