Also I shook my lap, and said, So God shake out every man from his house, and from his labour, that performeth not this promise, even thus be he shaken out, and emptied. And all the congregation said, Amen, and praised the LORD. And the people did according to this promise. ~Nehemiah 5:13
Dictionary.com defines integrity as “adherence to moral and ethical principles.” It refers to the soundness of our moral character. Another way of looking at it is this: are you completely honest? The Bible uses words such as “uprightness” to describe a man of integrity. Job’s integrity was described as being “perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” This morning, let us delve into a difficult situation that revealed the integrity of Nehemiah.
We see the complaint.
“And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews.” In the midst of building the walls of Jerusalem, the people of the city filed a grievous complaint with Nehemiah about the city rulers and elders. The area was experiencing a dearth, which led to crop failures, a bad economy, food shortage, hunger, and desperate times. The people mortgaged their land, houses, and vineyards in order to survive. As things got more desperate, they were forced to sell their children as servants and slaves. The rulers placed the people under heavy debt encumbrance and charged them exorbitant interest. In effect, the people were being taken advantage of and had lost everything. Things looked as if they were going back into bondage again!
We see the confrontation.
Nehemiah was filled with indignation at this report. After reviewing the facts and giving much thought, he boldly confronted the rulers and elders. He told them that they had done wrong. First, they were charging the people usury, which was forbidden by the law. Whenever there was a need for food, the Jews were to care for each other and not to charge usury. Second, he told the rulers that what they were doing was setting the people up to be back in bondage again to the heathen. The practices were evil, unscrupulous, and dishonest. It was a bad testimony to the outside world and could have put a halt on finishing the building of the wall.
We see the correction.
Nehemiah told the rulers to restore all the land, houses, vineyards, and property to the people. In addition, the rulers had to repay the excessive interest that they charged and had to set the children free from being servants. With great humility, the rulers agreed and made all of the restoration. To illustrate the importance of following through with their promise, Nehemiah took his outer garment from between his chest and mid-section and started to shake it very rigorously, as if he had crumbs or dirt that he was trying to shake off. He said, “Also I shook my lap.” This caught everyone’s attention. As he was shaking his lap, he said that God will shake up and empty those who do not keep their promise. Christians can learn much from this incident. We must be above reproach when it comes to honesty and integrity. When we lose the trust and confidence of others because of dishonesty and lack of correction, God shakes up our life and leaves us empty. There will be the loss of friendships, position, business, finances, and peace.
We see the commendation.
Nehemiah demonstrated great integrity on behalf of everyone. He became a highly-trusted leader. He did not utilize any city resources for himself or the leaders he entertained, but, rather, underwrote those costs personally. He also kept the building of the walls a key priority while correcting the integrity situation. The chapter closes with him asking God to think well upon him for what he did. Provide things honest in the sight of God and men.
Have an integrity-filled God Morning!
Bible Reading Schedule: Zechariah 8-14