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When It's A Sin Not to Be Angry

Planting Date Palms: Nehemiah #5
Nehemiah 5:1-13
February 14, 2021

Myth Busters

The best series in the history of the Discovery Channel is one called Myth Busters. It’s the show that set me free from those false beliefs I believed to be true, much like you. Myths like these:

(1) Don’t go swimming after you eat for 30 minutes. If you do, you’ll get cramps.

Parents, I must inform you that the body does require extra blood in order to digest. But not nearly enough to prevent the muscles in your arms and legs from working as they should.

(2) Don’t drop a penny from the top of the Empire State Building because it could kill someone.

Well, Einstein, I got news for you: a penny is too small and flat for it to gain enough natural momentum to make any kind of fatal impact. But my favorite one was this:

(3) Shaving your hair makes it grow back quicker.

I’m living proof that’s certainly not true.

A Myth Busting Sunday

I’m going to bust a myth today. And I don’t care if I have to break some toes to do it. It is this widely held myth:

There is no place for anger in the work of God.

I beg to differ. In fact, I want to suggest to you today that there are times in which any Christian with a thread of moral decency would be sinning against God if they were not angry. Let’s look at one of those occasions today from Nehemiah 5:1-13

Text

5:1-13 1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their fellow Jews. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our fellow Jews and though our children are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” 6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, “You are charging your own people interest!” So I called together a large meeting to deal with them 8 and said: “As far as possible, we have bought back our fellow Jews who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your own people, only for them to be sold back to us!” They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. 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 oathto 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.

When It's A Sin Not To Be Angry

(1) When Opposition Arises from Within (5:6)

On four occasions, Nehemiah greets outside opposition with a number of emotions:

(1) With confidence: I answered them by saying ‘the God of Heaven will give us success. (2:20)”;

(2) With solemnity: Hear us, O our God, for we are despised (4:4);

(3) With dismissiveness: So I sent messengers to them with this reply: ‘I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you’ (6:3)?

(4) By not capitulating: Should a man like me run away? (6:11)

Reason why no anger towards outside opposition:

He doesn’t expect unrighteous people who don’t know any better to act and behave like righteous people who do.

Reasons for anger towards inside opposition:

(1) Expected those who know better from previous mistakes to do better: Greed and Selfishness were the reasons for their exile in the first place. He expected those who know better to do better.

(2) It made them a reproach to unbelievers (5:9): Behaviors were indistinguishable from pagans who didn’t know God the way the Israelites claimed they knew God.

Application:

If the Devil can get us thinking only about ourselves, he wins the victory before we even realize he’s at work.

(2) Betterment of Self Requires Making Life Worse for Others (5:4-5)

Why Self-Centered "Fellow" Leaders Triggered Nehemiah's Anger:

(1) They should have never been in that position in the first place:

(a) Before Artaxerxes gave permission to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls, King Cyrus gave the Israelites permission to return;

(b) And he also gave the leaders money to return and rebuild their society;

(c) But instead of rebuilding Israel, these leaders figured out way to lend fellow believers money for grain or to pay taxes at astronomical interest rates; which they were forbidden to do

(d) When they couldn’t repay, they took their land or took their sons and daughters as indentured servants.

(2) The people should have had food

In ancient Israel, building storehouses was essential to a community in a famine. There were no storehouses to speak of because the leaders cared not about the people that they claimed to serve. It would have been a sin for Nehemiah not to be angry at that.

We have three choices to make when we face a similar situation:

(1) What was popular among the leadership: It’s sure making us wealthy; let’s pray for more famines;

(2) What was safe: I don’t want these nobles and officials coming after me. I shouldn’t do anything;

(3) What was right B4 God and what was right to help others in need: It came with a heavy price to pay if it backfired. Thankfully, it didn’t.

Application:

The very essence of evil is to figure out a way to better self by making life worse for others.

How We Sin In Our Anger, Unlike Nehemiah:

1. Responding in Anger Without Pause (5:7-9)

What Nehemiah Had A Right To His Anger (5:7a):

When I heard I was very angry....

(Then)

I pondered them in my mind....

(Then)

I accused the nobles and officials....

What Nehemiah Did Not Have a Right To Do In His Anger:

(1) Loss of self-control (5:7).

If you explode in destructive ways, problem isn’t solved.

(2) Not act on his anger unbiblically (5:7).

“Do not charge your brother interest. You may charge a foreigner. But not a brother” (Dt 24:19-20);

(3) Chastise in front of others not responsible (5:7):

That occurs when we care more about painting ourselves in the best possible light than we do about solving the problem.

(4) Wait to Act (5:9):

"What you are doing is not right."

Application: Self-control is a virtue you can't afford not to have.

2. Condemnation without invitation (5:8, 12)

Condemnation:

(1) Invites anger

(2) Invites "I'm sorry" when that isn't enough

(3) Lacks an invitation to restoration and redemption

Conviction:

(1) Brings silence (5:8)

(2) Brings showing signs of true repentance by making the situation right (5:12)

(3) Brings accountability before God and others (5:12-13)

Application:

Conviction was the cornerstone for wall reconstruction for Nehemiah. If the spiritual foundation isn’t intact, the walls made of brick and mortar are worthless.

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