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Trusting God Enough to Confront the Elephants in the Room

Nehemiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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In the midst of ministry, pain, poverty abuse and other elephants in the room must be confronted for ministry to continue and thrive.

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Trusting God Enough to Confront the Elephant in the Room

John 1:12 ESV
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
On various occasions most of us have been deeply troubled and perhaps trampled by “an elephant in the room”. Most of us are all to aware of the English language idiom “an elephant in the room”, which refers a very serious problem or difficult situation that needs to be faced head on, but rather than deal with the problem or person, everyone seems to have chosen not to mention and not to confront the elephant. And as we all know elephant cannot tiptoe through the tulips. Instead they step on more and more people leaving scarred maimed casualties in their wake.
For some reason even in Christian circles there is often the unspoken decision to collectively disregard the elephant with the hope and prayer that it will somehow go away. But they almost never do with a significant nudge. There eventually comes a time when the elephant can no longer be allowed to injure people.
While some elephants are very obvious, there is often a consensus that there is a marginal benefit to be gained by confronting the elephant. The thinking is generally that dealing with the elephant and removing it from the room will cause more immediate damage than the total if the hit and miss damage that is inevitable as long as the elephant is allowed to hurt people in the room.
But “elephants” do a great deal temporary and permanent damage. We all agree on that.
And to be sure, a few elephants are a bit benign. Some families or work teams have a member who is very hard of hearing but denies it and refuses to get a hearing aid.
Most elephants are far from benign.
An individual who has repeatedly hurt and scarred others with harsh uncaring comments, but to this point everyone refuses to confront the individual lest the confront be the one left unprotected and ended up furthers maimed and scarred as the rest of the group regroups and closes ranks.
Sometimes there are those who refuse to give and take in discussions. If things do not go their way, there is a price to pay.
There are some elephants in the room that I trust we can all agree need to be confronted. We well understand any amount short term pain is worth the long term gain.
Abuse whether it be physical, sexual or emotional - deliberate neglect or intimidation come under that heading.
Misuse of drugs - whether illegal or prescribed
Alcohol
Closeted immoral or illegal behaviour
Within the body of Christ, that which offends other believers and discredits the Gospel.
When was the last time that you heard of a believer who when lovingly and gently approached by another believer, humbly, gladly and sincerely apologized and mended their ways. Sadly, what happens instead what too often happens is that even two come and the local body of Christ prays and pleads for a change, it the offending elephants digs in its heals, defends its actions and leaves in a huff - usually with other who would rather stick with the elephant than be hurt by it.
In situations like this the elephant usually has little sense of the hurt that they have already in the congregation and probably the community. They see themselves as the victim and most others in the wrong.
In , the elephant in the room had been overlooked for some time, but it had grown and hurt more people . Eventually the pain inflicted became so severe that one group after another came to Nehemiah demanding that the elephant in the room be confronted and removed.
That elephant in the room was the oppression of the poor.
From the broader and immediate context it became clear that the oppression of the poor did not begin with the rebuilding of the walls. The rebuilding and its demands of labour and finances seems to have exacerbated the oppression and brought the problem to a head. The huge problem seems to have gone from being big and overwhelming to being a gargantuan behemoth monster that was now completely devouring workers, their families, their children, the last of their of their limited resources and their future.
The text here explains that the poor had been oppressed is three similar ways - 5:1-5 . Before considering these three variations, the severity of the pain of the oppressed was underscored by these words - there arose a great outcry.
The word here translated as “great”, elsewhere in the Scriptures indicates that which is not only very big but overwhelmingly huge to the point of being unequalled.
Genesis 1:16 ESV
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars.
Exodus 11:3 ESV
And the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants and in the sight of the people.
Exodus 11:6 ESV
There shall be a great cry throughout all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been, nor ever will be again.
This great cry was with regard to the final plague and the death of the first born.
Outcry - not just an an ache or pain that can be endured and not verbalized. This is a crying out that is so great that is could not be contained and had to be verbalized.
Exodus 3:7–8 ESV
Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
This huge outcry demands that something be done.
The outcry was not against Nehemiah or the rebuilding project. The outcry was against their Jewish brothers.
Perhaps this refers to the Jewish nobles who would not work and one would assume had deep pockets to lend money or enslave others. It is also likely that they had some kind of alliance/connection with the 3 men who were the ever present enemy/opposition - 3:5
Most likely, those few who had money used the opportunity to take advantage of the misfortune of those in need.
As on commentator pointed out,
“Here the menace is hunger and exploitation, and the structure that is at risk is the community itself.”
OT framework for borrowing and selling oneself to cover unpaid debts.
Under normal conditions - - every 7 years or every jubilee - 50 years - all debts were cancelled and any sold for debts or indentured for debts would be released. Prior to the release time those with the means could buy indentured slaves at any time.
Some might ask, “Why the urgency?” The answer is that it seems some of those enslaved were probably resold and for not the best purposes.
BUT the desperate financial times in Jerusalem were becoming much worse. With the day labourers and the landowner farmers all having committed to stay within the walls to work and protect each other, the future was bleak.
It the wives who came with the great outcry. The basics of subsistence living could not longer be provided.
God never intended for people to profit from the misfortunes of others. In contrast to the values of most of the world, God Word teaches us that caring for each other is much more important and valuable than personal gain. When someone else suffers, we all suffer. That should be even more so in the body of Christ.
The Church in Jerusalem cared for those in need.
Acts 2:44
Acts 2:44–45 ESV
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
It was in response to the physical needs of Grecian widows in the Jerusalem that 7 men were first appointed to deacon. they carried on that ministry so effectively that the rest of the NT record indicates that as all churches had deacons to deacon and facilitate ministry.
1 Cor 12
1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
IT IS NOTEWORTHY THAT THE ONLY DIRECT QUOTE OF JESUS’ WORDS OUTSIDE OF THE GOSPELS deals with caring for others.
Acts 20:35 ESV
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Acts 20:35 ESV
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
Responding to physical needs can be open doors to share the Gospel
Youth ministry team went to a Ukrainian village without a Bible believing Church - acts of kindness:
Year one - helped planting garden and repaired her fence
Year two - dug her a well
Bible Study began in the lady’s humble house
Lady converted, later others, church began in her house.
The complaints brought by the three groups were variations of the same complaint with a few details added with each complaint. Central to each complaint was the need to borrow funds to buy grain needed to feed their family. The need was for the very basics of food to survive and not starve.
Those who did NOT own land could not afford to buy grain to feed their large families - sons and daughter - many - v 2
no land for mortgage
affordability - either not enough cash or grain had become too expensive
with work on the wall daily wages and any cash reserves would have soon be depleted.
a family needed 6 to 7 bushels of grain per month to survive - depending on the grain - about 300 pounds - 135 to 140 kg
This was an era of no credit cards or pay advances
2. Those who owned property - fields, vineyards and houses - were forced to mortgage their property because of famine - v 3
Those who had the cash and might have once been willing to loan or hold a mortgage on the property had ceased to cooperate because in the midst of the famine the unproductive land had no real value.
This was in essence the difference between a nonguaranteed (group 1)
and a guaranteed line of credit..
They had mortgaged their property to the max.
This benefited the wealthy few.
Isaiah 5:8 ESV
Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.
With the famine, prices would have increased.
Famine was not new to them. 75 years earlier there had been another famine. There had been a stirring of the hearts of the people - . In the midst of another famine, what did they did need to do now?
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