Psalm 15, 147:1-11
Day two, and we're still going strong!
I was struck by our story in Nehemiah, which is unfortunate because it means I will have to type "Nehemiah" about a thousand times today. Nehemiah has returned to Jerusalem with some of the exiles with a specific mission, to rebuild the wall around the city. In chapter 5, we see that Nehemiah has discovered that the governors, the people who are in charge of this little band of Jews that has returned, are over taxing their people. The people are finding themselves in debt, and are unable to get out of it.
Nehemiah can't stand this, and for good reason. The people had been expelled from their land because they didn't quite seem to understand how to be justice loving people, so God sent them away. Now they've been back for the biblical equivalent of 5 minutes, and it's right back to where they started. The wealthy are getting wealthier, and the poor are getting poorer. So, Nehemiah is "very angry."
He goes before the governors, the ones who are getting rich, and he confronts them in an interesting fashion. "Should you not walk in the fear of our God, to prevent the taunts of the nations of our enemies?" Basically, Nehemiah is saying that if people keep acting unjustly, it's going to give God a bad wrap. If you're going to call yourself a Jewish nation (or, perhaps for a bit more relevance, a Christian nation) and your people are suffering, that speaks not only against you, but against your God.
After a whole bunch of awkward silence, these governors agree with Nehemiah. "Then they said, 'We will restore everything and demand nothing more from them. We will do as you say.'" Nehemiah wants it in writing, so he calls in the priests to have the people swear a vow. And then something awesome happens, something that you could miss if you're reading this story too quickly:
"And all the assembly said 'Amen,' and praised the Lord."
Think about it. The Jewish people are locked in a battle of politics. One side thinks the taxes need to be higher, the other side thinks that the taxation is killing the poor people. Again, try to find some relevance if you can. But what these people did that was so radical and even a little jarring to me is that A) one side agreed with the other based on evidence and sound reasoning, and B) they got together after the debate and praised God. They had a party. They let out an Amen.
Now, I don't have any illusions that the Democrats and the Republicans are going to get together and sing a praise chorus any time soon. We've been locked in this particular battle for far too long. Instead, I've been wondering this morning about all the times that I was wrong and needed to admit it. I've been thinking about all the times that my hard-headed side comes to light, and someone calls me out on it. My usual gut reaction is to dig in a little deeper, to defend my position a little tighter. But if I'm wrong, and someone shows me how wrong I am, I wonder what it would look like for me to give them an Amen. I wonder what it would look like for me to reverse course and go before God in prayer, all in the same breath?
So that's what I'm going to try to do today. When I'm in the wrong, when my assumptions need to be shifted, when I am found to be mistreating those around me, when I am not representing God well, my hope is that today and everyday I will be a bit more willing to turn around, to repent, and to go before God in praise.
Care to join me?