Leaders Champion the Powerless (Aug. 25)

Nehemiah 5:1-13

Comment


“A severe famine and the need to pay royal taxes forced a number of Judeans into an economic crisis. In order to get food, people offered their sons and daughters as pledges for loans (v. 5). Others mortgaged their fields, vineyards, or homes. A third group went into debt to pay their taxes.
    A cry of moral outrage (v. 1) arose because children, especially daughters, were being sold into debt slavery to their fellow Judeans (cf. Exod. 21:7-11). Since all the crop money when to creditors, there was nothing left over that they could use to redeem their children (Neh. 5:5). ” (Harper’s Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 1988, p 381).

Reading the Scripture

Here is a way you might read the scripture or tell the story:

•    Audio:
o    The Bible Experience: The Complete Bible (“presented by a stellar ensemble of today’s top-name actors, musicians, clergy, directors, and award-winning producers.” Available from Keith).

Teaching Suggestions

•    Photo Reflection: The Formation Teaching Guide (p. 85) suggests an activity useing a photo of a “Migrant Mother.” This photo has been posted on our webpage.

•    Maps and pictures in the library
o    The Essential Bible Guide: Bible Background with Maps, Charts, and Lists, Menahse Har-El, Paul Wright, and Baruch Sarel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), p. 70. – Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah and route of Nehemiah’s night walk.
o    Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) pp. 157-159.
o    The Complete Visual Bible: A Lavishly Illustrated Tour of the Old and New Testaments, Stephen M. Miller (Barbour Publishing, 2011), pp. 158-161.
o    Oxford Bible Atlas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 201. – with a chronology to help put Nehemiah in context

•    See the timeline (from http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/sermons/Derek's_SERMONS/Ezra/Ezra_Nehemiah_Timeline.pdf), included at the end of the first session, to help place the events of Nehemiah in the context of the prophets and other events in biblical history.

•    Christian Advocacy: The Formations Study Guide (p. 109) asks, “Where do I need to speak out?” The Formations Teaching Guide (p. 87) suggests an activity, “Caring for ‘the Least of These.’” Nehemiah, in this passage, was an advocate for the powerless who were being abused by the political/economic system. Christian Advocacy or Justice Advocacy is speaking up for, and working on behalf of, the poor and others who do not have much political clout or highly paid lobbyists’ working for their interests.  It is one thing to feed the hungry (we should). It’s another thing to ask, “What about our social and political systems is making it difficult for people to escape poverty and how can we affect change.” Is our system fair to the “least of these?” The Kentucky Council of Churches is an advocacy group made up of representatives of various Christian denominations who make statements and lobby government officials whenever they come to a consensus among all of the member groups on a specific issue. Their website contains information on how to contact your elected officials including state and United States representatives, the governor, and the president: http://capwiz.com/kychurches/home/

•    The Poor: The Formations Teaching Guide suggests an activity, “Caring for ‘the Least of These’” (p. 87). Highlight the work of one or more of the groups our church partners with that work with the poor. In Nehemiah some were becoming so in debt that they sold their children into slavery or were, themselves, enslaved. Our work with African refugees in Morocco might be especially relevant. Because of extreme poverty, many Africans leave their homes and migrate to Morocco. Ask one of our members who has been to Morocco to discuss refugee ministry in Morocco. Consider also: Soup’s On Us, Nada, Salvation Army, Hope Clinic, Habitat for Humanity, and others.

•    Send your class out with a thought on leadership.
    Dr. Tommy’s thoughts on Leadership from his recent seminar on Transformational Leadership at the Baptist Seminary of Kentucky:
    “Leaders surrender their own agendas in order to achieve the greater purpose to which we have all been called—to love God and to love our neighbor.  This is what Jesus did throughout his life and ministry.  It is expressed beautifully when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night he was arrested, ‘Father, not my will, but thine be done.’”


Resources

I have set aside a shelf in the library with resources for Sunday School teachers. I will place there resources of general interest and some specifically applicable to current lessons. Other resources are kept in my office.

•    Maps and pictures in the library
o    The Essential Bible Guide: Bible Background with Maps, Charts, and Lists, Menahse Har-El, Paul Wright, and Baruch Sarel (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), p. 70. – Jerusalem at the time of Nehemiah and route of Nehemiah’s night walk.
o    Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996) pp. 157-159.
o    The Complete Visual Bible: A Lavishly Illustrated Tour of the Old and New Testaments, Stephen M. Miller (Barbour Publishing, 2011), pp. 158-161.
o    Oxford Bible Atlas (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 201. – with a chronology to help put Nehemiah in context

•    For additional commentary on the text see these commentaries in our library:
o    Mercer Commentary on the Bible (Mercer University Press, 1995)
o    Harper’s Bible Commentary (Harper & Row, 1988)