Nehemiah renounces what would be lawful in itself. As governor he has the right to demand food from the people. Governor at that time – Nehemiah served as governor of Judah from 444 to 432 BC – is the highest office to be held in the Jewish nation. Instead of demanding food, he distributed food. He makes himself one with his needy people. In doing so, he shows mercy that surpasses the law.
Such acts are the consequence of the fear of God (verse 1515But the former governors who were before me laid burdens on the people and took from them bread and wine besides forty shekels of silver; even their servants domineered the people. But I did not do so because of the fear of God.). It is the fruit that adorns a righteous and holy walk. It has nothing to do with the generosity that sometimes characterizes benefactors in the world. With this he is a picture of the Lord Jesus Who as the Lord and the Master during His life on earth is also the One Who serves (Jn 13:1414If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.; Lk 22:24-2724And there arose also a dispute among them [as to] which one of them was regarded to be greatest.25And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’26But [it is] not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.27For who is greater, the one who reclines [at the table] or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines [at the table]? But I am among you as the one who serves.).
Nehemiah’s behavior is very different from that of the rulers of the people and former governors. He might have thought, which happens a lot: ‘Everybody used to do it and now they do it, why shouldn’t I?’ But he has not eaten the bread of a governor because the fear of God leads him. He is not going to bargain about the difficulties, or organize things, but he is leading a walk of life above all suspicion.
He gives up his personal rights as governor to be simply and completely the servant of God and His people. Likewise, Paul also gives up personal rights towards the Corinthians to serve God and His church (1Cor 9:11-1211If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?12If others share the right over you, do we not more? Nevertheless, we did not use this right, but we endure all things so that we will cause no hindrance to the gospel of Christ.; 2Thes 3:88nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we [kept] working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you;). His example and that of Nehemiah is worth following. They are “examples to the flock” (1Pet 5:1-31Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as [your] fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed,2shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to [the will of] God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness;3nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock.). Such behavior gives moral preponderance, which makes admonitions have results.
Also in the church it happens that families of those who have a prominent place in the it, claim a prominent place for this reason. Because of a certain natural connection one thinks one is entitled to spiritual advantage and demands this. Skills and gifts, however, are granted by God and are not transferable or claimable because a friend or family member possesses them. Even Samuel does not act correctly in this matter (1Sam 8:1-51And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.2Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; [they] were judging in Beersheba.3His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice.4Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah;5and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.”).
Much inner discontent and strife stems from a wrong lifestyle, rather than from attacks from outside. Only if we walk in fear of God we can fight this danger. In the first place, we will not participate in adapting to the times in which we live, we will not follow the masses. It is so easy to do what others do. Sometimes we participate because we are cowards, sometimes because we secretly wish to be like others.
Secondly, we will avoid the nature of the world. Many Christians make sure the world doesn’t notice how different they are. They are not out to give the impression that they are different from others in practical life. What used to be a disgrace, everyone now finds normal, for example sex before marriage. But for the Christian it should remain a disgrace. He should be able to say: “But I didn’t act like this.”
Maybe we unconsciously have lowered the standard of our own behavior and thinking. How have we behaved towards the opposite sex in recent years or months? In our premarital lives, have we allowed things to happen that shouldn’t have happened and that we should be ashamed of now?