by Nevin Bass
And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their brethren the Jews. For there were that said, we, our sons, and our daughters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and live. Some also there were that said, we have mortgaged our lands, vineyards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There were also that said, we have borrowed money for the king’s tribute, and that upon our lands and vineyards. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards. And I was very angry when I heard their cry and these words (Neh. 5:1-6).
This chapter has to do with conflicts within the work of God. What Satan could not accomplish by pressure from the outside, he was almost able to pull off through the advancement of conflict inside the work of God and, in particular, conflict between brothers.
This is an important chapter in the scope of the book of Nehemiah because it shines a light on Satan’s tactic of “divide and conquer.” The single most powerful thing that we collectively bring to the work of God is unity. When God’s people are united and doing the will of God, the enemy still has many stratagems, but he will likely slither down the list to this one: that is, to divide the workers and cause conflict to arise between brothers. The importance of this chapter cannot be overstated; the application of it can scarcely be exaggerated.
There are three attitudes on display in chapter five. The people who were misused experienced sorrow, regret, and bitterness. Those who took advantage justified their opportunism. Nehemiah and his servants refused to profit from others’ misfortune and felt outraged that other Jews would.
Conflicts and differences are inevitable. Spiritual people must recognize that the enemy uses disputes and hurt feelings to damage God’s work among us. Satan would love nothing more than to see conflicts go unresolved and boil up into a finger-pointing and name-calling session. He wants to get something started and then bring up any unresolved issue from the past to make the water dirtier and things more difficult to sort through. To ignore the spiritual significance of these events and the timing of them is foolish and lacking in spiritual insight. Someone has to sort through these things, and the Scripture is the pattern that must be followed. The Scripture must be applied by those who have keen spiritual insight and an understanding of the nature of the struggle.
For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph. 6:12).