Now there arose a great outcry of the people and of their wives against their Jewish brothers. For there were those who said, “With our sons and our daughters, we are many. So let us get grain, that we may eat and keep alive.” There were also those who said, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards, and our houses to get grain because of the famine.” And there were those who said, “We have borrowed money for the king’s tax on our fields and our vineyards. Now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children are as their children. Yet we are forcing our sons and our daughters to be slaves, and some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but it is not in our power to help it, for other men have our fields and our vineyards.” Nehemiah 5:1-5 ESV
Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
that you may be feared. Psalm 130:1-4 ESV
In West Africa today as I write, much of the world’s cocoa is grown. It has the right kind of tropical climate to grow the cacao bean, which is made into chocolate. To make the cocoa cheap to sell, people who own cocoa plantations don’t pay their workers very much, and they often hire children to work long hours in the fields. The children who are hired live in areas of great poverty, and they are desperate for money to help support their families. Sometimes an even more terrible thing happens, and the children of these families are sold as slaves because the people who take them tell lies to their families about dangerous work and the lack of education the children will face. Families live in such poverty that they are helpless to do better for their children.
Something like this was happening to the people of Judah in Nehemiah’s time. There was a famine, and the poorer people didn’t have anything to eat. They were mortgaging their farms, which meant that they were borrowing money that they would have to pay back, or else they would lose their land. They needed money to buy the food that wasn’t growing during the famine, and they also needed money to pay their taxes to the Persian empire, who controlled their country. Some of these people were becoming so desperate that they were at the point of selling their children into slavery to their fellow Jews who were rich, and some of them had already sold their daughters. Now they were crying to Nehemiah for help.
We’ve all been in a desperate situation like this, and we were completely helpless to get ourselves out of it. We were slaves to sin and death, and we couldn’t do anything to work our way out of this slavery. But God sent Jesus to be our Savior, and Jesus defeated the forces of sin and death and the devil when he died on the cross and rose again from the dead. Because of what Jesus did, we are free from all the evil forces that had us trapped and helpless. We are now God’s free people, and we will live forever with him in his heavenly kingdom.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to set us free from sin and death. In His Name, Amen.