Nehemiah is one of my favorite characters in scripture. He clearly understood the importance of not only being concerned with having a healthy fear of God, but he also understood the importance of being concerned with the well-being of God’s people. Such concerns are the essence of what we (Christians) are called to do… love God, and love neighbor.
After all, this is what all of the Law and the Prophets hang or depend upon…
Matthew 22:34-40 (HCSB)
“When the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test Him: ‘Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.’”
Here’s an example of how Nehemiah demonstrated both…
Nehemiah 5:15 (HCSB)
“The governors who preceded me had heavily burdened the people, taking food and wine from them, as well as a pound of silver. Their subordinates also oppressed the people, but I didn’t do this, because of the fear of God.”
Nehemiah was concerned about the people. He proved this by proactively making sure that he himself did not burden them, as his predecessors had. He exemplified what Paul would later describe as the “Law of Christ,” some 500 or so years later…
Galatians 6:2 (HCSB)
“Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
So, what motivated Nehemiah to keep the people from being burdened?
“…but I didn’t do this, because of the fear of God.”
As we all should know, a “fear of God” ought to be an important element of influence regarding our walk as Christians. It should guide our motivations, as it did Nehemiah.
We all know the famous verses…
Proverbs 1:7 (HCSB)
“The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Proverbs 9:10 (HCSB)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Even Job (who didn’t even have scripture) got it…
Job 28:28 (HCSB)
He said to mankind,
“The fear of the Lord is this: wisdom.
And to turn from evil is understanding.”
Here’s a question though…
What if I said that we ought to have a fear of Christ?
I would guess there would be some brethren who might pause at such a notion, responding with something like…
“Having a fear of God the Father is one thing… but Christ?”
Not only should we fear Christ, but when we remember that Christ is also God, we then should realize that not only are we to fear God the Father, but we are to also fear God the Son. And just like Nehemiah, such a fear ought to motivate us in how we live, approach God, and treat others (especially God’s people… the brethren).
Paul made this same point to the Church in Ephesus…
Ephesians 5:15-21 (HCSB)
“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit:
speaking to one another
in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,
inging and making music
from your heart to the Lord,
giving thanks always for everything
to God the Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
submitting to one another
in the fear of Christ.”
May we also develop a healthy fear of Christ, so that we might carry the burdens of those whom God has put into our lives.
Godspeed, to the brethren!