Thursday, August 17, 2006

Was I ever surprised to read this...

It was over 20 years ago that one of my then-roommates told me that Nehemiah ...rebuked them and called curses down on them. I beat some of the men and pulled out their hair. (Nehemiah 13.25)

I'm not sure that this is a good example to you and me to follow today, but it certainly showed the man's zeal. This was a guy who, as cupbearer (or wine-taster) to the king, asked the king to change his foreign policy regarding Jerusalem, to send Nehemiah to carry out this change, to pay for supplies to reconstruct the walls, etc. (Nehemiah 2.3-2.8)

Later, when he goes to Jerusalem and finds that some of his fellow Jews have exacted usury from other fellow Jews, he rebukes them (presumably without cursing and beating and hair-pulling):
I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. I told them, "You are exacting usury from your own countrymen!" So I called together a large meeting to deal with them and said: "As far as possible, we have bought back our Jewish brothers who were sold to the Gentiles. Now you are selling your brothers, only for them to be sold back to us!" They kept quiet, because they could find nothing to say. So I continued, "What you are doing is not right. Shouldn't you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies? I and my brothers and my men are also lending the people money and grain. But let the exacting of usury stop! Give back to them immediately their fields, vineyards, olive groves and houses, and also the usury you are charging them--the hundredth part of the money, grain, new wine and oil."

"We will give it back," they said. "And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say."

Nehemiah 5.7-12
Although the hair-pulling is probably not to be emulated today, I have to admire the man's persuasiveness.

A recent sermon on Nehemiah pointed out that Nehemiah was sold-out to a cause bigger than himself. Such a man is hard to resist, because so few care about anything besides themselves. It reminds me of a song by Steely Dan from the... '70s? about
Show business kids making movies of themselves
You know they don't give a $&#* about anybody else
Returning to the subject of hair for a moment (I'm fascinated by hair, probably because I'm losing some of mine), the New Testament reading for today is from 1 Corinthians 11. Ray Stedman said this chapter was about whether women should wear hats in church (somewhat tongue in cheek), but anyway it includes this puzzling section:
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering.
1 Corinthians 11.13-15
Does the nature of things teach me about hair? Sorry, but I don't get it.

But, as Sarah Sumner says in her excellent book on Men and Women in the Church (amazon), the verse means something; it doesn't mean nothing. I'm not yet sure what that is. Maybe I'll check out some commentaries. If I find out I'll let you know.

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