By Michael E. Brooks
“Men of Tyre dwelt there also, and brought in fish and all kinds of goods, and sold them on the Sabbath to the children of Judah, and in Jerusalem. . . . Now the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. Then I warned them, and said to them, ‘Why do you spend the night around the wall? If you do so again I will lay hands on you!’ From that time on they came no more on the Sabbath” (Nehemiah 13:16, 20-21 NKJV).
Most villages and towns in Bangladesh have weekly market days. On those days the roads through the middle of town are usually choked with trucks, rickshaw vans, hand carts and other vehicles used to bring merchandise in for trading.
Additionally, there are all the merchants in booths or sitting on mats on the ground. Often they are on the edge of the road with their wares. Then there are the vast crowds who have come to shop for vegetables, fruits, fish, or other items. As the roads are narrow to begin with, traffic is slowed and long jams are frequent.
A while back as we were traveling through a portion of the country, we passed through several towns whose markets were in full swing, being delayed each time by the congestion.
I commented to those with me, “Now I know why Nehemiah was so angry at the fish merchants from Tyre! It was not just the violation of the Sabbath; it was the traffic jams they caused in the gates of Jerusalem.”
Market scenes are notorious for selfish inconsideration. A year or so ago a store in America was the scene of a mad stampede on “Black Friday” which resulted in some of the shoppers being trampled to death.
Stories abound of fights breaking out between competitors for the same bargain. The attitude of “me first; let me get what I want, regardless of others” prevails in such circumstances.
“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:1-3).
The merchants from Tyre cared nothing for God’s law regarding the Sabbath if it interfered with their trade and profit. The citizens of Jerusalem were evidently willing to ignore that same law if it meant a better supply of fresh fish. Both were concerned only with their desires for money, food, or pleasure.
The tragedy is that we can have the things we need and want, if we seek them for the right reason and in the right way. Our greed and lust for pleasure will lead to corruption and failure.
However, if we ask God to supply our needs, and seek to prosper so we may do His will and help others, He is ready to help us. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7).