June 21, 2015

Nehemiah points to Christ

Nehemiah 1:1–3:32, 1 John 4:13–15, Psalm 108:1–13

Nehemiah was in exile with God’s people. He took initiative to ask King Artaxerxes who held him in exile if he could return to Jerusalem and repair its destroyed walls. His actions and strategy are often used in sermons and Bible studies as illustrations for leadership. However, my seminary professors say that this is a secondary purpose for many OT figures. The primary goal is to see how they point to Jesus Christ.

Reading the first part of this story, I wondered if Jesus had a parallel experience when He considered the broken-down sinful condition of mankind as reported by the Holy Spirit, and talked with His Father about it as Nehemiah heard the news talked about it to God . . .

“One of my brothers, came with certain men from Judah. And I asked them concerning the Jews who escaped, who had survived the exile, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said to me, ‘The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.’ As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. And I said, ‘O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel . . . .’” (Nehemiah 1:2–6)

Nehemiah continued to confess his own sin as well, so at this point the resemblance fails. Jesus had no sin, but I can see the heart of Christ in this man’s concern for sinners and their plight. He wanted to do something about it. So did Jesus in coming to our aid and spending about three years of His life displaying the glory of God, then dying for our sin.

Note what Nehemiah did: “So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem . . . .” (Nehemiah 2:11–12)

The NT reading simply says: “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:14)

The king sent Nehemiah. The Father sent the Son. Both had a rescue assignment, the first one pointing to the second, and the psalmist echoes the cry of God’s rescuers. Both did what they did, “That your beloved ones may be delivered” by calling out to God to “give salvation by your right hand and answer me . . . . Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!” (Psalm 108:6, 12)

Our God is an awesome God. Whatever He calls me to do, I can be assured that He will not only give me what I need, but that He will be glorified because of His amazing grace.

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