February 13, 2003
The church since Christ is called the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.
Hebrews 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
The Argument-God, in all ages and at all times, sets up worthy persons for the convenience and profit of his Church, as now within the compass of seventy years he raised up various excellent men for the preservation of his people after their return from Babylon. Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, of which the first was their captain to bring them home, and provided that the temple was built: the second reformed their manners and planted religion: and the third built up the walls, delivered the people from oppression and provided that the law of God was carried out among them. He was a godly man, and in great authority with the king, so that the king favoured him greatly and gave him letters to accomplish all the things he desired. This book is also called the second of Ezra by the Latins because he was the author of it. (Geneva)
This book, as do many others in the Old Testament, shows us God's concern for His peoplethat is, the church both under the Old covenant and under the New.
This book, in chapter two, introduces the antagonists who did everything they could think of to stop, or at least hinder, the work of God. Why were they so determined to stop the building of the walls? I would say that because when the walls were rebuilt, they would lose their power over God's people.
Thus we see the determination of the enemy to use every means at his disposal to stop, or at least hinder, the building of the church. For if the church is strengthened according to the proper foundation, the world will be Christianized as commanded by the Lord.
V. 1, The twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace. A lot of things are taking place in Shushan at this time: Daniel is here, Daniel 8:2, as is Esther, 1:2.
V. 4, first, concern. Upon hearing of the sad condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah wept. He had great concern for this city that was to uphold the name of his God.
Where does our concern lie? Is it for God's work, or is it purely personal concern?
V. 5, Nehemiah reminded God that He keeps His promises and shows His mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments.
Exodus 20:6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
There is nothing wrong with reminding God of His promises. In fact, almost every author of Scripture, particularly in the Psalms, reminds God of His promises. We need to find promises, claim them, and remind God of them.
If you love, you will keep is one of the most repeated statements in Scripture, as love for the Lord and keeping His commandments are said in the same "breath". It is found in Deuteronomy 5:10, 7:9, 11:1, 13, 22, 19:9, 30:16, Joshua 22:5, Psalms 119:127 (Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.)& Daniel 9:4.
The command is clearly carried over into the New Testament by the Lord Jesus Himself:
John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
John 14:21 He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.
John 15:10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.
John expands the command to say that if we love God, we will not only keep His commandments (identifying Christ as God, i.e., His here and my in John 14:15, &c.), but we will love the children of God:
1 John 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
John continues to develop the New Testament doctrine of love toward God:
1 John 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments:
and his commandments are not grievous.
2 John 1:6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
Do we love God? We prove that love by actions according to His commandments. Note that Christ, particularly in John 14:15 almost said word for word Exodus 20:6 & Deuteronomy 5:10.
It is those who love God, shown by keeping His commandments, who can claim His mercy.
V. 6, second, communication with his god.
Third, confession of sin.
Vv. 8-10 are worth noting:
8 Remember, I beseech thee, the word that thou commandedst thy servant Moses, saying, If ye transgress, I will scatter you abroad among the nations: 9 But if ye turn unto me, and keep my commandments, and do them; though there were of you cast out unto the uttermost part of the heaven, yet will I gather them from thence, and will bring them unto the place that I have chosen to set my name there. 10 Now these are thy servants and thy people, whom thou hast redeemed by thy great power, and by thy strong hand.
Nehemiah quotes the warning given through Moses that sin would scatter Israel abroad among the nations. He then reminds God of the promise that if they would return to Him, and do His commandments, that He would bring them back into their land.
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah records the gathering prophesied by Moses, so there is not another gathering of the carnal nation of Israel in store. Rather, it is a gathering of the new nation of Israel, the Church.
V. 11, forth, consecration.
Prayer of thy servant, and to the prayer of thy servants, who desire to fear thy name.
The desire that consumes will get results.
Note here that the desire and the power to fulfill that desire comes from GodHe is the One who places His fear in the hard hearts of man.
Keep in mind
2 Chronicles 36:21 To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years. (Jer. 25:12, 29:10.)
The time of judgment is over, and now God places in the hearts of His people to fulfill what He promised to do. Remember Daniel also saw that the time was up, Daniel 9:2. The land had to fulfill her sabbaths. Israel could not return until then. Now the Sabbaths are fulfilled, and God starts to move. God now stirs up Nehemiah (& Daniel) to pray, seek God's face. Then God's hand moves in response to those prayers. It is all of God, and His timetable, 2:18. These men knew the scriptures, and they prayed according to the will of God, 1:6-11. See Daniel chapter 9 for a clear picture of this.
Christ is our sabbath, and the gathering of the new Israel of God to Him could not take place until His sabbath was fulfilled; His finished work fulfilled our sabbath, and now Israel can be gathered to Him.