Where is the Gospel in the Book of Nehemiah?
A common saying is that the Gospel is “in the Old Testament concealed” and “in the New Testament revealed.” True, the full revelation of the Gospel doesn’t come until Christ, the fulfillment of the Gospel, yet as Jesus showed the Emmaus Road travelers, it is clear in the Hebrew Scriptures. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. Luke 24:27 In the case of Nehemiah, it is not as explicit as in Exodus or Leviticus, yet underlying Gospel themes are evident.
Nehemiah was “cupbearer,” one of the most trusted officials to Artaxerxes, the king of Persia, responsible for the king’s safety. Yet when he heard the report from his fellow Jews in Jerusalem that the city was yet in ruins 90 years after the first exiles had returned and 70 years after the temple was rebuilt, he grieved for the beloved city of his ancestors. In a daring move, after several days of mourning, fasting and prayer, he requested permission for a leave of absence from his high position to check on Jerusalem.
Upon arriving, Nehemiah inspected the city, found it worse than he was told, and immediately organized the people in teams to rebuild the walls and clear out the rubble. Chapter 3 is a remarkable example of teamwork as each team took responsibility for a section of the city wall. The most repeated word in the chapter is next. At least 25 times, we read next to him…next to them… next section… They faced opposition so that at times, they had to hold their weapons in one hand and their construction tools in the other. But they persevered and the massive wall project was completed in 52 days.
Why such passion for Jerusalem? Because Jerusalem is not only the place where God’s glory resided in the temple, but it would be the place where the Christ would one day come and give his life in sacrifice, a salvation that could not be accomplished with the sacrifice of animals.
The restoration of ancient Jerusalem would not be the last. The city was destroyed again in 70 AD by the Romans, only the western wall of the temple courtyard remains in the rebuilt city as it is today.
But Jerusalem still stands as a testimony to God’s promise of …a new heaven and a new earth… I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4
Nehemiah’s tears and prayers were answered, both short term and for eternity. The Gospel will come to complete fulfillment.