Jesus in the Life of...
by I Gordon
In many ways, the life of Nehemiah mirrors that of Jesus, both in His first and second comings. Here are some of the similarities.
The Cupbearer to the King
Neh 1:11-2:1 'I was cupbearer to the king. In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king.'
The book starts with Nehemiah as the cupbearer to the King. Such a position allowed him to sit at the right hand of the King, as he had to drink the King's cup to test it for poison. He therefore had to be willing to die for the King if necessary. Like Nehemiah, Jesus dwelt at the right hand of the Father, and was willing to drink the cup the Father had for him, even though it meant his death.
Matt 26:39 'Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, 'My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'
Neh 2:2-5 '...Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?' The king said to me, 'What is it you want?' Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, 'If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.'
This exalted position at the right hand of the King, Nehemiah was willing to give up once He saw the condition of God's people, Israel and their beloved city Jerusalem. Likewise Jesus was willing to give up His position at the right hand of the Father and come down to rebuild our walls of salvation and free us from the clutches of the enemy.
Phil 2:5-8 'Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!'
Weeps over the condition of God's people
Neh 1:3,4 'They said to me, 'Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.' When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.'
Upon seeing the condition of Jerusalem, Nehemiah wept openly about her state. This typifies how Jesus would also weep about the state of Jerusalem. We read in Luke 19:41-42
'As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes.'
Defeats his enemies in rebuilding the walls
Neh 2:19,20 'But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. 'What is this you are doing?' they asked. 'Are you rebelling against the king?' I answered them by saying, 'The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.'
Nehemiah then began building the walls of Jerusalem to restore God's glory and bring salvation and protection for God's people. In building the walls, Nehemiah had to overcome the efforts of Sanballat (picture of Satan), Geshem (picture of the World), and Tobiah (picture of the Old Nature). Jesus also rebuilt our salvation and restored the glory to God's name that had been lost. In doing so he defeated Satan's attacks, the call of worldly compromise, and nailed the old nature to the cross! (See Matt 4:1-11, Col 2:13-15, Rom 6:6)
He re-established the covenant
Neh 8:1-9 And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the Lord had given to Israel. Then Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding, on the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it before the square which was in front of the Water Gate from early morning until midday... Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, 'This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.' For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.
Neh 9:13 'Then on the second day the heads of fathers' households of all the people, the priests, and the Levites were gathered to Ezra the scribe that they might gain insight into the words of the law.'
Before going back to the king, Nehemiah, along with Ezra, re-established the truth of Gods word and set the priesthood up again so that all would be done according to God's covenant. Before going back to the Father, Jesus established the church and the truth of the new covenant.
Acts 1:3 'To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.'
Nehemiah goes back to the King
Neh 13:4-6 'Now prior to this, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, had prepared a large room for him, where formerly they put the grain offerings, the frankincense, the utensils, and the tithes of grain, wine and oil prescribed for the Levites, the singers and the gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. But during all this time I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had gone to the king.'
Nehemiah couldn't stay forever in Jerusalem however as he was required back with the King. While Nehemiah was back with the king, God's people gave Tobiah (a picture of the flesh) a prominent place within the house of God, because he was a relative who they had known for a long time and they were not able to see through his 'good deeds'. I'll let you be the judge but what have God's people done today in this period where Jesus is back at the right hand of God? All right, I'll give you my answer anyway. In the West at least they have given the flesh and its techniques a prominent place within the church. Unfortunately, this seems to be a great picture of what has happened!
Neh 13:6-9 'After some time, however, I asked leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and learned about the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, by preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it was very displeasing to me, so I threw all of Tobiah's household goods out of the room. Then I gave an order and they cleansed the rooms; and I returned there the utensils of the house of God with the grain offerings and the frankincense.'
Here we have mention of the second coming of Nehemiah! The first time he came to Jerusalem and rebuilt the walls (salvation). This time he comes back to Jerusalem and cleanses the area, throwing out the enemies that have made their home there! When Jesus returns from the Father, he comes back to Jerusalem, and defeats God's enemies there.
Zech 14:1-4 'A day of the LORD is coming when your plunder will be divided among you. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south.'
Like Nehemiah, Jesus' return also leads to a cleansing of Israel. This is seen in Zechariah chapter 13 straight after the return of Jesus in chapter 12 and their recognition that He is the one they had pierced (vs 10).
Zech 13:1 'On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.'
The True Sabbath Rest
Neh 13:10-11,22 'I also learned that the portions assigned to the Levites had not been given to them, and that all the Levites and singers responsible for the service had gone back to their own fields. So I rebuked the officials and asked them, 'Why is the house of God neglected?' Then I called them together and stationed them at their posts. ...Then I commanded the Levites to purify themselves and go and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.'
Upon cleansing the area, Nehemiah then sets up the temple and priesthood again, and reinstates the Sabbath rest. After cleansing Jerusalem, Jesus again sets up the temple and priesthood (Ezek chapters 40-47) and initiates the true Sabbath rest - His millennial reign (1000 years of Jesus' kingdom - see Isaiah 2:1-4, 11:1-10, 66:17-25)
Even after this period Nehemiah still wouldn't tolerate sin or actions that were not based on God's word. At one stage he 'struck some of them and pulled out their hair' (a real man!!) and drove another away from him. Now I'm not saying that Jesus is going to be a hair puller, but in his millennial reign he will 'rule with an rod of iron' (See Rev 2:26, 12:5, 19:15)