Nehemiah is the story of the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, which took place in the fifth century before Christ. It is part of the long history of that troubled city which today is still in the news, and still in trouble, as you well know. This ancient city is still surrounded by thick walls, but they are not the same walls that Nehemiah built. Those walls have disappeared, and the walls that are there now are of a much later date.

Nehemiah did more than rebuild a wall. This book is also the story of the restoring of a people from ruin and despair to a new walk with God.

However, I was in Jerusalem in 1983, and I vividly remember standing one day in company with the famous Israeli archaeologist, Avigad, on top of a section of wall which he told us, with great enthusiasm and pride, he had clearly established as part of the wall that Nehemiah built. This book, therefore, is an historic account of the rebuilding of the walls of that great city.

But Nehemiah did more than rebuild a wall, as we will learn. This book is also the story of the restoring of a people from ruin and despair to a new walk with God. Jerusalem is not only an historic city which has for centuries been the center of the life of the nation of Israel (and, in fact, the center of the biblical record), it is also a symbolic city. Jerusalem is also used in a pictorial sense throughout the scriptures. What it pictures is the place where God desires to dwell. When the city was first designated to King David as the place where God wanted him to build the temple, he was told that this was the place where God would dwell among His people.

Jerusalem in ruins is a picture of a life that has lost its defenses against attack and lies, open to repeated hurt and misery.

Jerusalem therefore, throughout the Old and New Testaments, has pictured the place where God seeks to dwell. However, it is only a picture—it is not the actual place where God dwells for, according to the New Testament, man is to be the dwelling place of God. God seeks to dwell in the human spirit. That is the great secret that humanity has largely lost today, but which New Testament Christianity seeks to restore. The Apostle Paul’s great statement in the letter to the Colossians is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). This is God’s provision and desire for man.

Jerusalem in ruins, therefore, is a picture of a life that has lost its defenses against attack and lies open to repeated hurt and misery. If you are at all acquainted with the world in which we live today, you will know that every time you turn your television on you are exposed to the hurt and misery of people whose walls have been broken down. Jerusalem in ruins is a vivid picture of their danger and despair. The book of Nehemiah depicts the way of recovery from breakdown and ruin to a condition of peace, security, restored order, and usefulness.

Excerpt from Joy of Living Bible Studies: Nehemiah, commentary by Ray C. Stedman. Order the full study here.

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