I admit it. When I saw the theme of this year’s Gospel Coalition Women’s Conference, I wasn’t overly enthused. Nehemiah? And I care because . . .? (Okay, I didn’t consciously think that, but I might as well have.)
And I Care Because . . .?
Despite being raised on the Bible and attending Bible college, I struggled to remember anything significant about Nehemiah.
So once I’d cleaned the house (Dad taught me well: it’s always worth it to come home to a clean house), emptied the fridge, set up my “Out of office” messages, washed my laundry, packed my suitcase, and made it through security with minutes to spare, I bypassed my borrowed copy of Grapes of Wrath and dusted off the ancient book of Nehemiah instead.
After re-familiarizing myself with his story, I began to get excited. Still, I was skeptical. Would the speakers really be able to show us the gospel through this old book? I prayed they would.
Kathy Keller was up first, and she did it. I wish I could share more, but let me give you an oh-so-brief synopsis:
I Care Because . . .
The book begins with Nehemiah receiving horrible news:
The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire” (Neh. 1:3).
Whoop-de-do, you say. But it was more than just a longing for his national homeland that made Nehemiah weep and mourn for days. Nehemiah understood what this really meant. What was at stake.
Without a secure wall to defend themselves, there would be no permanent restoration of Israelite culture. They would be assimilated into other cultures, and there would be no more Israelite nation to bring forth God’s promised Messiah.
Nehemiah understood God’s Word. He knew the restoration of Jerusalem would one day climax in the Messiah prophesied since Genesis 3. So, because of his understanding of and confidence in God’s Word, he took radical action.
After four months of prayer (yes, months), He risked his own position—and even his life–by asking his employer (King Artexerxes) to reverse his decision to halt the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.
Nehemiah decided to leave the world he’d known, the privilege and security of serving in the king’s palace, and head out on an uncomfortable, dangerous, opposed mission. But he did it based on God’s redemptive promises and plans.
If Nehemiah hadn’t left the privilege and safety of the palace for back-breaking labor, Jerusalem wouldn’t have been rebuilt. Nehemiah was God’s instrument at this period in history, but his story is submerged in the greater story.
Jesus is the greater Nehemiah who left the right hand of the King to join the blue-collar labor force as a carpenter, a builder. He came not just at the risk of death, but at the certainty of it. If He hadn’t done it, our salvation would not have been accomplished.
So please don’t hold it against me. Turns out I do care. I care about Nehemiah, not ’cause the book is about Nehemiah, but because it’s ultimately about God’s grand redemptive plan.
Nehemiah understood God’s Word, and he acted in confidence as a result, in spite of the dismal state of current affairs. I wonder, do you and I know God’s Word in such a way that we will act boldly and confidently—even when it looks like God’s purposes have been thwarted?