The book of Nehemiah, for whatever reason, is often taught in an allegorical manner. Pastors like to imagine they are a contemporary Nehemiah and the church they are planting or leading is a Jerusalem with walls in need of repair. Or the average church-goer reads Nehemiah and thinks it is teaching them how to rebuild the walls of their hopes and dreams, which to date have been destroyed by the various circumstances of life. Consider this quote taken from an American evangelical pastor:
The question we all must ask is “why did the Holy Spirit inspire the words of Nehemiah thousands of years ago?” Was it to inspire church planters to plant churches against all odds? Was it to inspire laity to get off of their duffs and change themselves or the city in which they live?
If one takes the words of Jesus seriously, the words He spoke in the fifth chapter of John’s gospel, where He proclaims Scripture is about Him, then one cannot think Nehemiah was written as an inspirational self-help allegory promoting leadership and life change. Rather, the events detailed in Nehemiah have a direct relation to the ministry of Jesus.
If God never called the Jews back to Jerusalem, if God never allowed the temple to be rebuilt by Zerubbabel or the city walls to be rebuilt by Nehemiah, then how would Jesus have been able to minister in Jerusalem? How could He have been crucified outside the gates of a city that was never rebuilt and repopulated? How could His death have torn the temple curtain in two, if the temple was never rebuilt and refurnished?
When one considers the Son of God – His sacrificial death and vindicating resurrection – it is far more fun, it is far more beneficial, it is far more edifying, it is far more inspiring, to read Nehemiah and all of the Scriptures with Christ in mind, rather than ourselves. For without God arranging all of history to enable Christ to come to earth, minister in Judea, die in Jerusalem, and be raised on the third day, we would have no hope as sinners and we would be condemned.
But God provided for us salvation, and it is a salvation that even the book of Nehemiah points towards, if one reads it with a discerning mind. As we read Scripture, we must increase our thoughts about Christ, and decrease the thoughts about ourselves.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. John 5: 39 – 40
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2: 2
For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. 2 Corinthians 4: 5