Today, I am going to use this opportunity to recap the story we have read so far. We will see how God has used the city of Jerusalem as a place to reveal both His glory and His salvation.

Three Minute History of Israel

The Book of Nehemiah is the memoirs of a man about a God who rebuilt a city.

Which should cause you to ask, “What happened to the city?” The City is Jerusalem. The City of God. The story of this city began generations before it was founded. It began with a promise, a covenant. A covenant with a man named Abraham.

This man was NOTHING. Just a man, with no children, who’s family line was about to become extinct. God made this man promise to make him into a “great nation (Genesis 12:1-3).” The beauty of the covenant, and a hint at the meaning of Jerusalem, is in this little phrase in God’s promise. > … in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

God fulfilled his promise. The descendants of Abraham moved to Egypt, and within four centuries grew to over one million people. A great nation, but slaves.

In comes more of God’s promise. God made another covenant. This time with a man named Moses. It was really just a covenant for how God would further fulfill the promise originally made to Abraham. He promised to redeem His people out of slavery in Egypt, and give them a land of promise. Within a few generations God’s people settled in the land that would become known as Israel. Generations later the greatest king in this new land was named David. David conquered a city named Salem and renamed it Jerusalem. He instructed his son, Solomon, to build God’s temple there.

Everything looks good, right? But God’s covenant with Moses had three parts (Leviticus 26).

  1. A promise to give the people land and protect them, but only if they would follow God with their whole heart and keep His commands.
  2. A promise to send them into exile if they were unfaithful and walked in idolatry.

What do you think happened?

The Exile!

587 years before Jesus was born, Jerusalem was destroyed, along with the temple and the walls of the city. Many Israelites were carried off as captives to a foreign nation.

That’s where we find God’s people in Nehemiah. But wait! Wasn’t there a third part of the covenant God made with Moses and the Israelite people?

Even after sending them into exile God said, “I will remember … the covenant.” They would be His people and He would be their God and through this great nation all the families would be blessed.

Over a century after Jerusalem was leveled we find Nehemiah. He is wrestling with the third part of God’s covenant. He gets news that the walls of Jerusalem are still destroyed. You can’t be a great nation if the walls of your capital are crushed to the ground. You can’t bless all the families of the earth if your own family has been abandoned by God. Is God a covenant breaker? Or is God “the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments?”

In the reading today we see how God uses faithful servants and even foreign kings to accomplish His purposes.