The zeal that consumes us

Remember me, O my God, for good.
Nehemiah 13:31

The book of Nehemiah is so compelling, so piercing, so full of love and longing for God. So full of Christ. Nehemiah rebuilds the Temple after exile, as Jesus would rebuild the Temple of His Body, even us (Jn 2:19, 1 Cor. 12:27). But there’s more.

As chapter 13 begins, Nehemiah is away from Jerusalem. While he’s gone, the people of God turn again to evil, even preparing a room for regional Persian governor and troublemaker Tobiah to dwell in the courts of God’s house.

When Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and sees that the house of God has been corrupted, his heart burns with eagerness for God’s purposes. He expels Tobiah from the temple, restores the tithes to the Levites and the singers, and reinstates the Sabbath. He contends with those men of Judah now married to foreign women who, unlike Rahab and Ruth, led their husbands to sin (v. 26).

Nehemiah’s commitment to the purity of God’s house brings the life and ministry of Jesus Christ into focus. In John 2, Jesus too goes up to Jerusalem and finds in the temple those who were selling oxen, sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And having made a scourge of cords, Jesus drove them all out of the temple, poured out the money and overturned their tables.

Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.

John 2:16

The text says that the watching disciples remembered what was written by King David and on Nehemiah’s heart too, that zeal for God’s house would consume me (Ps 69:9).

What Nehemiah had begun, Jesus perfected, purifying God’s House so that all present would understand how His blood cleanses our conscience of dead works (Neh. 13:30, Heb. 9:13-14). So that there would be no wrath against those God loves. So that through His death and resurrection, we who call Jesus our Saviour would be born again through the living and enduring Word of God.

And what is to be our response to our Saviour’s zeal for us, His own body, His bride?

God has told you what is good. And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Where there is no justice, where we fail to love kindness, where humility is lacking, Lord, purify Your House.

Whatever is commanded by the God of heaven,
let it be done with zeal for the house of the God of heaven,
so that there will not be wrath
against the kingdom of the king and his sons.
Ezra 7:23

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