In these Wednesday posts, I'm all about the digging in and not quite so much the application. That is because I intended these posts to help us find what is actually IN the Bible, and how to do a little creative digging. Today, though, I hope to do both.
For the first time, we skip a book- Ezra. Sorry, Ez, but your third chapter only had 12 verses. And thus we go on to his buddy Nehemiah. And it isn't that bad a thing; you see, the two books are slightly different, slightly time-displaced perspectives on the same events. Ezra the scribe had become the faith leader of Israel as she returned from the long exile in Babylon to pick up the pieces of her heritage. Nehemiah came slightly later, saw things needing done that were being ignored, and went to work on them. Chief among these tasks was the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls. Our 3:16 today is smack dab in the middle (and how many of our 3:16s HAVE been smack in the middle of something?) of a "virtual tour" Nehemiah took of those who were inspired to roll up their sleeves and get to it.
Neh 3:16 After him Nehemiah the son of Azbuk, the ruler of the half part of Beth-zur, made strong in front of the Tombs of David, and to the pool that was made, and to the house of the mighty men.
There are three things by way of digging that struck me in these passages, and one that ties it all together by application. I'm going to work them in to out, and then come back in.
First: Nehemiah, the son of Abzuk. No other mention of this gentleman, or his father. Now, I noticed that wikipedia wants you to believe that this is the same gentleman as the star of the book, but it just ain't so. As evidence, I give you the beginning of the book.
Neh 1:1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah. And it happened in the month Chisleu, in the twentieth year, as I was in Shushan the palace,
Neh 1:2 Hanani came, one of my brothers, he and men of Judah. And I asked them about the Jews who had escaped, who were left of the captivity, and about Jerusalem.
Neh 1:3 And they said to me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great evil and shame. The wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.
Different father, for one. However, that will become, in a moment here, a little problematic. So more importantly, notice the pronouns. 'I was', 'I asked', 'they said to me'. He was narrating this first person, and wasn't likely to switch to third just for a shot of himself being busy. So this is definitely two different men.
But now comes the tricky part. Because here's the translation of the name of Nehemiah the star's father:
From the base of H2447 and H3050; darkness of Jah
And next to it, let's but the translation for Azbuk:
From H5794 and the root of H950; stern depopulator
"Stern depopulator?" Let's dig this down just a little more. H950 is a word that actually means "emptiness"... so a better translation might be "strong emptiness."
Storng emptiness... the Darkness of God. One tells the story of the land before their return; the other tells the story of the people in those days. Flip side of this, though, is that they both named their sons a name that means, "the consolation of God." One restoring the people, one restoring the land.
Second, we apply the Kalko rule to the passage, and we note a curious thing. Of those whose story of rebuilding is told in those verses, the ones before our passage contain four men who were rulers of districts in the area: Rephaiah (v9), Shallum (v12), Malchiah (v14), and Shallun (v15). After these political rulers came our boy Nehemiah; and after that came the religious leaders; Levites (vv17-19), the priests (v22), and the Temple servants (v26). This shows that the improvement of the wall depended on the work of both the government and the Church leaders- and yes, that will be coming up again. But their very co-operation leads to my third observation.
The third ring comes in the verses that are "just across the Kalko Line". Observe 3:5-
Neh 3:5 And next unto them the Tekoites repaired; but their nobles put not their necks to the work of their Lord.
Neh 3:27 After them the Tekoites repaired another piece, over against the great tower that lieth out, even unto the wall of Ophel.
In looking into this, I noticed a handful of things.
-Tekoa was a place of sheepherding and oil production; Amos, the prophet of Tekoa, was a sheepherder.
- Tekoa, to paraphrase the Jewish scribes, was where you saw the "no gas for next 200 miles" sign; it was the very fringe of the wastelnds, facing "towards the desert".
-As a result of this, the "money men" of the town did a lot of business with the Arabs, people like Geshem, the buddy of Sanballat and Tobias in the previous chapter:
Neh 2:18 Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me; as also the king's words that he had spoken unto me. And they said, Let us rise up and build. So they strengthened their hands for this good work.
Neh 2:19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, they laughed us to scorn, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that ye do? will ye rebel against the king?
These three were pagans who had taken up places of importance during the exile; and when the Hebrews came back, they did everything they possibly could to upset the plans of Nehemiah the Star. It isn't much of a stretch that the "nobles" were either bribed into Sanballat's back pocket, or afraid of what Geshem's kinfolk could do to them. But the common people, like the common people of any land, served the Lord, rather than the rich.
On our map above, the Tekoites worked on area 1and 2, while you see our boy Nehemiah's section at 3. So they finished one side, then took up a spot all the way over on the other side of town; they were unique in doing this, and unique in not caring what their foolish "nobles" did.
All right, so now let me work my way back in. Like the Tekoites, God asks of us to trust in Him against those that oppose us, even if we feel we are out on the fringes, alone, liable to attack at any minute. And that means standing up even when those who should be our leaders do not; and in fact, the less they do, the more WE do.
However, as we come back in, we see that our Church institutions do need to work with the government, and part of that means realizing which one needs to be building what part of the wall. We can't expect the government to be a force of faith; the rulers worked the area on the map shown from the "Tower of the Ovens" (top of the narrow part, on the left) to the bottom of the wall. It was a defensive area. The Levites et al worked the other side of the narrow part, the City Of David, as it was called. Opposite sides of the same area- and that is how the Church needs to see the government. I have been following Franklin Graham's program of trying to convict pastors of the need to politically activate their flocks in the face of the coming Midterms; I say, just remember where to keep your focus. You don't stop near as many abortions by passing legislation as you do bringing up YOUR child in the way that they should go.
And now we come back to our Nehemiah, and the area he worked around. Three distinct areas. The Home of the Mighty Men; as best as we know, these were the men Rehoboam arrayed in golden armor to proceed him into the Temple for worship. It was a place for those who served. It signifies, in many ways, a heavenly home, not the least of which is that nobody today knows exactly where it was located- much as heaven was a place in which the Apostles could not see Jesus.
The Tomb, or Sepulchre, of David. This is also where the many kings of Judah may have been interred; and it was well known even into the days of the Apostles, though like the HoMM, we don't know for certain its location. This is the line of Kings, the symbolic line of the Messiah, the connection between God's OT promises and the salvation through Christ.
And the "pool that was made", AKA the artificial pool; the reservoir that Hezekiah made when Jerusalem was besieged by Assyria. The symbolism the Living Water that Christ offered. Thus, Nehemiah, the "consolation of God" was building upon the foundations of Father (the HoMM, or Heaven- thus, the HOPE we have), the Son (the Tomb of David, the line of the Messiah, the SALVATION we have);, and the Spirit (the pool, the Living Water, the REFRESHING we have).
Putting it all together, then, we have: First, us, coming out of the Dark Emptiness into the Consolation of God. Second, we build the Kingdom and ourselves around the Hope of heaven, the Salvation from sin, and the Refreshing in us of Paul's New Man. Third, we have a calling to work WITH our society, taking care of our end of things and working with the authority to take care of theirs. And fourth, even should those authorities fail us- ESPECIALLY if they fail us- we do the more.