The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
Fourteen years after Ezra led his company back to Jerusalem, Nehemiah, servant to the king of Persia, heard sad news about the holy city. He wept, prayed, and fasted, and then was questioned by Artaxerxes the king. Nehemiah asked the ruler to send him to Jerusalem so that he might rebuild the walls. When the king responded affirmatively, Nehemiah journeyed to the beloved city. At night, by himself, he surveyed the walls of Jerusalem. He found them broken down and saw that the gates had been consumed with fire. So he rallied the people and started to rebuild the walls.

The book of Nehemiah covers about 11 years of Israel's history. Ezra built the temple-- which should always come first. Nehemiah built the walls and the city-- and this should follow. The name Ezra means ''help'' or ''saving help''; Nehemiah means ''comfort.'' Jesus Christ came to be the saving help of His people; the Holy Spirit came as the Comforter to guide and strengthen His people.

All Scripture was given by inspiration of God. ''The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy'' (Rev 19:10). Since this is the case, then what message does the Lord Jesus have for us in the book of Nehemiah? Just as Nehemiah was the one who restored the walls of Jerusalem and the morals of his people, so the Lord Jesus Christ will be the One who restores the nation of Israel. This promise of the Lord is sure: ''And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts'' (Haggai 2:7). Not only were the temple and the walls of Jerusalem restored, but the nation itself will someday experience rebirth under the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The theme of Nehemiah is set forth in this verse: ''The God of heaven will prosper us; therefore we, His servants, will arise and build'' (Neh 2:20).

  1. Return and Repair (Neh 1-7)
  2. Repentance and Revival (8-10)
  3. Settlement and Separation (11-13)
The entire book presents, in typology, two events of the last days:
  1. the restoration of civil government to the Jews, and
  2. [Israel's] national supremacy in the millennial age.
Chapter 3 of Nehemiah contains the record of the rebuilding of the gates in the wall around Jerusalem. How wonderfully these gates portray the work of Christ for and in the believer! Ten gates were restored in all, and we will consider the meaning of each.
  1. The Sheep Gate (3:1).
    This was the gate of sacrifice, which is always the starting point in the life of the believer. The apostle Paul said, ''For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures...'' (1Cor 15:3). Revelation 5 depicts a graphic scene in heaven, when four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before the Lamb. They sing ''a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation'' (Rev 5:9). God's great work, for time and eternity, centers in the sacrifice of His Son, the Lamb of God, at Calvary.
  2. The Fish Gate (3:3).
    Having received salvation through the sacrifice of Christ, we are to become fishers of men (Matthew 4:19).
  3. The Old Gate (3:6).
    Every believer is to stay with the old paths, affirming and practicing the ''faith which was once delivered unto the saints'' (Jude 1:3).
  4. The Valley Gate (3:13).
    Humility is to be a trait of every follower of Christ. ''Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...'' (Php 2:5-8).
  5. The Dung Gate (3:14).
    This was the place where refuse was cast out of the city. Every Christian needs a ''garbage dump.'' The apostle Paul had one, for he wrote these words to the Philippians: ''Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith'' (Php 3:8,9).
  6. The Fountain Gate (3:15).
    This gate speaks of the overflowing life, the ''rivers of living water'' made possible by the Holy Spirit (John 7:38).
  7. The Water Gate (3:26).
    Interestingly, this gate did not need repair. Water is a type of the Word of God. His Word never needs repair, for it is pure, refreshing, enduring. ''Christ also loved the church, and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word'' (Eph 5:25,26).
  8. The Horse Gate (3:28).
    The horse in Scripture often speaks of war. Christians are in a continual warfare. God has provided sufficient equipment-- the panoply of power, the full armor described in Ephesians 6:10-18.
  9. The East Gate (3:29).
    This was the gate through which the shekinah glory [had departed from] Israel (Ezekiel ch.10). When that transcendant glory returns, it will also be from the east. ''And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east; and His voice was like a noise of many waters, and the earth shined with His glory'' (Eze 43:2). The east gate therefore speaks of the return of our Lord to this earth. When He comes again, His feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zechariah 14:4).
  10. The Hammiphkad Gate (3:31).
    The Hebrew word signifies [a meeting place of] judgment. How suggestive this is of the judgments that await this earth and all who live upon it! The nations of the world will be summoned to judgment in the valley of Megiddo.
Such a magnificent work for God, as Nehemiah and his co-laborers were engaged in, is never finished without interference from the enemy. Three conspirators opposed Nehemiah, and they are representative of the present-day enemies of the gospel.
  1. Sanballat. This man's name means ''hate in disguise.''
    He represents the wisdom of this world and its opposition to Christ and His gospel. Most organized religion hates Jesus Christ. Paul spoke of it as being a form of deception when he said, ''And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works'' (2Cor 11:14,15).
  2. Tobiah. His name means ''the servant,'' or possibly, ''the Lord is good.''
    He is a representative of those who make a formal profession of faith. They have a good name but a bad heart. This man Tobiah was a sort of puppet for his master Sanballat.
  3. Geshem. This man's name means ''a violent shower.''
    In the case of Nehemiah and his workers, he brought a shower of ridicule and criticism. Geshem was an Arabian, a descendant of Ishmael.
God blessed the labors of Nehemiah and the Israelites for a number of reasons.
This was the exercise of faith, for ''without faith it is impossible to please Him'' (Heb 11:6).
G. Campbell Morgan suggests that ''The life of faith is sure of God; acts with Him and for Him; declines all compromise and trusts God.''

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.