Nehemiah leads the rebuilding of broken walls with people who are broken in spirit, mind, and emotions. Indeed, the rubble of their past (and ours) can be resurrected. ◊
In Nehemiah Chapter 3, we dive right into the description of the people in Jerusalem rallying and rebuilding the gates and walls of the city of Jerusalem.
There is interesting specificity of the gates and the locals rebuilding the walls adjacent to where they lived.
As mentioned earlier, if Nehemiah is also a symbolic foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit (almost 500 years before Pentecost) who guides, empowers, and protects us Christians against a broken world, there is symbolic meaning to even this otherwise mundane chapter of broken city gates and broken workers.
Broken Walls, Broken People
If you think about it, we are all broken people at some level. Our past can haunt us. Our family, our heritage, our sins (secret or overt), can weigh us down and/or tie directly to our current deficits in plight, status, or guilt, or psychological and emotional pain and struggle.
So we put up walls in defense. We hide our true selves – behind walls of achievement, performance, stature, money. We pose with facades of bravado or cheeriness while actually cowering in fear and insecurity and unhappiness.
Truly behind every man and woman at some level is a scared and intimidated little boy and girl.
And we are therefore susceptible to the harassing whispers in our ear by the world and our spiritual enemy about our shortcomings or failures or losses or threats. Like the people of Jerusalem we are a reproach and suffer disgrace. (Nehemiah 2:17)
God/Jesus Saves, and the Spirit Rebuilds
When we reestablish our connection with God through belief/faith and identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus as God’s final solution to man’s spiritually broken plight, we are eternally saved as new and restored creatures spiritually.
Yet we still have to live the rest of our lives.
And we live those lives amidst the still fresh rubble and debris of our past and current sin. Yes, we are saved, but we are being restored to wholeness and fullness of our spiritual beings and personalities that still struggle with our broken and recovering selves.
It’s the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, who Jesus promised would come shortly after He ascended who would be our Helper and Counselor to empower us:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you… (Acts 1:8)
Likewise, in Nehemiah, a harbinger of the Holy Spirit, comes to comfort, help, and counsel the broken-down and humbled people of Jerusalem. Though they had reestablished the worship of God with a rebuilt temple (see the Book of Ezra), their city around them was in disarray and they had no physical and emotional walls and gates of protection from the mocking enemies around them.
The People Rebuild
First noted is the religious leaders rebuilding the Sheep Gate. Like Jesus himself says:
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. (John 10:7, 9)
Now Nehemiah first notes the rebuilders of the Sheep gate. Think Jesus, the entry point to faith:
Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place…. The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them. (Nehemiah 3:1-2)
Then there’s the Fish Gate, where fish was brought into the city. Think one’s true calling now as witnesses and “fishers of men” sharing the Gospel.
The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place…. (Nehemiah 3:2-5)
Then there was the rebuilding of the Jeshanah (or Old) Gate and surrounding walls which paid homage to the Old Covenant or past before the New Covenant and now new life of the believer.
The Jeshanah (Old) Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place…. (Nehemiah 3:6-12)
Then the Valley Gate and the wall connected to the adjacent Dung Gate were repaired – this being related to the valley of death as one’s life needs rebirth from spiritual death to humility and new life, as well as the symbolic need for daily cleansing and purging of our spiritual sin.
The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. They also repaired a thousand cubits of the wall as far as the Dung Gate. The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. (Nehemiah 3:13-14)
Then there was the rebuilding of the Fountain Gate which is symbolic of the flowing of the Holy Spirit like a spring well in the new life of the Christ-follower and reconstituted Christian:
The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Kol-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. (Nehemiah 3:15-25)
Followed by the rebuilding of the walls around Water Gate which is symbolic for the Word of God that washes and cleanses us like the Bride of Christ prepared for the Bridegroom:
Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel…. (Nehemiah 3:26-27)
Then there was the rebuilding of the Horse Gate – horses are symbols of warfare and highlight the spiritual war that we encounter in this world through the spiritual realm. Additionally the walls around the East Gate are repaired by those living opposite them. As the East Gate faced the rising sun, so we recall Christ’s words:
For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27)
And finally, the walls and the Inspection Gate are repaired. This is where judgment and matters were settled; where there was reckoning for disputes and sin. An overt symbol of our need for repentance and reconciliation through Christ:
Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house…. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shekaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs…. Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs. (Nehemiah 3:28-32)
God and Scripture are Not Random
It might seem that Nehemiah Chapter 3 is merely the random reciting of the people who built up the walls and the city gates. I don’t think so. This is why the Bible is so compelling when studied using Scripture to illuminate Scripture. There are recurring themes, symbols, types and shadows of Old Testament references that point to New Testament manifestations of God’s restoring gift in Christ as the ultimate and better way.
Don’t miss the multi-layer depths of Biblical truth that can baffle and astound. There is hope for all of us lost and broken. Thankfully, God and His Holy Spirit are the master architect, builder, and rebuilder of our broken souls.
Is God rebuilding the walls of your fractured life?
And between the upper chamber of the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and the merchants repaired. – Nehemiah 3:32