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Friday, June 3, 2022

Ezra the Priest and Nehemiah the Cupbearer of the King


         In type and shadow, God is painting a picture of Jesus in Ezra and Nehemiah. Jesus is the Great High Priest and Cupbearer. He drank the cup of suffering for our sins and sits at the right-hand of the Father in the Heavenly Jerusalem. It is the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit who will build the temple of God in the hearts of those who love and serve Him. Then the Lord will build a wall of protection around our hearts as we learn of His ways and will using the Anointed Word. Jesus had the fullness of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit within because He had no sin. Since God’s ways don’t change, He will use the Anointed Word and the power of the Holy Spirit to rebuild our hearts and protect them against the power of the enemy.

The Bible says that Ezra was a “teacher well-versed in the Law of Moses.” Ezra 7:6 Ezra, a teacher of the Word, will return a faithful remnant of God’s people to the Word of God and rebuild the temple of God according to God’s instruction. Then Nehemiah will rebuild the wall of protection around the City of Jerusalem. God is a God of order. First the temple that had been destroyed must be rebuilt according to God’s Word. Ezra was a scribe and priest who would lead God’s faithful remnant back to the Word of God, confession, repentance, and obedience. Once the faithful remnant has returned to God and His Word, the earthly temple in Jerusalem can be rebuilt according to that Word.  

Once the temple is rebuilt, God put it in Nehemiah’s heart to repair the wall of protection around God’s holy city. Without this wall of protection, an enemy can enter the city and destroy the temple again and kill the people. Nehemiah was troubled by this, so God put it in his heart to go to Jerusalem and with a faithful remnant repair and rebuild the wall of protection around God’s holy city.

God chose these two godly men to be leaders over His work. Ezra and Nehemiah knew that God had chosen them to do this work for Him and His people. In obedience to God’s call on Ezra and Nehemiah’s life, they set out with God’s help to accomplish what God had called them to do. Ezra and Nehemiah had been tried and tested and found faithful. Leadership is the key to the success of God’s work. Ezra, the high priest and Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king, would work together with a faithful remnant in rebuilding God’s temple and the wall of protection around the temple and the city of Jerusalem. 

In both instances, God paved the way for both Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra was one of God’s people who had been taken captive in Babylon with the others. At this time, the Persian Empire and its king Cyrus had captured Babylon, so Ezra and the Jews in Babylon were under Persian rule headed by king Cyrus. Cyrus was called and named by God long before he was born. The prophet Isaiah had prophesied about Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28-45:6. “who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, ‘Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, let its foundations be laid.” God is in control. He hasn’t forgotten His people. The time has come for the fulfillment of this prophecy. The prophet Jeremiah also prophesied that the captivity in Babylon would last 70 years. (see Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10)  The Jews have been in captivity for 70 years. God will move on the heart of the pagan king Cyrus to set His people free to go to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Our Almighty and Sovereign God can use anyone or anything to accomplish His purposes.

Nehemiah, an Israelite, was born during the captivity, He worked in the palace of king Artaxerxes as a cupbearer. Nehemiah would taste the wine before the king to see if it was poisoned. In other words, Nehemiah was willing to die for the king! Jesus drank the bitter cup on the cross of suffering for the sin (poison) of each of us. He died for us. Jesus wants to put the poison of our sin to death so we can have the abundance of life His death gives us. Jesus who is fully God and fully Man operates in fullness. John 1:16: And in His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.”

           Ezra brought God’s people back to the Word of God, confession and repentance. God is a God of order. He must first bring His people back to His Word, confess their sins and repent. Then He rebuilds the temple of our hearts grace upon grace.  We receive of Christ’s fullness. God’s ways do not change.

Nehemiah will build a wall of protection around the City of Jerusalem and the Temple with a faithful remnant. God always has a faithful remnant to do His work. When Nehemiah heard that the wall around Jerusalem was in ruins, he was sad, King Artaxerxes saw his sadness and asked Nehemiah why he was so sad. Nehemiah had obviously developed a close relationship with the king for the king to notice. When Nehemiah explained the condition of the city of his fathers, the king asked what Nehemiah wanted. Nehemiah prayed and then told the king that “if he has found favor in the king’s sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it.” Nehemiah 2:4-5 Nehemiah also asked the king to give him letters of protection to all of the governors along the way so Nehemiah is protected on the journey. Nehemiah didn’t stop there. He asked the king to give him a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest to give him timber to make beams for the gates and the city wall and his residence there. “And because the hand of God was upon me, the king granted my requests.” V8 The king gave Nehemiah more than he could hope for or ask. “The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.” V9

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem to inspect the wall. It was in ruins. Seeing this hurt Nehemiah’s heart. So, he gathered laborers together to rebuild the wall and its gates. This work would not be without opposition, however. The devil will always work through someone to stop God’s work. Satan is afraid of the Body of Christ full of the Word/Truth and Holy Spirit. He is hard at work trying to get us into our fleshly ways so God’s work will be affected. Jesus came the first time to save sinners who believe in Him, but also because of the untruth and deception being taught to His people.  He came to teach pure Truth because He is pure Truth. Just before ascending to the Father, Jesus warned that “many will fall away” in the last days just like it was in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah.

         Ezra and Nehemiah are a type and shadow of the roles Jesus plays in our lives. He is the Great High Priest and the Word of God that reshapes and reforms us into His image and likeness. Nehemiah is God’s chosen leader who would rebuild the wall of protection around God’s holy city Jerusalem. Both Ezra and Nehemiah were needed in the restoration process. In like manner, the Body of Christ is to work together with one purpose as those who labored with Ezra and Nehemiah did– to rebuild what has been torn down by the enemy of all of us – the devil. Those who love Jesus are His Temple. The enemy of our souls is cunning and clever. He will trick us into working through our fleshly ways instead of God’s way. The result is never good. A path of destruction has been paved instead of the straight path of holiness that brings victory. For victory and goodness to return, the walls, doors and our hearts must be repaired so like the earthly City of Jerusalem was set upon a hill (a high place) and its light shining brightly, the Light of Jesus in us will shine brightly when He humbles us and shows us the error of our ways. Then Jesus takes us higher through His Word and His heart as we turn back to His ways.

Nehemiah means “God comforts.” After turning to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, God sends the Comforter – the Holy Spirit – to build a wall of protection around our hearts with His Word so we will not be deceived by the enemy of our souls. The rebuilding of Ezra and Nehemiah was done progressively and in God’s order. The result was restoration and victory over the enemy of peoples’ souls.

It is important for all of us to know that we have an enemy who is cunning and will trick us into listening to our flesh and its ways instead of Jesus and His ways. The devil will slip into our self-motivated fleshly ways to oppose what God wants for us through His ways.

       Throughout the Word of God, we are warned of this. Throughout God’s work led by Ezra and Nehemiah, there were those who worked against God’s leaders in opposition, but Ezra and Nehemiah knew that God had called them to do this work. God raised up these two Godly leaders who had a heart for God and people to lead His people back to Him. The hand of the Lord was on Ezra and Nehemiah. Even when those who opposed God’s leaders joined ranks with others against them, they were unable to stop God’s chosen ones because they were doing God’s work. Ezra, Nehemiah and their workers’ eyes, minds and hearts were focused upon this.

        Christians are not perfect and are always in need of refining. We are growing in God’s grace, truth, love and righteousness. God’s Word is Truth and gives perfect counsel and guidance if we have open hearts and minds to hear and do it. The purification process is not easy and is continual. The closer we walk in God’s grace and truth, the greater our victories will be. It all begins with humility, love and honesty. The hardest one to be honest with is ourselves. But God will be with us lifting us up, dusting us off and encouraging us to go forward in what He has called us to do. God’s greatest gifts to us is Jesus, His Word of Truth and His Holy Spirit. The Word of God will show us God’s ways and the ways of our enemy so we can be on the alert to the devil’s devices and try with God’s help to avoid them. If we fail, God is always there with His love to turn us back to His straight and narrow way. Thanks be to God for His love and mercy.

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