God’s Word, Our Story: Learning from the Book of Nehemiah, Edited by D.A. Carson and Kathleen Nielson
What is needed in our world is not a slender vision of God and a massive vision of human flourishing. We desperately need to hear and interpret God’s Word in a way that first signals glory to Him and secondly calls us to a robust living where grace and holiness are met. In this new book on the book of Nehemiah, God’s Word, Our Story, various Gospel Coalition authors bring together much wisdom on Nehemiah, our place in God’s story, and the mighty God behind it all.
Kathy Keller begins our study with a look at the rebuilding of the Temple but primarily looking at the reign of King Cyrus. She writes with clarity, “But whatever Cyrus’s motives were, God had promised through Isaiah and Jeremiah that Cyrus would be his shepherd—Isaiah actually uses that word, shepherd—to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. So here we see the first of many examples of the Word of the Lord finding its fulfillment in the mixed motives of a pagan king (23).” The fragility of Israel and the waywardness of her inhabitants was quite unsure about Cyrus, but God repeatedly told them that their rule would not end even with Cyrus, for he would be part of God’s plan. We also get a strong sense of the power of God’s Word in the midst of Nehemiah’s prayers in the early chapters of his book. The strong connection of God working amidst a pagan king and a devoted follower of God in Nehemiah (not least his prayer life) brings out the wisdom and relevance of Nehemiah for today.
Kathleen Nielson reminds us that the returning exiles of Nehemiah’s day ordered their lives and their worship on the promises of God and on joy (121). The offerings of the Levites and the priests both offering sacrifices and reading the Law could’ve been a snooze affair, but the people rejoiced over the people and the priests who ministered to them. Why is this so important? Because this attitude brings glory to God and it enlivens our own spiritual path. It is easy to chafe at God and see his law as a burdensome weight on our shoulders, but the people here reveled in God’s promises with joy.
This book is a really good synthesis of careful study of Nehemiah and practical application. I hope many find encouragement in these words.
Thanks to Crossway Publishers for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.