Nehemiah 8:9-12 is about the holy day that the Israelites observed after the completion of the city wall. This was the Feast of the Trumpets, a high sabbath, foreshadowing the eternal sabbath that we will enjoy in the New Jerusalem when we also complete rebuilding our spiritual temple and city wall.
Why is the work of rebuilding Zerubbabel’s Temple and the city wall important?
It is important because this was the last temple in the Old Testament and rebuilding the City of Jerusalem is a type of New Jerusalem in the end. The city and the temple were rebuilt by the chosen people of God who came out of Babylon. This is a foreshadowing of the remnants that come out of the spiritual Babylon (the world of sin) who will be part of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 18:3-4). Lastly, Zerubbabel’s Temple was the temple where the Messiah would come.
1. Reason for rebuilding the temple and city wall
In the centre of redemptive history is the fulfilment of redemption or fulfilment of the Garden of Eden. The entire history of redemption began when Adam and Eve sinned and got kicked out from the Garden of Eden and their communication with God was severed. From then on, God promised to send the seed of the woman who will restore all things, and that is the history of redemption. Therefore, our purpose is to return to the Garden of Eden, which signifies the spiritual temple where we can communicate, walk and live with God and be called priests in that temple, like Adam.
God formed the Garden of Eden. Garden in the Hebrew language is “gan” meaning it was fenced. So the garden was protected and set apart, it was a blessed and holy place designated and distinguished by God.
Then God breathed into the nostrils of man who was made from the dust of the ground, and he became a living being. Then God put him in the garden and gave him tasks to fulfil. As a result of this man who had received the spirit of God fulfilling that task there was Sabbath (rest).
Genesis 2:15 tells us that there were two tasks that God gave to Adam when He put him in the Garden of Eden, and it was to cultivate and keep the garden.
• Cultivate – עָבַד (ʿābad): work, perform, serve, worship, carry out (fulfill), honour. This is a worship term.
• Keep – שָׁמַר (šāmar): watch, guard, revere (This word is used in “keeping the Sabbath Day holy”)
These two words were also used together in Numbers 3:7-8 describing the task and duties of the priests in the tabernacle or temple. Thus, Adam’s duty in the Garden of Eden was to serve/worship God and to maintain and keep the Garden Temple as the priests and Levites were to do in the temple.
The tasks given in both the Garden of Eden and the temple (church) were closely related to keeping the Sabbath.
In Genesis 2:1-3, God rested after completing His creation by creating man. But this sabbath was broken when man obeyed the words of the serpent and rejected God’s Word. We have learnt that the word ‘rest’ isn’t sleeping or relaxing according to the semitic concept of sabbath. This concept can be understood both through an analysis of the theology of rest in the Bible and through an analysis of divine rest in the ancient world.
When God tells the Israelites that he is going to give them rest from their enemies (Deuteronomy 12:10; Joshua 1:13; 21:44; 2 Samuel 7:1; 1 Kings 5:4), he is not talking about sleep, relaxation or leisure time. In the Old Testament, when God gave Israel rest, it refers to freedom from invasion and conflict so that they can live at peace and conduct their daily lives without interruption and achieve a state of order in society. Such rest is the goal of all the ordering activities that the Israelites are undertaking to secure their place in the land. True rest is possible when the king of peace reigns on the throne.
Adam was also given the task to multiply and subdue, meaning to enlarge and broaden the realm of this Sabbath (God’s reign). But because Adam did not fulfil his task, the border (fence) was breached/broken into. As a result, he ended up serving (abad) the serpent. In the end, the sabbath was broken.
Redemption/restoration is to reconstruct that broken wall/fence, restore the worshiper and the worship, and become the temple where God’s glory would return. The rebuilding of the city wall has a spiritual significance of re-establishing the fence in the Garden of Eden.
The restoration of the temple is abad. And the restoration of the city wall is samar.
2. Who is doing the work of rebuilding?
Through the three returns from Babylon God fulfilled the restoration of the temple and the city wall. In the centre of the rebuilding were the people (worshipers), the returnees.
Those who were fervent in doing God’s work faithfully participated, the priests became good examples by leading, and there were those who participated through material supply and with different talents they had. These are the people who made the work of rebuilding possible.
After the 1st return in 537 BC, 93 years had passed until the 3rd return in 444 BC. And that was when the rebuilding of the city wall began.
However, only 6 out of 34 families that returned from Babylon participated in the city wall rebuilding. This shows us that faith and covenant transmission did not take place in most of the families over the 93-year period after the return. But those who transmit and hold firm the covenant and will of God even after coming out of Babylon did this wall rebuilding work. These are the true remnants! (Isaiah 17:6, Romans 11:5)
Conclusion: The result of rebuilding the temple and city wall is eternal sabbath.
Our enemy Satan is afraid that we may actually rebuild the city wall. Why? He loses control over us when the city wall stands strong. In other words, Satan cannot attack us and will not be able to interfere when the spiritual city wall is reconstructed, and thus sabbath!
After they finished the city wall in 444BC, on the 25th day of Elul (6th month), the Sabbath year began in the month of Tishri, and they observed the Feast of the Trumpets on the 1st of Tishri (7th month). There was a movement of reading, revering and understanding the Word, which led to repentance of the people.
May we also be the remnants who will recover “abad” through the rebuilding of the temple and “shamar” through the rebuilding of the city wall. In order to do that, we need to be the restored worshipers, the spiritual priests.