The Recovering of the Lord's Testimony in Fullness
and salt without prescribing how much (Ezra 7:22)
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13)
"Salt is good: but if the salt have lost its saltiness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves" (Mark 9:50)
We come back to the Book of Nehemiah, and in connection with the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem under the inspired leadership of Nehemiah, we want to look at one more inclusive factor which this work represents. We are speaking about the recovery of the Lord's testimony - what Nehemiah spoke of as the "great work" which God hath put into his heart to do - and when we come to consider this recovery on the positive side, there is one great principle of recovery which includes all the other work. It is the principle of resurrection. It does not require very much profound thought to recognize that the rebuilding of the destroyed wall of Jerusalem comes into line with a testimony of resurrection, and to see how 'all of a piece' this is with Israel's history, because we are seeing - I trust we can say that - that this wall is an emblem of the spiritual history of the people. What is true of the wall at this time is true of the people. The wall only expresses the condition of the people - spiritually broken down, with many gaps, nothing complete or perfect, nothing to full satisfaction, and therefore nothing to the glory of God.
We pointed out earlier that Nehemiah was contemporary with Malachi, and Malachi's prophecies give us a very clear, though very terrible, account of the spiritual condition of the people of God at that time. So this wall, representing the state of the people, reveals very clearly the need for a resurrection. Israel's history repeatedly called for that, but in this very connection you will remember that, in looking on beyond the captivity, the greater prophets had spoken of their return as resurrection. For instance, Ezekiel, with the captivity fully in view, had cried to the people, as commanded by the Lord "Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves" (Ezek. 37:12); and in that great picture-parable of this - the valley of dry bones - we have undoubtedly the matter of resurrection in relation to Israel after the captivity, after the exile. So that their coming back a remnant from Babylon to Jerusalem, and building or rebuilding the wall, answers to the prophecies concerning resurrection, although in the temporal and earthly aspect the fulfillment is very imperfect. A much greater fulfillment is still in view.
But here is the point - it is a matter of resurrection. The going into captivity was first of all judgment, judgment for sin, and it is therefore represented as followed by death: for death follows in the wake of judgment, and Israel is represented as having gone into death, into a grave; their exile being in the nature of a spiritual grave. If we ask what death is, it is being put away from God, it is separation from God. And so it was with them. They were out of the place where God had appointed to meet them; they were away from the Lord. And if to be put away from the Lord in judgment is anything, it certainly is death.
The Resurrection of the Earthly Jerusalem
Now whenever God has moved again to recover His testimony in any part or in greater fullness, such movement has always been marked by that which is inherent in resurrection, namely, newness of life - or, to put it in another form, victory over death. It has always been like that, and it always is like that. A movement of God in relation to His testimony in greater fullness always has the character of a resurrection, the nature of a new life.
The historical records of Jerusalem show that the city has been again and again the scene of sieges, over-runnings and destructions. The very survival of Jerusalem just as an earthly city is nothing short of a miracle. There are other great cities which, so far as this world is concerned, have been far greater and more glorious than Jerusalem. Babylon, for instance, Ur of the Chaldees, and we might even say Rome, with others. They were great and mighty cities, from the standpoint of men greater and mightier than Jerusalem. But, so far their former glory is concerned, they have gone down once and for all. Babylon - where is Babylon? Ur - where is Ur? A year or two ago I flew over Ur of the Chaldees - and what could be seen? Nothing but excavations of centuries gone by. And Rome - what is Rome now compared with the great and glorious imperial city of past centuries? A shadow filled with monuments and ruins, things which speak of the past glory. These cities have gone down, to rise again no more as they were.
But Jerusalem - she has come up, again and again she has come up after siege and destruction, showing quite clearly that God - the God of resurrection - is interested in Jerusalem. He is maintaining, even in the world, in a temporal Jerusalem - a poor thing from man's standpoint; I do not think any one would really choose to live in Jerusalem apart from sentiment - He is maintaining, in a Jerusalem that has been raised as from the dead again and again, a parable of the greater truth.
(continued with # 2 - "The Full Triumph of the Heavenly Jerusalem Over Death")