God as Restorer: A Theological Overview of the Book of Nehemiah -- By: Tiberius Rata

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 09:3 (Fall 2005)
Article: God as Restorer: A Theological Overview of the Book of Nehemiah
Author: Tiberius Rata


God as Restorer:
A Theological Overview of the Book of Nehemiah

Tiberius Rata

Tiberius Rata is Associate Professor of Old Testament Studies at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. Prior to this he was Assistant Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. A native of Romania, Dr. Rata has served as a pastor in California and Alabama, and has authored several scholarly articles.

Introduction

The Bible is a book about God. God reveals himself to us through the Scriptures in many ways, and the different books of the Bible show God’s grace and grandeur, his multi-faceted character and mercy, his redeeming and restoring love. While the book of Nehemiah primarily portrays God as the One who restores his people to him and to their land, it also portrays the complexity of God’s nature and works. The book of Nehemiah teaches us about God’s people, their obedience, their faithfulness, and their struggles. On the other hand, the book of Nehemiah also reveals the evil hearts and plans of the unfaithful who rebel against God and try to derail the plans of his people. After being in the Babylonian exile for seventy years, the Israelites were allowed to return to their homeland. Cyrus the Great, the founder of the Persian Empire gave the edict that the Israelites could return to their own land and even rebuild their temple, the center of their religious life. Nehemiah is one of the leaders of the returning Israelites. The book is divided in two parts: Chapters 1–6 deal with God’s restoration of the people, while chapters 7–13 deal with God’s reformation of the restored people.1

What does the book of Nehemiah teach us about God?

In the book of Nehemiah God first reveals himself as Creator (1:5). In his opening prayer, Nehemiah prays to “the God of heaven.” The expression “God of heaven” occurs nine times in the Old Testament, and in each instance it refers to Yahweh.2 Breneman suggests that “the phrase ‘God of heaven’ was commonly used in the Persian Empire even by the Persians in speaking of their god.”3 The expression points to God’s creative power as well as to his awe-inspiring character. He is also the covenant God who both makes and preserves the covenant with his people. God also hears the prayers of his people (1:6, 11; 2:4)...

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