TODAY’S READING: Nehemiah 11–13; Psalm 126
Zerubbabel (whose name likely meant “seed of Babylon”) was a missionary kid, or at least a third culture kid. His grandfather was Jehoiachin (exiled by the Persians), and now a Persian king appointed Zerubbabel to be governor of his homeland. Though Zerubbabel was from the royal family of Judah, he was most likely born and certainly grew up in Babylon. Who better to negotiate the tension between cultures than someone familiar with both? Missionary kids, or third culture kids, have the wonderful gift of perspective. Never feel sorry for them. They in turn can be used greatly for the King. Because he was of David’s line, because the temple was rebuilt, because the walls of Jerusalem were established, hope began to rise again that the Davidic kingdom would be restored, glory returned, and all the nations affected. But it was not to be. Not yet at least, as Zerubbabel faded into history. As the Old Testament draws to a close, it does so leaving us with the hope, with the longing that Messiah will come.
When the wall was finished, Nehemiah called the Levites from “all their places” to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, thanksgiving, and singing (Neh. 12:27). We can imagine Levites ascending to Jerusalem from the lands all around, singing the psalms of ascent on their way. Many of these psalms date back to David and Solomon, but some were written around the time of Nehemiah and Zerubbabel, like Psalm 126 which praises God for His mighty deliverance of “the captivity of Zion.” Since the psalms of ascent appear together, it is likely they were an original collection used as a collective beginning at the second temple period, the time of Nehemiah and Zerubbabel. In fact, it’s thought that many of the latter psalms (all the way to Psalm 150) are from the days of the restored temple and the return from exile. This helps us read these psalms in their intended missionary context: “He sends out His command to the earth” (147:15) and “kings of the earth and all peoples; princes and all judges of the earth. Let them praise the name of Lord [Jehovah], for His name alone is exalted; His glory is above the earth and heaven” (148:11, 13).
Nehemiah ends with a reminder of God’s missionary intolerance. Nehemiah will not let a Jordanian official access the temple contrary to God’s laws (13:7), and he will not let his own people marry foreign wives, ripping out his own hair and beard at the provocation (13:25). This is but missionary zeal: all peoples are invited into the family and presence of God, but all peoples must approach God in His proscribed way. Thus, we have the two parting shots of the Old Testament before we plunge into the New: The Messiah, the Davidic King, is coming soon to set up a kingdom that includes all peoples, but entrance into the kingdom must be on the King’s terms. Come, Lord Jesus! We are ready to bow.
 The Chronological Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008. 1012.