The nation of Israel, more specifically the tribes living in and around Jerusalem, had been taken captive for seventy years in Babylon. In the year 530 B.C. the Persians captured Babylon allowing the Jewish remnant to return to their country and to the city of Jerusalem. Immediately some fifty thousand of them did return and set about the task of rebuilding the temple. Discouraged by opposition from their new neighbors, lack of resources and manpower they soon abandoned the work with only the foundation of the temple rebuilt.
Sixteen years later God raised up two men, Haggai and Zechariah who challenged the people concerning their condition and way of life and pointed out their neglect of the things of God. The people were inspired by these two men and the work of the reconstruction of the temple was once again revived. The temple was completed some twenty years after the first group had returned from captivity.
Sixty more years passed by, when another group of Jewish men and women returned to Jerusalem under the leadership of Ezra in the year 458 B.C. Ezra was a priest who could trace his lineage back to Israel’s first priest, Aaron. Ezra set out upon the task of revitalizing the peoples’ moral and spiritual health. They had been living in a deplorable state, challenged on every side by their enemies, lack of resources and reinforcements from the Persian king.
For some ninety years after the first group of Jews returned to rebuild the temple, the gates and walls of the city still remained broken and desolate. In the year 445 B.C. fourteen years after Ezra’s return God spoke to another man, Nehemiah, and began preparing him for the task of rebuilding the walls and gates.
One day Nehemiah’s brother and some other Jews returned from Jerusalem and reported to Nehemiah the horrible conditions of its gates and walls. God’s glorious city of grace was in shambles and they were to blame for it. As Nehemiah heard his brother’s account, he fell down and wept, and he mourned, and he fasted, and he prayed.
Jesus would also one day weep over the city of Jerusalem and see its inhabitants as lost sheep without a shepherd. From the Mount of Olives He saw its future destruction and mourned for it even agonizing over it only days before His own brutal death on a cross. And just as the wall and gates around the city of peace would one day be restored under Nehemiah’s leadership, Jesus three days after His death would burst forth from the tomb in glorious resurrection.
Nehemiah asked God to allow him to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the walls and gates. Being the cup bearer to the Persian king was not a job that you could just step away from and keep your head on your shoulders. It was not as if you could just ask the king for a paid vacation or sick leave.
Nehemiah prayed and asked God to open the doors for him preparing the way. And so the king agreed to grant Nehemiah’s request and in addition also gave him rights to vast resources in the king’s forests. We are totally inadequate to accomplish any meaningful task in our own strength and with our own resources without first asking and recognizing God as the source of the works of our hands.
Soon Nehemiah was in Jerusalem quietly surveying the damage under the cover of night. He took his time to investigate and plan for a united attack on this massive building project. Nehemiah knew that the walls and gates could only be rebuilt if everyone worked together in unity. Neighbors working hand in hand with each other.
God is so good! I’m incredibly overjoyed to announce that right here in Alpine, through another modern day Nehemiah, another wall is being rebuilt. Through the sacrifice and hard work of many men, women and young adult volunteers the new Youth Center is thriving. Many kids are spending hours having fun and fellowship at the facility located at 2153 Arnold Way. Its a safe haven where young adults and teens can make new friends and get reacquainted with old ones while enjoying video games, billiards and basketball.
Lives are being changed and hearts healed as the adult volunteers supervise all teens and their activities. Everyone is learning to respect themselves while respecting others. There is an incredible united front of unity that exists as volunteers from many different organizations and churches come to join hands and help build lives. Just as in Nehemiah’s day there is a mountain of work to be done. The Youth Center only exists because of donations from its gracious donors. Won’t you be a Nehemiah and help build up the wall for the youth of Alpine?