READING: Ezra 3-5, John 20
“The people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shouting from that of the weeping, because the people were shouting so loudly.”
They were the older people in the crowd. They had been around when the first temple was in existence, and they remembered it fondly. They also knew the tragedy of the exile, the judgment of God on His people for not following Him. The invading armies had destroyed that temple. Now, God’s people had returned to the holy city, and Zerubbabel was leading them in building a new temple. The foundation for that structure was now complete.
Many of the priests rejoiced, and the people “shouted joyfully” (Ezra 3:12) when the foundation was finished. The older priests, though, struggled to rejoice as readily, as they remembered the first temple. Apparently, it was clear to them even from the foundation that the new temple would not be as elaborate as the first one. Instead of rejoicing, they “wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this house” (Ezra 3:12). They knew what Solomon’s temple had been, and all they could see was that structure destroyed some five decades earlier.
I am reminded of the danger of living in the “good old days” to such an extent that you miss what God is doing in the present tense. While the younger folks rejoiced with the building of the new temple, the intermingling of the emotions was such that others “could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shouting from that of the weeping” (Ezra 3:13). At the same time, though, I think about the cost the nation paid for their rebellion against their Creator – now a smaller nation with a smaller temple, etc. Their return to the land was great, but also a reminder of the way things used to be.
How easy it is to see similar situations today: the church that was once large, but is now halved in size because of division; the once-strong pastoral ministry now depleted because of that pastor’s sin; the denomination not nearly as strong as it was because of its rejection of the Word. We grieve those realities even as we rejoice when God gives us second chances to start over again.
- Thank God for new beginnings.
- Pray that you will never find yourself in exile because of your sin.
PRAYER: “God, I praise You that You allow us to start over. Remind me, though, of what I might lose if I don’t follow You fully.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Ezra 6-8, John 21