Shouts of Joy and Weeping
Ezra 3:10 ¶ When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the LORD with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel;
Ezra 3:11 and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Ezra 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy,
Ezra 3:13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.
The children of Israel had returned from Exile and were now home, able to rebuild the Temple. The emotions were mixed that day as they celebrated the laying of the foundation of this, a new Temple. There were those present who remembered the glory days of old and the beauty of Solomon’s Temple. They recognized that this new Temple would be much smaller and they were disappointed. Instead of singing with great joy, they wept when they saw this new place. They were overcome with grief over what it was that they had lost.
While they were weeping over the loss of the past, the younger people present were rejoicing. They had never seen the Temple and now a new one as to be built. They were praising God for what he was doing in their midst in these days. God was good and faithful and they were singing his praises!
The new Temple would never be like the old Temple. All that they could see was the exterior plan. This one was going to be smaller. It was going to be surrounded by ruins. It wouldn’t be the entire complex of buildings that the old one had been. But what they could not see was that this Temple would be visited by Jesus and his presence would far outstrip any of the glory of the good-old-days of Solomon’s Temple. It was not the physical structure of the Temple which made a difference, it was the presence of the glory of God. Some wept at what they had lost. Others shouted with joy in anticipation of what they would have.
I’m afraid that it’s far too easy to find ourselves standing and looking at what was and weeping. So much in the world is changing and at an incredibly rapid pace. We grieve what was and wonder about what will be.
Many within Christianity are looking at the world in this way. They are disappointed that Church doesn’t look like it did in the past and they weep. Sadly their weeping doesn’t allow them to see the joy and hopefulness of what God is doing in the present, and leading us into the future. God is good and “his steadfast love endures forever.” This is an eternal truth and we can live into this truth.
When God is building something new, it may not look like the things of the past. We need to be okay with that and rejoice for God is not slighting us. He is doing something new! Little did the people know that this new and smaller Temple would be the one that the Messiah would visit. All the glory of this world would make no difference in light of the presence of the Savior.
The presence of the Lord is what matters in our midst — not the size of buildings, nor the ways in which things have been done in the past. May God keep us from weeping and instead, shout with joy over his handiwork.
Lord, thank you for your hand which we see at work today. Amen.