When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
‘He is good;
his love towards Israel endures for ever.’
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.Ezra 3:10-13
“My hope is in you, God!! Others may trust in gods made of wood and stone, but I put my hope in the God, who created the heavens and the earth! Long time ago, you have made a covenant with your people, you said you will be our God and we will be your chosen people if we keep your commandments and stay faithful to you. Yet, you had to watch your chosen people as they go from one thing to the next, from one god to the other, seeking pleasure and protection. We turned our back on you and ignored your warning through the prophets to return, and we ignored your call to come back to you, until everything we loved was taken away from us.
Almighty God! Nothing is hidden before you! You see our distress and I know that you will come to our help in this time of need! Your promises are firm and true! You are good and your love towards us endures forever!! Even when we are unfaithful, you remain faithful, because that’s who you are! Even when we don’t deserve it, you pour out your grace on our lives, your strengthen our hearts with your promises of hope and restoration!
Hear our cry, Lord! Come, and fill the gaps and cracks of grief with your presence! Bring your beauty for our ashes, according to your promises, and bring restoration and hope to us, by your great mercy! Praise be to your name, great and merciful God! Amen!”
Ezra! You pray for return and restoration, but I want to give you so much more! You will see… First, I want you to test your hope! Where is your hope? Is your hope in things you have loved and lost and now you want to get back? Is your hope in a more “normal” way of life, in the good old days?
I will restore my people, but it will be a different kind of restoration! You will return, but it will be a different kind of return! I will return to you and you will return to me, and I will give my people a new heart, fully capable of knowing and loving me.
‘Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
Your leaders weep, when they look at the foundation of the new temple, because they have seen and still remember the great glory of Solomon’s temple. They remembered the gold, the precious stones, the wealth and splendour. I know that what is in front of their eyes now, is nothing like the one they have lost. Tell them, that if they give into this grief over what they have lost, they won’t be able to see and embrace the NEW THING I am going to bring about. If their hearts remain in the past, and they have their hope in the wrong thing, they will be paralysed by their grief and disappointment and they won’t be able to move with me, and so they will miss out on something great!
I know, that my people are afraid that the new temple won’t be big enough or fancy enough to accommodate all the festivals and sacrifices. But I am preparing a NEW THING! I am preparing a final, ultimate sacrifice, that will make all further sacrifice unnecessary!
I know that they are weeping because the foundation of the new temple seems completely inferior to the old temple they have known and loved. But see, I am preparing a NEW THING! I am already rejoicing over the foundation of a new temple, superior to any and every temple that was ever built on the face of the earth, a temple that is in fact inseparable from my presence.
They weep, because they have their hope in the restoration of a physical building, and they do not realise that I am offering them hope in a new kind of, indestructible temple, that is not built of bricks and mortar, but it is being built of living stones.
So, Ezra! I want you to examine your own expectations and to test your own hope! Are you ready to move with me? What’s holding you back? Stop wishing for things to get back to normal and fix your eyes on me, because I am doing a NEW THING, now it springs up, do you not perceive it?”