” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy,” (Ezra 3:11b–12, ESV)
There was great joy and praise when the people finished laying the foundation of the temple in Ezra chapter 3. There was also sadness. Why? Could it be that the elders that had seen the previous temple were comparing the size of the present foundation with the original size of Solomon’s temple? What would this suggest of their hearts? Was it possible that they looked upon this foundation and were reminded of the sin, idolatry, and disobedience of God’s Torah that had brought them to this place? But, God would not let them stay there, He sends His prophet Haggai to lift them up out of their despair.
“In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” (Haggai 2:1–9, ESV)
What an amazing promise to His people. A people who just 70 year prior had hearts that were chasing after idols, yet God was merciful and full of Grace and stirs the hearts of His people to return to the land and rebuild. But this rebuilding was not just a house for worship, it was a spiritual rebuilding.
The Alter had been built first so that the people could have sacrifice, repentance, rededication, and to once again be purified and accepted by God. Then after they have turned back to a proper relationship with a Holy God, it is time to build a foundation for God’s house, and the Lord was right beside them every step of the way.
They also returned to following the teachings of Moses that the Lord had given them to provide the framework for living a life that was pleasing, and set apart unto the Lord. This included the Feasts of the Lord which would bring people to a place of remembering what a great and mighty God they had and all the wonderful things He had done for them. He truly wanted them to know as He had spoken through Isaiah…I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.
Is not our God Amazing!! The pattern we see here is the same pattern we have been given through the Son.
God stirs our hearts to repent and seek after His desires for our life. Putting our faith completely in Jesus our Messiah, and in doing so Jesus, the chief cornerstone adds us to the building of a living temple. 1 Peter 2:4-10 is a beautiful illustration of this process:
“As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:4–10, ESV)
Just like the people that were in captivity in Babylon, He has shown us grace and mercy. He has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light and now we to can gather as one man and sing praise to our Lord.
Do I act like the elders did at times, looking back into the past and weeping, or even worse do I look back at the world and its offerings and begin to forget of the great things the Lord has done. Peter finished the passage well with these words…
“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Peter 2:11–12, ESV)
Lord, help me to seek your desires and your will in my life. May I desire you words and your spirit so passionately that I may know you more and more every day of my life, and in knowing you more deeply the encouragement I get from the examples you have given us would stir us to continue to praise, worship, and perform deeds in keeping with repentance.
“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.” (Psalm 62:1–2, ESV)