The Temple of Solomon was an amazing structure, built in about 950 BC by thousands of artisans who hand-crafted every stone. It was a jewel in the crown of Israel’s kingdom. More importantly, it was the central worship place of the Most High God. Then, in 586 BC the Temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar II, when Babylon sieged and overwhelmed Jerusalem. When Ezra returned in 538 BC, his team performed the back-breaking work required to rebuild the temple. This project affected not only their religion, but their entire sense of community. After years enduring the despair of defeat and captivity, the project also brought them something else: JOY.
How joyful are you? In a world where everyone seeks happiness, its seems that sometimes pure joy is in short supply. Perhaps we can discover it in this passage:
Joy that Showed
“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” 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 4:11-13, NIV).
When the Israelites were able to return to build the temple, it was a moving experience. They had gotten permission from Cyrus to leave Babylon, and then created a plan and traveled back together all the way to Jerusalem. The people who returned performed exhausting manual labor with a sense of urgency: they were rebuilding God’s house! They worked together to clear away debris, and to move huge stones into place for the foundation. When it was laid, the older workers wept aloud, while the younger ones gave a great shout of praise that carried their joy into the heavens.
It was an exciting time for many whose lives had been torn apart, or who had lived their entire lives in exile, away from the homeland they dreamed of. They sang praises; they rejoiced with thanksgiving! As Ezra says, their emotion was so overwhelming that “no one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping” as people cried out, filling the air with emotional exclamation points. They were refreshed and excited, newly reminded of God’s goodness and love!
As you reflect on the emotion of this scene, ask yourself: what represents rebuilding God’s temple to you? Is there a thing you have been missing in your life, which being restored would cause you to shout with joy? Is it a mountain top where you once rejoiced? Is it a place of service where you felt useful? A calling you have neglected to follow? Maybe it’s time to rebuild…
I bet almost all of us have some special place in our relationship with God where we long for restoration, and for the chance to feel His love and goodness anew. Consider the possibility of making a plan, of enlisting friends and family to travel with you, and of returning to the place where you, too, would shout for joy! Or weep for joy. Or, just go into your prayer closet today and seek the Lord in the privacy of your own heart. I think God will meet you there either way.
Perhaps you, too have felt alone, with all your laughter stilled;
Perhaps you’ve been knocked down a peg, and needed to rebuild.
Go and seek the Lord. He can restore what has been taken,
And He’ll be your foundation when the entire world’s been shaken.
Stand before Him. Choose to sing to Him, and lift your voice!
Claim His promise to restore. Believe. Receive. Rejoice!
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