“Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping….” –Ezra 3:11-13
The first time I read this passage I thought the elderly were weeping out of joy. They had witnessed a devastation in their lifetime- the destruction of the first temple- and probably hadn’t expected to live long enough to see the restoration of their beloved building. But the weeping told about here is written in contrast to the joy of the rest of the people. The elderly weren’t weeping for joy… they were grieving.
Why? Why would they grieve the restoration of something so precious to them? Because they didn’t want something new, they wanted the old that was lost. They remembered well how the first was anointed, how God dwelt there and all the dedicated effort they themselves poured into it. Who knows what kind of God-encounters these elderly men had witnessed in that place? It was like the glory days, immortal in their memories. They got so stuck on the anointing of the past that they failed to see God’s work and anointing on the present. They missed one of the greatest blessings ever given in their lifetime. They missed it, even as it unfolded right before their eyes… all because they failed to move on. The idea that God’s new dwelling could be as beloved and anointed as the first was lost on them. By nature, failure to move on has the view that nothing could be as great as what’s already been. As we can see here this is a blinding lie.
I was mulling over this passage this morning at work. Something about it resonated, so I tried to figure out what it was I was missing. We can relate to passages of Scripture in every chapter of our lives but there’s always a lesson to walk away with. For some reason I couldn’t place it with this. I tried to think it through but it was difficult focusing because of the memories that constantly hamper my thoughts at work. They’re so vivid sometimes I can’t see where I am, almost like flashbacks. Every single room triggers unbidden memories, snatches of days past. Days I grieve because of all the recent losses in the ministry and the resulting change it produced in me and many others. That’s when it dawned on me. I’ve missed the blessed work of God going on right before my eyes because of grieving the destruction of His past work. The first temple was built and used (the original ministry days), destroyed (ministry dramatically altered and hurt), and then restored with a new temple (ministry continued in a new way). But I couldn’t see the restoration. In fact, the restoration’s been resented and keeps the wound fresh. I’ve failed to let go of the glory days and see God’s work on the new foundations.
One of my best friends said it could be easy to go down the road of grief, to focus on the losses in life and get stuck in them. She chooses to approach each day seeking for God’s blessings in the present, even when things hurt. Considering how long I’ve had a relationship with Jesus, it shouldn’t be surprising when a recent conversation and stumbled-upon verse coincide so completely on a point. As always, I’ll try to follow her example. The blessings of the past will always be missed. But how can I treasure the memories- not grieve them- and seek out the blessings of today? Where can I witness God’s work and anointing like it was seen before? I’m blinded by the past. It’s time to see what’s happening before my eyes.
Life may have changed. Seasons, people, callings…. beginnings and endings are inevitable. But God is unchanging and He is doing what He’s always done. Lord, like we’d talked about awhile ago, my desire is to rub shoulders with You in the work. You never stopped…I did. Help me to regain Your heart and join You again. Help me to shout Your praises instead of weep.