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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Restored Foundations

In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jozadak, in company with their brother priests and Levites and everyone else who had come back to Jerusalem from captivity, got started. When the workers laid the foundation of the Temple of God, the priests in their robes stood up with trumpets, and the Levites, sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise GOD in the tradition of David king of Israel. They sang antiphonally praise and thanksgiving to God: Yes! GOD is good! Oh yes – he’ll never quit loving Israel! All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising GOD as the foundation of The Temple of GOD was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who has seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around. (Ezra 3:8, 10-11)

 
The temple rebuilding effort was finally begun in the second year of their return to their own land. The government appointed leader (Zerubbabel) and the Jewish religious authority (Jeshua) banded together to oversee the work. The priests and Levites each had their part to play in the restoration project – some were direct builders, others were overseers of the work, while others were instruments of praise and celebration to their God. Each had a part, and each played that specific part.

Sometimes getting started is the most difficult part of any project. There are a variety of reasons for our inabilities to "get started"s – some very well-planned, others simply because we drag our feet. Making a start requires action – purposeful, deliberately thought-out movement on our part. The people of Israel did not move ahead of God’s timing – they were commissioned for the work, but they were also sensitive to the preparation necessary for that work. They prepared for each phase of the work – laying up the necessary lumber, finding the skilled craftsmen, providing all the necessary items for the completion of the project.

The second month would have been Heshvan, the time of wheat and barley sowing. This occurred from mid-October through mid-November according to the lunar calendar. The laying of the foundation began at the time of sowing. It is interesting to see that the laying of the foundation occurred in a season when the Jews were sowing the seeds into the earth. Perhaps we could say that the foundation being laid was symbolic of the “seeds” of what was to come. In this case, the foundation was laid for the restoration of worship, fellowship, and communion with their God. Nothing of value is built without laying the foundations well. It is an arduous work – requiring diligent preparation, significant investment, and sacrificial use of our time and energies. It is interesting to see that the response of all involved was to give praise to God – to celebrate his goodness, to extol his greatness, to raise his name high.

God is good! This was a frequent phrase in the worship and celebrations of the nation of Israel. David had penned this very phrase repeatedly in the psalms of worship and praise he is noted to have composed under the direction of the Holy Spirit. The people are celebrating the “hesed” of God – his care that was so lavishly bestowed upon them. They celebrated their return, now they celebrated the beginning of the restoration of their personal and corporate communion with God. “He’ll never quit loving Israel” is a phrase expressive of the extreme mercy and favor of the God of covenant – the unfailing, permanent God of compassion and tender mercies. We should never lose perspective as it pertains to God’s tender care, mercies beyond measure, and faithful keeping of his people. It is worthy of our heartfelt celebration.

The people were swept up into jubilant praise combined with loud weeping. The noise carried throughout the land – reverberating from mountainside to mountainside. Oh, that our worship would be a sweet sound that reverberates in the land in which we reside today – celebrating our God, drawing others into his presence, and opening the gates of heaven to those who seek rest. I can only imagine the joy combined with sorrow in the hearts of the older members of the company of Jews that day. They had seen the former glory of the Temple of Solomon. They had worshipped in its courts, sacrificed offerings on its altar, and enjoined the sight and sounds of thousands in corporate praise and worship in its shadow. Theirs was probably a mixed emotion of both sorrow for the loss of the old and celebration of the new beginnings that stood ahead of them.

New beginnings are sometimes difficult for us. Sometimes, we can become so caught up in what was lost that we never really celebrate what comes out of that loss. The foundations of this restored Temple would not produce the same elegant structure that once stood on that hallowed ground during the the time they had worshiped there befoe. Yet, in God’s mercy, there was cause for celebration – the foundations were being laid for God to inhabit his people once again. Out of loss comes growth. Out of loss comes reconstruction. Out of loss comes hope. The perspective of the builders was different from that of the priests and Levites – one saw the former and mourned the loss; the other saw the work begin and celebrated with deep, passionate hope in the restorative work of their God.

Our perspective determines our response – do we simply bemoan the losses in our lives, or do we embrace the grace God extends in providing for the tools and ability for the rebuilding of what lies ahead? Do we truly see the goodness of God in rebuilding foundations torn down by sin’s destructive power? Do we yearn for the old, refusing to see the value of the new? Oh, that God would help us to embrace change graciously and to celebrate jubilantly the work he begins when the foundations are laid anew in our lives.