Following seventy years of exile in Babylon, and after the overthrow of Nebuchadnezzar as king of Babylon, by Cyrus, a more conciliatory king, a number of Jews were given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple under the leadership of Ezra, a priest and a teacher.
Bible Reading: Ezra 3:10-13
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites 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 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.
There is a good, modern worship song based on these words from Ezra ‘God is good, all the time’.
For some time, following the death of our daughter Anna, I found it very difficult to sing these words, or indeed to believe them. Others in the congregation had much to praise God for, but I wasn’t in that place. Over time I learnt to be grateful for the years that we had with Anna and became aware again of the goodness of God, even in our darkest times. Two years later we rejoiced at the birth of our first grandchild, though we still felt the loss of Anna.
I think the exiles returning to Jerusalem were experiencing similar emotions. There was enormous sadness at the destruction of Solomon’s temple and great celebration as the foundations of the new temple were laid. While the younger people rejoiced at what was being built, however, the older ones also mourned the fact that it was not the original temple, and also not much like it.
Many of us in life hold together the two emotions of grief and joy, and we can share both of them with our loving Heavenly Father, because he is there for us in both of them.
Are their griefs that you carry around with you each day? Can you bring them to God and share them with him? The griefs may not disappear, but the burden of carrying them will become lighter.
Like the Jews at the start of the rebuilding of their temple, it would be wrong to let our grief for the things we have lost inhibit us from embracing the good things that God has for us in the future. Instead let us carry the good memories with us as we move forwards with God; and let us share the joy of those who are building for the future. God is good and his love endures forever.
Father God, I bring to you now the griefs and the sorrows in my life…
Thank that, even though I may not have been aware of you, you were there with me.
Give me the courage and the grace to embrace the good things you have for me in the future.
God is good all the time