When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) 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. - Ezra 3:10-13
Secular leadership theories teach us the importance of celebrating small victories. Sometimes it takes years to accomplish the goals that God has called us to. It is easy to get discouraged before we are finished. This was certainly the case for the people of Israel. However, we see here that the Israelites chose to celebrate that the first steps.
He is good
Throughout this process, the Israelites’ actions mirror the building of the original temple in 1 and 2 Chronicles, including the building of the altar of sacrifice before the building of the temple! Here, the Israelites even worship God in the way proscribed by King David. They declare that God is good and his love endures forever. This declaration is significant! Israel is celebrating God’s faithfulness. Although they turned away from Him and suffered the consequence of 70 years of exile, the declare God is good. Unlike what is often heard in our world today, just because I’m punished doesn’t mean that the person who punishes me is my enemy. Rather, it is possible that my punishment is for my own good.
His love endures forever
Then, God followed through on His promise to bring them back. Their exile was only temporary. In the mean time, they have learned something about God. He is good and He still loves us even though we have done wrong. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t consequences for sin. Rather, it means that God loves us enough to allow consequences for sin so that we see the need to return to Him…and He is there when we return! He is faithful.
No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping…
Perspective is a powerful thing. The young people only remembered exile. They were rejoicing at the sight of the foundation of the temple. The older people remembered the former temple and were weeping because this temple did not appear to measure up to the glory that they had seen. Isn’t this always the story? While some of us celebrate progress in accomplishing God’s call, others remember a time when things were better in one way or another. Haggai 2:9 addresses these concerns by promising that “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house.” No matter what we’ve experienced in the past, God’s plan for our future is better than what we have experienced in the past! He is involved and His plan doesn’t disappoint.
This is a text of celebration. However, it leads into a time of opposition. The song of worship said that His love endures forever. God’s call for us is to mirror His endurance and faithfulness no matter whether we are in a period of celebration or a time of opposition.