Posts tagged change
The book of Ezra picks up where 2 Chronicles left off. Cyrus, king of Persia allows the people to go back to Jerusalem and to begin building a temple to the Lord. These first three chapters are really a very quick read, but there are a couple of verses that really just leap of the page for me – both in chapter 3. The first is chapter 3, verse 3:
Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. (Ezra 3:3)
You see, these were still people living in fear. They were a defeated people who had dwindled in number from their heyday due to sickness, famine, war and enslavement. They were a far cry from the confident people of God who had stormed through the promised land defeating everyone in their path. This was not their best moment. And yet, the Bible says that despite their fear, they worshiped the Lord. Despite looking over their shoulder to see if someone from a neighboring country was coming to kill or kidnap them, they worshiped. They built the altar and laid the foundation of the temple – all while still dealing with the residual fear that something bad was going to happen. They moved forward with God’s plan and relied on his strength when they couldn’t muster their own.
But some were more optimistic than others. Here’s the second verse (verses, actually) that jumped out at me:
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. (Ezra 3:11b-12)
Isn’t that just like us? Instead of celebrating this new life and new temple, those who had been around the longest (and should have been the most mature) were weeping because this new temple wasn’t going to be as grand as the old one. I imagine them just sitting around and grumbling about how great the old temple was and how this one just looked like a shack in comparison. They probably longed to return to the days of the old temple and romanticized how great life was back then.
We do this. What happens when a church gets a new pastor? Who typically grumbles the most? In my experience, it’s the people who have been around the longest and those who have invested the most. Why? Because we’ve become convinced that this thing called the church (or, in the case of our reading, the temple) is ours. We invested time, energy and resources into the old building, the old programs, the old way and it just isn’t right that we should just have to go along with this new (and, we deem, inferior) plan. We have forgotten that this whole thing belongs to God anyway. I don’t have to like the new temple. I don’t have to think it’s as good as the old one. What I am supposed to do, as a supposedly mature follower of God, is to recognize his hand at work and to joyfully join him in working it to completion.
In some ways, both of these verses speak to our fears. We fear that the environment around us is going to consume us and we fear that the safety we once had is now gone. But our fear of the past and present should never immobilize us as God invites us into the future – one that he has created and one that is far greater than anything we could come up with on our own.