“But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” Ezra 3:12-13 NLT
This passage from Ezra always moves me profoundly because it captures the sentiments many experience when God is doing something new. People can see the same thing and yet have very different reactions.The imagery of the older priests weeping bitter tears, crying aloud, while others were simultaneously being jubilant and joyful is piercing.
On all accounts, the occasion really was a time of celebration because the Israelites were finally returning to Jerusalem from being enslaved in Babylon for 70 years. Not only that, king Cyrus had sent them back to rebuild the House of God, and gave them all the materials and craftsmen , that they needed. The foundation had been laid and they took time out to ask for God‘s blessing and to celebrate this great thing.
Many of them had never seen the former temple of God having been in captivity all those years. However those older priests who had seen the glory of the temple that Solomon built where the ark of the covenant was were terribly disappointed because everything about this new temple was different - it was smaller, it was made of wood and different materials. They remembered the ark of the covenant and the glorious worship experience. I understand and feel the pathos of the grieving priests, mourning the splendor and majesty of the former temple and yet this is hindering their ability to enter in and enjoy the new thing God is doing.
Those who had never seen the former temple were ecstatic to finally have a worship place of their own. They celebrated the faithfulness of God, for bringing them out of captivity and allowing them to worship freely. They were not encumbered with memories of the former temple.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” Zechariah 4:10. We cannot get stuck in the past of how things used to be, because God has already moved forward. He is not moved at the “materials” or “size” . He is excited to see it start and we should too! In fact, God later promises to these folks in Haggai 2:9 , “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I shall give [the ultimate] peace and prosperity,’ declares the Lord of hosts.” This the latter house (though less glamorous) would be greater than the former. The treasure is always Christ Jesus , and not in the gold and silver of the temple.
As always, God was encouraging them (encouraging us) to keep focused on HIM, to trust Him, to walk with Him. The temple (the creation) is secondary to His presence (the creator). And that treasure (Christ) is in each of us! But we have this treasure in earthen vessels.(I Cor 4:7) And Col. 1:27 “For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.” Christ in you, the hope of glory! When we have Christ we always have hope! We have His power to begin again, build again, restore again. Many times God has us start over because somewhere in the journey we stop walking with him and doing our own thing. But we must begin building again with Christ as the sure foundation, who is not bound by time or resource, who is rejoicing to see the work begin.