On verses 1-6: After settling into their towns in Jerusalem, the priests led by Joshua and the politicians led by Zerubabbel begin building the altar of the Lord, just as the law of Moses had prescribed. They celebrate the biggest festival in their calendar, the Feast of Tabernacles (v4), and make regular and ongoing sacrifices to the Lord (v5). There are two verses that especially stick out to me:
“Despite their fear of the people around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord” (v3) “they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid.” (v6)
Notice that the leaders of the Israelites built the altar despite their fear of the people around them (v3) and offered burnt offerings even though the foundation of the temple was not yet laid (v6). In other words, the leaders of God’s people did not let fear or inconvenience stop them from building God’s house or giving their required offerings. They did it anyways.
Likewise, don’t allow fear or inconvenience stop you from worshiping God and giving God a pleasing offering. Push through, find a way and do it anyways. That’s what separates the leader whom God uses to do great things from the one who just goes with the crowd.
On verses 7-13: Here Joshua the high priest and Zerubabbel the governor lead the people in building the foundation for a new temple. Upon completing the foundation, they hold a massive worship service to celebrate and give thanks to God (v10-11). While the people shouted their praise to the Lord, many of the older priests, Levites and family heads who had seen the previous temple wept aloud (v12-13). As a result, there was a loud but confusing sound that came out of that temple site that day.
What can we learn from this? Don’t worship the past. God wants us to learn from our past, but not to live in our past. The older generation of Israelites who had seen the previous temple were weeping in part because they were still living in the past. They kept comparing how good things used to be (in their mind) to how bad things are (in their mind). In so doing they failed to appreciate the good things God was doing in their midst. As Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Do not say, ‘Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.” Why is it not wise to worship the past? It’s because when you worship the past you keep yourself from appreciating the blessings of today and the new things God is doing. Are you tempted to live in the past? Instead of living in the past, recognize that in every new season God is doing new things.
And here’s one last lesson I learned from today’s passage: In verse 12 the older people weep because they thought the old temple was more glorious than the new. Around this same time, Haggai the prophet would write, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (Haggai 2:9) How could the new temple be greater than the old, especially if the new temple was smaller and less outwardly impressive? It’s because this new temple would have something that the old temple never had: Jesus the Son of God would step foot inside this new temple.
What can we learn from this? You can have all the adornments that make the world go “ooh” and “ahh”, but true glory is where Jesus is. When you allow Jesus to step into the temple that is your life, the glory He brings is far greater than the glory that material wealth, power, fame and worldly status could ever bring.
Heavenly Father, thank You for every lesson I can learn from Your Word today. May I not let fear or inconvenience get in the way of giving You the worship You deserve from me. May I not worship the past, but recognize that You are doing great things today and that the best is yet to come. And thank You that because Jesus has stepped foot into this temple called my life, You fill my life with greater glory than anything worldly wealth and accolades could ever give. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!