Mourning or Rejoicingby Pastor Dave Katsma on May 9, 2020
Mourning or Rejoicing
Change is hard and sometimes it is difficult to accept change when we were so comfortable with what was.
I was comfortable giving a message to an in-person audience. That changed and I had to adapt. I was comfortable giving a message where I stood and engaged that way, but I had to adapt.
In change, our expectations and our adaptation seem at odds.
Expectation desires to returns to the FAMILIAR.
Adaptation struggles toward something NEW.
My expectation would be to return to the familiar and that is a path to being comfortable and easy. Frankly that would be what I would look forward to after this stay at home order is done with, and the sooner the better.
But since that wasn’t possible, there is an adaptation that takes place and a new way of doing things. We have made those adjustments like the online services, The new way may not seem as good as the old way we are familiar with. But we have to ask the question.
“How do we respond to something is different or new from what we were familiar with?”
The time is roughly 1000 BC. King David has passed on and his son Solomon is King. Solomon is blessed with riches and wisdom by God and is commissioned by God to build the first temple in Jerusalem so the people have a central place for worship. Prior to this time, from the time of Moses and the people coming out of Egypt, the central place of worship was the tabernacle or a large tent.
Reading from 2 Chronicles 3
“These are the dimensions Solomon used for the foundation of the Temple of God (using the old standard of measurement). It was 90 feet long and 30 feet wide. 4 The entry room at the front of the Temple was 30 feet wide, running across the entire width of the Temple, and 30 feet high. He overlaid the inside with pure gold.
5 He paneled the main room of the Temple with cypress wood, overlaid it with fine gold, and decorated it with carvings of palm trees and chains. 6 He decorated the walls of the Temple with beautiful jewels and with gold from the land of Parvaim. 7 He overlaid the beams, thresholds, walls, and doors throughout the Temple with gold, and he carved figures of cherubim on the walls.
8 He made the Most Holy Place 30 feet wide, corresponding to the width of the Temple, and 30 feet deep. He overlaid its interior with 23 tons of fine gold. 9 The gold nails that were used weighed 20 ounces each. He also overlaid the walls of the upper rooms with gold.” 2 Chronicles 3:3-9
Some estimated the cost of the temple in today’s economy would run about $100 million. There was no amount, too much for the temple. Because the temple was to be a reflection of the glory and the majesty of God. King David in his preparations and Solomon in his construction of the temple wanted to bring glory to God.
After it was completed King Solomon dedicated it to the Lord and the record of that is found in 2 Chronicles 6, and I will just take excerpts of that prayer.
“Then Solomon prayed, “O Lord, you have said that you would live in a thick cloud of darkness. 2 Now I have built a glorious Temple for you, a place where you can live forever!....“O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like you in all of heaven and earth. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion.15 You have kept your promise to your servant David, my father. You made that promise with your own mouth, and with your own hands you have fulfilled it today…“But will God really live on earth among people? Why, even the highest heavens cannot contain you. How much less this Temple I have built! “
2 Chronicles 6:1,2,14,18
“When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple. 2 The priests could not enter the Temple of the Lord because the glorious presence of the Lord filled it.3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the Lord filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying,
“He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” 2 Chronicles 7:1-4
That must have been something to behold and to experience firsthand.
Solomon’s temple stood for 362 years
In 586 this temple was destroyed and the people taken into captivity.
That brings us to 70 years of exile for the people, like we talked about a couple of weeks ago. But the Lord is faithful and the Lord brings them back in waves of people to Judah and to Jerusalem under King Cyrus of Persia and this begins a period of time where the people begin to establish a community back in Jerusalem. King Cyrus, a pagan king, funds the rebuilding of the temple and Immediately work was begun to rebuild the temple on the original site.
It took Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, 2 years to lay the foundation of the temple.
I want to focus on today at the time the foundation was laid.
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. 11 With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord:
“He is so good!
His faithful love for Israel endures forever!”
Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.
12 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.13 The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” Ezra 3:10-13
The reaction of the people. Some rejoiced at the foundation being laid because it presented for them a new beginning of worship and identity for the people. Some who experienced worship at the old temple before it’s destruction, they wept for what was.
It’s not uncommon to long for what was, when the new doesn’t seem to meet our expectation from the old.
That was I think the feeling of the people in Zerubbabal’s day who knew the glory of the first temple and now saw the new temple as inferior and it troubled them. God then prompts another prophet Haggai to speak these words to the people.
“Then on October 17 of that same year, the Lord sent another message through the prophet Haggai. 2 “Say this to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of God’s people there in the land: 3 ‘Does anyone remember this house—this Temple—in its former splendor? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! 4 But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 5 My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid.’
6 “For this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: In just a little while I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the oceans and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 9 The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” Haggai 2:1-9
We are at a place of new beginnings in some way. We can mourn what was and how we experienced church before because it was comfortable and because it was familiar and because it satisfied a need in us. We can look at where we are right now and mourn just like the people of Zerubbabel’s day because this seems so inadequate and less majestic than before. But God’s words to Haggai I think stand to instruct us in our time as well on how we worship God and how we see God working in our day and time today.
God is more MAJESTICthan our systems and structures.
Solomon said, what building can contain God. We have to remember that while we can’t gather and we have to remember that when we do get back together and we can’t maybe meet like we did or there are some limitations or some changes that take place and our focus can’t be on what was, but our focus has to be at how big and powerful God is.
We will all have some mixed emotions. Some of us will be glad to get together just because we long to be with each other, some will be disappointed because there will probably be some changes that take place and there will be differences than before. It may not be like it was for a while. But what will we focus on? Will it be on what was or on the majesty and glory of God and that nothing can contain him, even the heavens in all their glory cannot contain him.
I have to admit, for me, home worship lacks woefully from in-person worship. I have to admit that I sing, though not well with a congregation in person and I love worship in our church. But I have a tendency to listen and go along with the songs in my head more rather than sing along with the online worship as I watch from home. And I am often more distracted during at home worship.
I realize that my focus isn’t centered enough on the majesty and wonder of God, but my focus is on the externals that I experience. I have to fight with that in myself.
New does not STOPGod’s work in his world.
We give too much credit to our old systems and structures in doing God’s work. Though I don’t want to deny the importance of church systems, structures and worship. I have to be reminded that God isn’t limited to that. God works in his world despite of us because we as humans we are limited and God is limitless. The work of God works through the diaspora or scattering of his people. Yes, we gather for worship and for fellowship and for encouragement, but the work of God is always beyond the walls of the church. He says through Haggai, My spirit is among you and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the nations will bring silver and gold to me because it all belongs to him. And I will fill this place with glory. I suggest you reread that portion of Haggai over and over this week as a reminder of God’s majestic power.
We have to remember that God is so much bigger than the limitations that we put on him through