Daily Devotional December 29th
“The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” (Ezra 3:13)
Many years ago, God made a covenant with the Israelite people. As long as they lived in obedience to Him they would prosper; however, disobedience would bring punishment. In the book of Ezra we read that after seventy years of captivity under the Babylonians–a time of God’s punishment for Judah’s latest rebellion–God had directed the new ruler Cyrus to allow all those from Israel to return to their land in order that they could rebuild the Temple. A number of the people took him up on his offer and returned. What they came home to was a monumental task and the work was completed in stages.
The first item of the Temple that was rebuilt was the altar–the one essential item required for worshiping God. Next came the foundation. But when it came time to mark the occasion of its completion, it drew mixed reactions. While some shouted for joy, many of those who had known the Temple before its destruction wept openly. Were those who celebrated with joy wrong to do so? No, God was doing something new for the nation and was blessing their progress. So, were those who expressed deep sorrow wrong? No, they were remembering what had been, were mourning its loss and their disobedience that had led up to their exile. One group rejoiced in the hope for the future; the other grieved a time gone by and the loss of what had been.
While we might be quick to encourage those celebrating to tone it down for the sake of their elders’ feelings, or to look down disapprovingly on those who can’t join in the festivities for remembering the past, the Book of Ezra contains no overtones of judgement. Each participant was impacted differently and all were permitted to give full vent to their displays of praise for what God was currently doing and/or regret for all that had been lost when the Temple was destroyed and the ensuing seventy years of captivity in a foreign land.
In someways, we should be able to empathize with the Israelites. This year has been a difficult one for many...and all the challenges have yet to be solved. It is natural to feel sorrow for the loss of so much. Others have already set their sights on 2021 as the year of getting things back into order. We now have a number of vaccines, countries have begun the process of inoculating their citizens...there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s time to celebrate. As we look to turn the page on the final page of the year 2020, it is neither wrong to express joy or to mourn our losses. What would be wrong is not to permit others the freedom to respond as they choose. Yes, we have all had to endure and adapt during this past year, but it has not impacted individuals all the same. Just as the finished foundation of the Temple drew very different responses from those who shared the experience, our transition into the New Year may come with similar reactions. The restoration of the Temple was a work that was far from complete, but the foundation was a stage finished nonetheless; overcoming the global pandemic that has affected us all this year is not over, but we are making noteworthy progress. Whether the end of this year brings you to tears of joy or sorrow, let’s not forget who it is that should get the thanks for having gotten us this far...Thank you, God!
~ Pastor Jane
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!