Read Ezra 3
Rebuilding the Altar
When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. 2 Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 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. 4 Then in accordance with what is written, they celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles with the required number of burnt offerings prescribed for each day. 5 After that, they presented the regular burnt offerings, the New Moon sacrifices and the sacrifices for all the appointed sacred festivals of the Lord, as well as those brought as freewill offerings to the Lord. 6 On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid.
Rebuilding the Temple
7 Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and olive oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus king of Persia.
8 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord. 9 Joshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers—all Levites—joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.
10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:
“He is good;
his love toward Israel endures forever.”
And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 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. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
In this chapter, we see Zerubbabel leading the rebuilding of the temple. Over 42,000 Israelites returned to Jerusalem with him, and they immediately began work on the altar and the temple foundations. However, we see in verses 12 and 13 that this work was met with very different reactions. Those who had seen the original temple, the older priests and Levites, wept at the sight of the new foundation. Those helping to rebuild shouted for joy. Verse 13 tells us that the sounds of both were so loud you couldn’t distinguish one from the other.
Isn’t it interesting that the same event would bring such polar opposite emotions? The shouts of joy are easy to understand. This sight was a symbol of obedience, a promise of hope, and the beginning of a new future. Even though this new temple was not going to be as elaborate or ornate as the original built by Solomon, it was a reminder of God’s protection and promises.
But for those who had lived through the years of disobedience and punishment, who had seen the destruction of Solomon’s temple, this new building elicited weeping and conviction. The original temple was surrounded by a thriving empire, while Zerubbabel’s temple was surrounded by ruins. For those who had lived through the destruction and fall of the original temple, the sight of this rebuild was a physical reminder of God’s correction and discipline – a reminder of their failures and shortcomings. It is no wonder there was such a range of emotions. Their individual responses had a direct correlation to whether their work was destroyed by sin or whether their work was a result of obedience.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 3 that we are now God’s temple, and just like the Israelites, our work will be tested on judgment day. Just as the new temple was built on the original foundation built by Solomon, we are now charged with building God’s kingdom upon the foundation of Jesus. Our work will be evaluated and either rewarded or discounted.
When that day comes and our kingdom work is looked upon, will we weep or will we shout for joy? Will the sight of it be a reminder of our sins or will it be a symbol of our obedience and God’s faithfulness? If we are honest, there will probably be some of both. Thankfully by God’s grace, we will be saved. Let’s get to work today building something that lasts, starting with a firm foundation in Jesus and continuing with materials that pass the test – obedience, love, and faithfulness to the God who has saved us.
- Do you think you will look back at your life and weep, or will you shout for joy?
- If you take an honest look at your life, have you established a firm foundation in Jesus?
- Spend some time praying and asking God what He is wanting you to do to build His kingdom. What specific step is He asking you to take in obedience? If you feel Him prompting you, consider sharing that with someone who will help hold you accountable.
By the Way
Haggai addressed those who were weeping in Ezra 3 and comforted them by prophesying that the glory of this new temple would exceed the glory of the former, because Jesus was going to come and fill it with His glory! See Haggai 2:7, written around 520 B.C.
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