“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.
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.
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 3:10-13 NLT
I was struck by the last verse in this passage as I read it today. “The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together...” What does that sound like? I know what it feels like, but can you imagine the sound?
To give some context, the Israelites had been exiled from Israel for seventy years. They were finally allowed to return to their Promised Land and began to rebuild their temple (Solomon’s glorious temple which had been completely destroyed).
They carefully planned for months and gathered materials; when the foundation was laid they celebrated the significant milestone with great joy and praised the Lord.
However, not everyone was completely happy. Ezra 3:12-13 tells us that the older generation – the ones who had seen the glory of the original temple – wept. They wept.
In previous readings I never picked up on this, but today it struck me as profound: in the middle of the joyous moment they wept unashamedly for what used to be. They wept for what they had lost. Maybe they wept for all that the last seventy years in exile had stolen from them. And the writer doesn’t say it was bad or that God was displeased. It doesn’t mean they weren’t excited about the new temple – they simply allowed themselves to express the grief that rang so loudly in their hearts.
“The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” – Ezra 3:13
Isn’t that beautiful and reassuring?
We’ve likely all been there. I know I have. I have felt excruciating grief while also being filled with immense joy. Pixar’s Inside Out demonstrates so well that joy and sadness can coexist and it’s important that they do. Some of our greatest joys come from – or even because of – our deepest pain.
It’s okay to mourn what used to be, but we have to continue moving forward. Oh, how we’ve learned this lesson well through our journey with Tori.
If these priests and leaders had allowed their grief to rule their hearts, they would have halted all progress on the new temple. Their resistance to create something new would have been devastating to the younger generations who longed to honor the Lord in this way. Their memories and desire to cling to what used to be would have prevented something new from beginning.
In this crazy year called 2020 it is okay to mourn the changes that have occurred (even though they are mostly temporary). It’s okay to not be okay. But, let’s use this example from Ezra as an encouragement to continue to press on in joy (because there is so much for which we can be thankful AND there is still so much good happening all around us), in faith (because we serve the God who is in complete control even when we cannot see it, like now), and in love (offering grace and understanding to those who are not handling these changes well and doing what we can to support them).
There is so much joy to be found, even in the middle of chaos.