Open Your Bible
Ezra 4:24, Ezra 5:1-17, Haggai 1:12-15, Haggai 2:1-9, Ephesians 2:19-21
BY Jen Yokel
If you do any creative practice, from cooking meals to writing songs, you can count on running into obstacles along the way. Sometimes it’s the disappointment that sets in when your work doesn’t match up with your vision. Sometimes it’s outside obstacles, like shifting priorities or procrastination, or plain old critical voices from the inside and outside.
Now imagine for a moment you’re literally creating a place to help your community worship God. Oh, and you’re remaking something that was destroyed long ago. And some folks in your community are devastated with grief because it doesn’t live up to their memories. What kind of courage would it take to keep going?
That’s where we pick up in today’s reading. The returned exiles laid the foundation for their new temple, but years later, the work has come to a standstill. But then, with encouragement and help from the prophets, they’re back to work. In the book of Haggai, it’s said that “The LORD roused the spirit” of Zerubabbel, Joshua, and the remnant of people back into action. (Haggai 1:14). To the discouraged people who felt like this temple was a shadow of its former self, Haggai offers acknowledgment and encouragement from God:
“Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem to you like nothing by comparison? Even so, be strong….Work! For I am with you.”
With this renewed courage, the exiles could reclaim their hope and keep going. When the local governor and his colleagues came asking what they were up to, they had the confidence to give an honest account of their journey and a clear picture of their identity: “We are the servants of the God of the heavens and earth, and we are rebuilding…” (Ezra 5:11).
This new temple was a modest one. They were committed to making a fitting new house of worship, and they built it on the hope that someday it could be more glorious than before. But even this could not last. Centuries later, yet another empire would rise and destroy their work. Once again, the people would be scattered and mourning.
But God can never be exiled nor contained in a structure made by human hands. God’s plan all along was to create a glorious new home through His people, “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20). Whether our creations are beautiful or disappointing, God can always make them into something more.
Haggai was right: “The final glory of this house will be greater than the first…” (Haggai 2:9). Even now, God is still building with us, making all things new.