Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers.
And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away. Ezra 3:8-13 ESV
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3 ESV
In the city of Dresden, in Germany, there was once a beautiful church named the Frauenkirche. It was a huge structure towering over the city with a stone bell tower at the top that was a landmark for the people of Dresden. But in 1945, near the end of World War II, allied forces bombed the city of Dresden and tens of thousands of people lost their lives. The city was left in ruins, and the Frauenkirche was destroyed. After the war, the city was rebuilt, but the church was left in ruins for many decades. Finally, in 1990, the people of Germany decided to rebuild the church. The British people, who had led the bombing raids so many years before, contributed a lot of money to the effort, and the son of an English pilot who had dropped bombs on Dresden created the gold cross that sits on top of the church’s dome. When the church was restored to the way it had been before the war, it was a happy day for the people of Dresden. There were people who had seen the first church, and while they knew there was shame in their past, they also were happy that a sense of pride in the good things of their past had been preserved for the young people of Germany.
When the foundation of the new temple in Jerusalem was laid, it was a joyful day for the people. The destruction of Solomon’s temple years before had been a terrible thing, but now they had hope for the future. They sang songs of joy while the priests blew on trumpets and the Levites crashed cymbals to add to the celebration. God had restored the people to their land, and they believed they would soon have a temple again for worshiping the Lord. There were old people there that day who had seen the first temple, and they cried out loud while the younger people shouted with happy excitement. The old people remembered the misery of seeing their first temple destroyed, and felt the pain of all their lost years, and the sorrow for all the time they had spent away from the promised land and from worship in the temple.
When we look at our past, we see causes for shame and sorrow also. We know that we’ve sinned against God and other people, and that there have been hurts and troubles that weighed us down. Looking at our past could be a painful thing if it weren’t for the Lord. He has been with us through all the days that have gone by, loving us and helping us. He has forgiven all our sins of the past because Jesus paid for them when he died on the cross. Because of Jesus, we know that God has worked for our good through everything that is past, and that he is with us every day, forgiving us and restoring us as his children. He will be with us and help us every day in the future, to the end and forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for being with us through all our past days, and for loving us and forgiving us. Please stay with us now and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.