As I was reading through God’s Word this morning, I came across a couple of interesting verses in Ezra. Here they are …

Ezra 3:11-12 (CSB) “They sang with praise and thanksgiving to the LORD: ‘For he is good; his faithful love to Israel endures forever.’ Then all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD because the foundation of the LORD’s house had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this temple, but many others shouted joyfully.”

Long story short, the Jews had been in exile for many, many years. Decades earlier, they had been forced to leave their homeland as they were carried off to another country as prisoners of war.

To add injury to insult, their Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed. Solomon’s glorious Temple was left in ruins.

New Testament Christians can’t really understand the gravity of this historical fact. We realize that we can worship God anywhere. We know that our church buildings are simply buildings. While we gather weekly to enjoy worshiping our God together, we don’t need to wait until the next Sunday to gather in our church buildings to enjoy our God. We can worship any place, anytime.

But, to the Old Testament God-worshiper, their worship reached its climax when they approached the breathtaking Jerusalem Temple. That was the specific location that they could worship God as He showed up in His glory.

When it was destroyed, they had no specific place to worship their God. Essentially, it felt like their God was now light years away. Their temple was gone and they were utterly devastated.

So, when it was being rebuilt after a remnant of Jews began to make their way back to their homeland as their time in captivity was coming to an end, they were creating the place where they would once again meet with their God. They were rebuilding their temple.

But we see in the verses I mentioned above that there were two different responses. The younger generation shouted for joy while the older folks wept. The young folks were filled with happiness while the older folks wept with sorrow.

Ezra 3:11-12 (CSB) “They sang with praise and thanksgiving to the LORD: ‘For he is good; his faithful love to Israel endures forever.’ Then all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD because the foundation of the LORD’s house had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads, who had seen the first temple, wept loudly when they saw the foundation of this temple, but many others shouted joyfully.”

Why the two different responses?

The younger folks were happy because they didn’t remember (or might have never seen) Solomon’s Temple. They had nothing to compare the new temple to. So, the construction of the new temple (called Zerubbabel’s Temple) was exciting for them.

The older folks wept with sorrow because they remembered Solomon’s Temple. They had seen its breathtaking beauty. They remembered that it was like nothing else they had ever seen. And now they were looking at a foundation that was much smaller knowing that this new structure would pale in comparison to what the Israelites once had.

Let’s bring this principle to present day church life…

When we look around at what gets people excited in our churches today, we hear of things like an incredible music program, or the outreach ministries, or the children’s program, or … the list goes on. Just ask people what they love most about their church and they will typically come up with a list of programs. It’s what gets them excited.

But, there are folks in our midst who have “seen the first Temple.” They have experienced times of revival when God moved powerfully among His people. If you asked us what we loved most about what was going on in our church (when revival was taking place), we would tell you about the power and presence of God. Sure, we were excited about the programs but is was the presence of God in our midst that made everything else pale in comparison.

So, when when of the folks in our churches see what is taking place in their places of worship, they may get excited and happy at what they see. Because they have nothing to compare it to.

But, when those who have seen God move powerful among His people look at our current church culture in America, we can’t help but realize that it is so far below what is possible. We crave for something more … because we know that there is something better.

I crave to see the churches across our land stop bragging about programs as if they were the primary source of joy. I crave to have a time of refreshing when God’s people humbly celebrate God’s presence among us.

2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV) “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

If you want to read about a time when I experienced the joy of being in God’s presence that was part of a wide-spread revival, click here.