Ezra 3:10-13  (CSB)
When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David 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 responded 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 families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, 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 so loudly that the sound was heard far away.”

Recently I found myself falling into a classic mental trap: bitterness.  And the Lord rebuked me for it.  He used the verses above to show me the source of the problem.

These verses document the reactions of two generations of Israelites to the wonderful start of God’s magnificent work rebuilding the temple.  The newer generation is very enthusiastic, shouting with joy.  The older generation is weeping loudly.  That generation had seen the first house on its foundations, and its destruction.  It left an imprint of hurt on them.

And that imprint was so strong, that a truly magnificent work of God was souring their minds instead of causing them to rejoice.  After all, God is the redeemer.  He was rebuilding something the enemies of God had destroyed.

God is moving in a big way in America and the world: this bizarre year of 2020 has caused everyone to rethink so many things in their lives, myself included.  I love Jesus, and pray that He move in America and restore it.  YET, there was one thing which began to creep into my prayers.  To paraphrase it, I was asking him, “Restore America, but if the people just want you to restore things the way they were… I won’t ask you to delay or retreat from its judgment.”

When you’ve lived a long time, it’s important to fight a tendency to think that your greater experience (than what you had in your youth) allows better insight into what we ask God.  It creates a false of sense of security and confidence in us, and honestly–a cheap excuse to allow for a door of failure.  That is the wrong way to think.

There’s an important concept in these verses not to miss.   Despite rebellion and unbelief which led to the events which caused the first temple to be destroyed, God chose to forgive the Israelites and set things in motion for a successful rebuilding of a temple.  How could any children of God mourn that?

He can do that with America. Notice carefully, that this event in Ezra isn’t at the completion but at the start of building the temple.  How much different would the celebrations be at the completion.  So we are now with God’s work at this point in history.  He has work which will soon produce a massive harvest, but … it is still in progress.

The Lord was reminding me not to judge (which no Christian is supposed to do), and pray to God for the desire of the heart… with no concern of how He will do it.  His works are to be celebrated, not judged by our vision or standard we have formed, nor tainted by the past… which is over.  This must also be reflected in our prayers.

Mathew Henry wrote a commentary on this verse over 300 years ago, which says it in a very elegant way.

There was a remarkable mixture of affections upon laying the foundation of the temple. Those that only knew the misery of having no temple at all, praised the Lord with shouts of joy. To them, even this foundation seemed great. We ought to be thankful for the beginnings of mercy, though it be not yet perfect. But those who remembered the glory of the first temple, and considered how far inferior this was likely to be, wept with a loud voice. There was reason for it, and if they bewailed the sin that was the cause of this melancholy change, they did well.

Yet it was wrong to cast a damp upon the common joys. They despised the day of small things, and were unthankful for the good they enjoyed.

Let not the remembrance of former afflictions drown the sense of present mercies.