International Sunday School Lesson for Sunday July 7, 2013
Scripture Text: Ezra 3:8-13
Purpose: To praise God within worship in spite of our surroundings and circumstances
Ezra 3:8-13 (CEB)
8 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at God’s house in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son and the rest of their kin—the priests and the Levites and all who had come from the captivity to Jerusalem—made a beginning. They appointed Levites 20 years old and above to oversee the work on the Lord’s house.9 Then Jeshua with his sons and his kin, Kadmiel and his sons, Binnui and his sons, the sons of Judah, along with the sons of Henadad, the Levites, and their sons and kin, collaborated to supervise the workers in God’s house.
10 When the builders laid the foundation of the Lord’s temple, the priests clothed in their vests and carrying their trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, arose to praise the Lord according to the directions of Israel’s King David. 11 They praised and gave thanks to the Lord, singing responsively, "He is good, his graciousness for Israel endures forever."
All of the people shouted with praise to theLord because the foundation of the Lord’s house had been laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted loudly with joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, because the people rejoiced very loudly. The sound was heard at a great distance.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
Today's lesson is a continuation of last week's lesson. Last week's lesson took place in the seventh month of the first year, today's lesson takes place in the second month of the second year. The second month would place the time period sometime between Passover and Pentecost.
Last week's lesson was about building the altar for sacrifices, this week we learn about the beginning of the rebuilding process. The Temple built by Solomon, was a very lavish building with gold leaf inside and out, and thousands of slaves were used to build, in fact there were probably more slaves used to accomplish the building, than there were residents of Jerusalem at the time of the reconstruction.
Where slaves were once used, now the Levites were in charge, where once the wealth for building came from the Israelites, now the wealth is being provided by a foreign king. Where once the Ark of the Covenant was housed, now it is no longer a part of the sanctuary. It is quite obvious the new temple is going to pale when compared to the original built by Solomon.
Notice the difference in peoples attitude, those that had not seen the original, only see the effort and beginning of a new era, while those that had seen the original seem somewhat disappointed and maybe even a little bitter and remorseful, about what was lost. They are very much aware that their lack of obedience and neglect of worship, had caused the loss of the original temple as well as their being carried away into captivity.
Those that rejoiced were very vocal and excited about a new beginning in which they would have a vested interest. Those that wept were very much aware of their own failure and of the humbleness of this new temple. Neither side can be faulted, and both are reflecting on both God's promises and a chance at a new beginning.
Sometimes it is hard for us to distinguish between our own failures and God's offer of repentance, and new birth. Often we have a tendency to hang on, instead of putting the past behind us and moving forward. God's forgiveness is so much better than our personal forgiveness, because He forgives and forgets, we go through the motions of forgiveness but it is very hard for us to forget.
Both wailing and rejoicing can be part of worship, genuine repentance always has a place in worship as well as rejoicing and praise. Interestingly the old congregation had kept the book of worship as written by David, but they had also kept the praise band together.
I think it is possible to accommodate both sides in our worship services, as long as we remain flexible in our understanding of what worship really is. Worship is both a time of remembering and a time of praise and thanksgiving. There comes a time in every church history when the younger becomes more involved and responsible. This time of change is often met with the famous last words of the church, “that is not the way we did it”
The last verse of our text presents a great challenge “The sound was heard at a great distance.” It is hard for the world to distinguish between the sound of complaining and the sound of rejoicing, make certain your noise is one that glorifies God.