Seventy years after the Babylonian exile many, but not all of God's people returned to Israel. Some died in Babylon, some were too old to travel, some had become too comfortable in Babylon and some simply chose not to leave. Yet many made the long and difficult journey back to the land God had given his people.
After resettling in the land the people's attention was drawn to the rebuilding of the temple. In Ezra we read the people's reaction to the foundation being laid, "And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy" (Ezra 3:11-13).
Some wept; with all new things there is also a letting go of the past. The former temple had been bigger and grander. We need to mourn our losses so we can move on to the new thing God is doing. Some shouted with joy. There was still a lot of work to be done, only the foundation had been laid. Yet there was much reason to rejoice. They were home and God had promised much for this new temple, "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house ... And in this place I will grant peace ..." (Haggai 2:9). Ultimately, after Herod's renovations, this was the temple that Jesus would visit many times during his childhood and adulthood. His presence would give this temple its greater glory.
The promise in Haggai is also his promise to us. If we make the decision to travel the long and sometimes difficult journey with God, his promise is to take us from one degree of glory to the next (2 Corinthians 3:18) and grant us his peace.
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