This morning I was reading in Haggai and came across this gem:
On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison? But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’”Haggai 2:1-5
The exiled Jews were rebuilding the temple — hoping to restore it to its former glory, as well as reestablish a hope in the former glory of Israel. It wasn’t working. It wasn’t going to be “just like it was,” and though they rejoiced in the work that had been done, they were mourning what was lost. In fact, the emotions were so mixed that the sounds of joy and the sounds of weeping were indistinguishable.
Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel. They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, “For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever.” 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. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.Ezra 3:10-13
Notably, God does not assure them that things would be “as they were” again. He does not comfort them with promises that the building would be the same, that the same people would be beside them in worship, or that their nation would return to its former greatness. Instead He says, “Take courage…for I am with you…My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear.” He says, “You have me. I am enough.”
In a world continually filled with loss, and one that longs for “the good ol’ days,” we, too, are apt to lose sight of the one thing that does not change, the One who is in perfect control of all things, the One with whom there is no shifting shadows (James 1:17): Yahweh. God. Our Lord and Savior.
Even if He disciplines us by allowing loss in our lives, even if we suffer under the consequences of our sin, even if we suffer under the results of others’ sins, even if the government is not of our choosing, even if our health never returns, even if our relationships are never restored, even if our routines are not what they used to be, even if we are imprisoned, even if we have to wear masks, even if there are riots, even if we are mistreated, even if we have to move to a new city, even if…