Friday

21 October 2011

"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." (v. 11)

Background

Having received permission from King Cyrus, the exiles return home to rebuild the temple and restore Jerusalem. However, this was to be no minor task. It was some seven months before, having returned to take possession of their home and towns, the people gather in Jerusalem to offer the prescribed sacrifices on the altar of the Lord (verses 1-2).

Then it was a case of planning with the necessary builders and craftsmen to prepare for the laying of the foundations and make arrangements for delivery of the building materials, including cedar from Lebanon; and all this with the help of a grant from King Cyrus (verse 7) and appropriate professional supervision from among the house of Levites (verse 8).

All this meant that it was not until the second year after their arrival in Jerusalem that the exiles were ready to lay the foundations. So it is not surprising that this should be a time of rejoicing, with the priests in their vestments and musicians leading the singing of psalms (verses 10-11). It is interesting to note, especially in light of the Methodist Church's consents process for building schemes(!), just how thoroughly the Israelites prepared for the task before beginning the actual building work.

It's also worth noting that there is some sadness mixed in with the celebrations; how for those who still remembered the first temple it was also an occasion for weeping, even if their tears were drowned out by the sound of those rejoicing (verses 12-13).

To Ponder

Even after 70 years of exile, the Jews didn't rush into building their new temple without first making proper plans. What lessons are there for us today?

The exiles mark the laying of foundations with an act of thanksgiving. How important is it still to give thanks at significant stages of our life, whether as individuals or as communities?

How do we acknowledge the sadness that can still exist even in times of celebration?

Bible notes author: The Revd Dr Stephen Wigley

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