I got stuck here in Ezra 3. Something I read the other day has kept coming to mind, so I decided to take a closer look. It’s the picture of the celebration over the finished foundation of the temple.
Priests, dressed in their finest, trumpets, cymbals, the choir singing, “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.” All the people shouting praise to God.
Well, maybe not all the people.
Scripture tells us many of the older folk wept aloud. Why? Did they not want the temple rebuilt? Were they lamenting a personal loss? Scripture tells us their weeping was as loud as the praises of the others.
I used to hate it when Dad would talk about “the good old days,” how great things “used” to be, and how awful things were in the present. (That was fifty years ago when I was young. Ouch!)
Now all these years later, I hear Dad’s words coming out of my own mouth. Maybe there was something to what Dad was feeling all those years ago.
The old folks who cried when they saw the new foundation were the ones who remembered Solomon’s magnificent temple back in the day. They remembered the splendor adorning God’s house, and could recall the worship that was given Him there. Those truly were the good old days.
No wonder some of the people were grieved as they realized the refurbished temple wouldn’t come close to what it once had been. No wonder they were sad to know this new generation had no idea what they were missing.
We were talking in Sunday School recently about how things used to be in the church, the years of Billy Graham crusades when the focus was on meeting God, the main draw was the preaching, and the thought of being entertained was the furthest thing in anyone’s mind.
I remember walking into a church and feeling like I was in a church and not a venue. I remember sitting there for an hour without a coffee in my hand. I remember caring how I presented myself to God for worship in His house. I remember altars at the front of churches where people were able to kneel for as long as it took to get right with God. I remember pulpits.
Forgive me if I “weep aloud” when I see the refurbished church today. You see, I remember the splendor.
Now having said all that, let me also say I know worship is happening in churches today where Jesus is proclaimed as the Savior. I praise God that sin is being confessed, souls are being won through the precious blood of Jesus. I love my church where guitars accompany praise songs and hymns, where people aren’t all in suits and dresses.
But there is a part of me that wishes we could go back to the way things used to be, and I’m not apologizing for that. You see, I remember Solomon’s temple.
Now before you jump down my throat, I know things weren’t perfect back in the day. I know there were problems in churches fifty years ago, disagreements, lukewarm hearts, and sin isn’t something that just reared it’s ugly head in the twenty-first century. But I would be foolish to think a new approach to worship has eliminated those same problems in churches today.
In fact, I’m not sure the church is any better at addressing those problems today than they were fifty years ago. Maybe we aren’t even doing as well at it.
All you young people out there, mark my words. If God tarries another fifty years, you’ll be looking back at 2017 as the days of Solomon’s temple. And one day you might hear your own voice talking about “the good old days,” and wishing your grandchildren could know what worship was like when you were young.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for churches where Your Holy Spirit is free to work in the hearts and lives of people, for pastors who proclaim the truth of Scripture, where Jesus is known to be the only way to You, and where You are worshiped as You demand. But God, I also see that the further we get from the cross, the more tolerant we are of sin, the more we talk about Your love, and fear You less. I see an increasingly casual approach to worship that is contrary to Your Word, and I am grieved. I don’t want to live in the past, Lord. But I also don’t want to discount what was right and good about the way things used to be. Give us wisdom. Give us discernment. May Your Church throw away tradition and trend, for the sake of tradition and trend, and just be people who want to worship You, serve You, love You, obey You, learn about You, and please You. May our worship of You be about You, and not about how it makes us “feel.” May we all, young and old, be the Church You want us to be, for as long as You give us life on this earth.