Friday, March 16, 2012

Weeping for What Was Lost

2 Chronicles 36:14-21

"Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people were very unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations; and they defiled the house of the Lord which He had sanctified in Jerusalem." - v14

          Throughout the ages, it seems that God's people have always been surrounded by cultures that were desperately wicked. While I know that this is probably so that others may come to know Him through the example of His people, but it is truly difficult to live in close proximity with other people without absorbing some of their attitudes, traditions, and ways of thinking. That is what happened to Israel in this passage. They had begun to live the way others lived and broke God's commands, which were intended to protect them and to set them apart as holy - God's own posession.

          Our situation today is really no different. With the each passing era came a closeness and level of sharing that never existed before. With the industrial age came increased transportation. Places that took months to reach, suddenly took weeks. Visiting neighbors and even traveling to other cities became commonplace with the motor vehicle. Now, in the technological age, we can communicate and share with peoples all over the globe with the simple push of a button. The dangers of this communication and sharing has not changed, though. In many ways, we have adopted ideas and ways of living that are directly contrary to God's Word. We have blurred the boundaries of what we consider to be sinful behavior and have compromised and defiled God's dwelling place - our hearts.

Ezra 1:1-11

"Whoever there is among you of all His people, may his God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem." - v3

          When the time of Israel's exile had passed, God stirred the heart of the ruler of Babylon and made a way for His people to return to the land He had given them and rebuild the temple. Not only were they allowed to go do so, but they were given everything they needed to complete the task they were called to do. Their offerings were accepted, their sin was forgiven, and God was set to begin healing their land. Even the sacred temple artifacts which were carried off to Babylon from the original temple were returned to them to be put back in their rightful place and used for their intended purpose - to honor God. Happily ever after, right?

Ezra 3:10-13

"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..." - v12

          The problem with sin is this: forgiveness does not necessarily mean that there will be complete reversal of the consequences. During the seige of Jerusalem that led to their exile, the original temple had been destroyed. So often, we cause so much destruction to our lives through the sins that we choose to commit. Sometimes, there are consequences that we have to live with for the rest of our lives, regardless of being forgiven. Sometimes we can't get back what we have lost. That is the hard reality of the penalty when God's people sin. Even though God may restore us, sometimes we will never have what couldd have been if only we had been obedient - and that, my dear friends, is something to mourn.

Haggai 2:1-9

"As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!" - v5

          While I have been studying this period in Israel's history, I keep seeing over and over how my life choices and sin has taken away from me things that I may never get back. I have wept and mourned for the ministry and life that I could be enjoying right now - and the path that I could have chosen. During this season of Lent, I am contemplating just how much sin has left my temple in ruins. Right now, though there is restoration happening, my life is nothing like what it was before. There is, however, one overpowering, overwhelming truth about serving the God whose promises are always yea, and amen - He never fails, even when we do. There is still hope for me and for every person who submits fully to Him. Work diligently as you can now, and trust in His promises for the future.

"'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the Lord of hosts." - Haggai 2:9


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