In three days, most of us will gather with family and/or friends to celebrate a time of Thanksgiving for God’s blessings. Will you first take a look with me in the book of Ezra? I read something there this week that may help us celebrate the occasion with a more thankful attitude.
I was looking up scriptures that had “thankfulness” as their theme and came upon one in Ezra that piqued my interest. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I had to use my bible’s “Table of Contents” to find out where Ezra was located… it’s four to the left of the book of Psalm for those of you who may be likewise challenged.
A bit of background first: The nation of Israel, having been warned by God’s prophets of sure destruction if its people would not turn back to him, had long before come to that end. Having been held captive by the Babylonians for 70 years, now God, as he promised, “moved the heart” of its new king, Cyrus, to give Israel back its freedom. (Ezra 1:1) The prophet Ezra then was put in charge of leading the 100,000 or more people back to Jerusalem. (BTW, judging by the map in my bible, it looks to be like a 1700+ mile trek…whew!)
Rebuilding the temple would be Priority #1 to the Jewish nation once they made it back to Jerusalem. The temple represented everything to the Jewish people-- relationship, justice, morality, culture, economic welfare, and safety--all falling under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty and love for them, his chosen people. In the Spring after their arrival, they began the work, laying the foundational stones right on top of the site of the original temple, that had been leveled some fifty years earlier.
Upon completion of the temple’s foundation, the priests called the people together to celebrate this physical proof that their temple dreams would be realized! In chapter 3, beginning in verse 4, it reads,
“…the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites with cymbals took their places to praise the Lord. With praise and thanksgiving, they sang to the Lord:
“He is good;
His love to Israel endures forever.”
“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 family heads who had seen the former temple wept aloud when they saw the foundation…”
“Hmm,” I thought to myself, “Surely these were tears of joy?” I decided to dig a bit and learned this: The people who had only known captivity were amazed and thrilled at God’s provision. However, those who had lived in Jerusalem before captivity remembered the first temple. To compare what this meager temple would be to that first one was like comparing a piece of sand to a diamond! The memory of the former glory of that one, resplendent in gold, silver, bronze and jewels was a stark reminder of all they had suffered and lost.
…And this is where I think we can relate. Pain tempts to do the same. When we should be thankful, pain wants to remind us of our “former glory” and what we have lost along the way. It looks back, when we should be looking forward.
I have spent this month posting my thanksgivings on my facebook page, including people, activities, and places for which my life is better. Although, at times, I find myself revering my old life, often it is a falsehood. I tend to see it better than it really was--I only have to ask my kids to be reminded of the truth! ; ) When I purposely quiet myself in meditation and prayer, I have clarity--there is so much for which to be thankful; many of them having been found only since trigeminal neuralgia came to reside within my face. God has never left me alone.
I hope this will serve as food for thought before the day of Thanksgiving comes and goes....And, Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Until Next Monday,