The Young Men Shouted While the Old Men Cried
Ezra 3: 10 - 12
10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.
11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. 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.
12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: KJV
Getting A Clearer Perspective
In the field of neurology there is a disorder called “Pseudo Bulbar.” This is a disorder of the brain typically caused by some brain injury that causes people to display uncontrollable bouts of crying or laughing. This behavior is often displayed at inappropriate times. For instance, a person with this disorder might respond to a sad funeral with uncontrolled laughter or cry aloud uncontrollably during a child’s birthday party. The disorder has often been referred to as “emotional incontinence.”
In a spiritual sense, it would appear that some Christians are plagued by such a disorder. In Romans 12:15 the bible tells us to: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” KJV But there are those among us who tend to rejoice when others are weeping and weep while others are rejoicing. Like those older saints in the prophet Ezra’s days, these saints are spiritually inverted and appear to grieve over what "has been" rather than rejoice over what "shall be."
The Historical Point 0f View
A brief historical glimpse of this passage in Ezra would disclose that because of Israel’s great disobedience towards God, God allowed the heathen King Nebuchadnezzar and the wicked Babylonians to take Israel into slavery for some seventy years. During that time period the wonderful temple in Jerusalem was utterly destroyed and its possessions stolen and its splendor ruined. For seventy years the Jewish people lived their lives without the temple worship, ceremonies, holy feasts, and various other rituals required by the Law of Moses. Then, after the fall of the Babylonian empire to the Persians, the Jewish people were allowed to return to Jerusalem and reclaim their holy city – at least what remained of it. Historians inform us that some 50,000 Jews left Babylon and returned to Palestine in 535 B.C. Soon the new foundation was laid for the new temple officially ending the 70 years of exile.
One would think that after 70 years of exile and hardship, all of the people would be overjoyed with their return to Jerusalem and the laying of the foundation for the new temple; but the bible tells us this was not the case. Ezra recorded that: “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy.”
The text tells us that the older men wept when they considered what once was. These men were old enough to remember the temple in her glory and when viewing its current condition were simply overwhelmed with sorrow and cried aloud. So, who was doing all this shouting? – it was the young men. These young men were too young to remember the former temple and all they had were the many stories shared with them by their elders of this magnificent temple playing repetitiously in their heads. So, these young men were ecstatic to witness such a gloriously historic moment in their people’s history - and shouted with joy!
I will soon celebrate 30 years as pastor in the Church of the Living God (C.W.F.F.) of Fairview Heights, Illinois Temple #203. During that time I witnessed the church’s growth explode in every imaginable way! From a little small church we moved to a campus location and then added a million dollar family life center on 18 acres! I experienced multiple services on Sunday; crowded sanctuary with chairs in the aisle and feeling pretty good about myself in the process. That was a mountain top experience. But I stayed long enough to see the crowds diminish, and the money get tight and my spirits get depressed. In fact, in order not to be a financial burden on my church by having to pay my salary, I went back to the classroom and taught school for two years. But, I stayed with the church and God remained faithful! Today, with an almost totally new congregation, the church is growing once again, financially stronger than ever but most importantly the members and I have spiritually matured in so many ways!
There once was a time I wondered if I was at a disadvantage having served one congregation for so long. Maybe I would have been better groomed if I had moved about a bit from church to church. However, I come to realize how fortunate I’ve been to have remained in one church with one congregation for so long. By staying around, I was able to witness the full revolution of the church's waxing and waning cycles. From this I learned so many valuable lessons at each juncture. Had I left at any point along the journey I wouldn’t know what I know today about the church, about myself and about the God that I serve.
The Main Point
For a moment, I was like those old men who were stuck looking back and grieving over what used to be. I missed the pews teeming with congregants, the jubilant music and the adoration of many of my peers. But looking back we were more of a “crowd” than a congregation; we were a mile wide in appearance but only an inch thick in maturity. So, what I was grieving over in retrospect, wasn’t really worth grieving over - and besides God was doing a new thing in my life and in the life of our church!
These old men were crying over a place in their past that in reality was so much out of the will of God, that God used seventy years of exile to purge out their sinful nature. Looking back these tearful seniors could fondly remember the magnificent splendor of the temple but conveniently forgot the horrible idolatry and sinful behaviors that had taken over their society and greatly dishonored God resulting in the judgment of God.
What is it that you are crying over? Has life somehow moved on; and you feel left behind in the wake of its departure to sit and mix your fresh tears with your old memories? Are you somehow confusing your "history" with your "destiny?" If so, then no more! God has allowed you to arrive in a present place so that you might experience the fullness of his grace, his mercy and his blessings in this very moment!
I’m just barely old enough to remember our national church body back in the day when the conventions were separated. I recall coming to fall convention with my relatives where there were easily 2000 people in attendance! I’ve thumbed through the Golden Book and turned page after page of churches no longer in our organization. Even in recent years, I witnessed a consistent dwindling number of churches and convention attendants; especially those my age and younger. In light of all of this how should we respond? It's simple, ... you do what needs to be done – like those in Ezra’s days – you lay a new foundation and build again. These older men in the text may have started the building efforts, but it will be these young men that would finish it and reignite the flame of its glory.
Let's not over romanticize our national church's past, but look soberly at where we are and consider where God would have us to go. Our national church is at a real crossroads and much diligent prayer and forethought must go into the decisions that must be made about its future. To accomplish God’s will we must breach the gap between the young and the old; establish not only a vision but an understandable road map to reach it. We must dry our eyes, lift our voices praising God for a new beginning and then roll up our sleeves and be about our father’s business. #Leadershift2018
Bishop Rex M. Waddell
Bishop Rex Waddell is the senior pastor of the Church of the Living God of Fairview Heights, Illinois and serves as the Dean of the Bishop W.E. Crumes Ministerial Institute.