Through my daily Bible reading plan that walks me through the writings in a (mostly) chronological order, I’m almost at the end of the Old Testament. I’ve made my way through the Garden of Eden, the stories of the patriarchs, the Jews being delivered from slavery in Egypt and making their way to the promised land.
I’ve made my way through the establishment of King David over the tribes, his son, Solomon, building the Temple, then the splitting of the tribes into two kingdoms and the messages from the prophets pleading with the people to turn back to worshiping the Lord instead of gods and idols made by human hands.
I’ve made my way through the people turning their backs on those messages and consequently getting attacked, overthrown and exiled to foreign lands as a means for their hearts to be softened toward God. And then, the Lord, filled with mercy, brings them back home.
It’s here that I am now.
Many of the Israelites who were once captives in Babylon are now back in Jerusalem, reestablishing their lives. When they first arrived, they started immediately to rebuild the Temple, which had been destroyed during the Babylonian siege on the city. With the town in ruins around them, they built an altar and began the routine of worshiping God again.
As they made progress with the Temple, though, some of the older Israelites were discouraged as they looked at the new building that was being erected and remembered how ornate the original Temple built by Solomon was. It says that they “wept aloud.” The younger ones, though, had nothing to compare the building with, so they were filled with joy. “The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud commotion that could be heard far in the distance.” (Ezra 3:12-13)
But the Lord has a message for these workers, which struck me as so beautiful. He sends the prophet Haggai to them, saying, “Take courage,” to each of the leaders and then to the people. He repeats this refrain and then says, “Take courage and work, for I am with you, says the LORD Almighty.”
God continues this message of encouragement by telling the people that although this Temple may not have the splendor of the old one, “I will fill this place with glory … The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the LORD Almighty. And in this place I will bring peace.”
The people here were saddened by the inadequacy of what they were building. They wanted it to be more—more beautiful, more grand, more worthy of being the Lord’s house. But the Lord steps in and reminds them that that isn’t what this is all about. It isn’t about the grandeur of how it appears, but about the grandeur of the Lord himself.
God was not concerned with the inadequacies of their work at all. He just wanted them to be doing the work! “Take heart and finish the task!” he says in Zechariah 8:9, and a few chapters earlier, he says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin…” He would do the rest, and that was all that mattered. In fact, even though the place may look inadequate from the outside, God will make it more glorious than the building that was gilded in gold!
This resonated with me, as I often struggle with feeling that what I’m doing to serve God is inadequate. I feel like I’m not doing enough, especially in comparison with others. But the truth is that anything we will do is going to be inadequate, even with all the gold and silver in the world. Really all we ought to focus on is doing what we’re capable of and letting God do the rest. He is the only one who can bring true glory to the work of our hands.
Carmen writes the blog, Life Blessons, which provides an intimate look into her life as a twentysomething woman as she details her experiences learning how to live out her faith, enjoy the simple things in life and be the woman God created to her to be. Along the way, she shares the blessings and lessons that are a part of this journey, the things she likes to call her "blessons."
Feel free to read more at her blog, Life Blessons.
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