This book confuses me. Sometimes I really wish the Bible was more black and white. God, seemingly, wants the temple rebuilt. He makes a way, through Cyrus, but then the temple sucks and His presence isn’t there, so what’s the point? Then the same government who originally decrees construction (by the hand of God) halts construction (by the hand of God)? What does God want to happen? Why are His leaders inconsistent? I think this confusion is underlined in the verse:
“The people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” (3:13)
Is this happy or sad??? Even the eyewitnesses couldn’t decide!
Theologically speaking, God’s evasive will and debated levels of sovereignty, circle around to moments like these. What does God want? What are we supposed to be doing? What’s the lesson we should be learning here? Can we look to other slogan verses for this?
“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)
So is the Lord not building this house? Why were they released to build it?? Just because God said time-out would only last 70 years?
We know Zerubbabel’s temple doesn’t last. We know Herod builds a bigger temple, which also doesn’t last. We know Jesus said His body would be the new temple. We know the Jews aren’t currently thrilled with the lack of a present day temple. We know Revelation ends with:
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22)
So what is the point of this story?! It’s like God is saying, “Israel, you blew it. Sure, try to do better this time, but you clearly don’t have what it takes to bless the nations. I’m going to let you go home, but I’m not going to talk to any of you for 400 years, in which time I myself will come and show you how it’s done.” It kind of seems that way.
This section of history births the factions we see in the gospels, namely the Pharisees. When people go without the word of the LORD, it enviably spirals into legalism or chaos. Either you claim God is behind something He isn’t, or you tighten up on what you know He said once and add a few rules on top, just to be sure.
You guys. We don’t live in that moment of history. This is not the beginning of 400 years of silence.
We are in the age of the Kingdom of God, in which the temple is within us and God speaks to us and promises to be with us.
I don’t know about you, but I needed this reminder today. Speak, LORD, your servant is listening.