Posted by: Brad Beaman | October 21, 2008

Laying Foundations, Ezra 3:7-13

                                            

When you visit a church building what strikes you most? Is it the majestic steeple pointing heavenward toward the God we worship? How about the mosaic of colors from a stained glass window that portray the life of Christ?

It could be you are most struck by the contrast of a solitary cross on a rugged brick interior. One thing that probably never stands out and grabs your attention is the foundation.

Except for the cathedral bell tower of Pisa, which is commonly known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the foundation receives very little attention. Yet even though the foundation is unseen it serves as the crucial undergirding for everything that you observe in the building.

Some of the most important things get the least attention. When we look at a person we quickly see their eyes, teeth, hair. We don’t think much about their backbone. When we look at a tree we usually don’t ask, how deep are the roots of this tree?

The foundation my often go unnoticed but it does not pay to ignore it. Laying the foundation was the first task in building the temple, after the altar was built and first priority was on God. After that the first order of building is get the foundation of the temple in place.

Organizing the Work, Ezra 3:7-9

Elaborate preparations are made before the temple can be built. They paid the masons and carpenters. They gave money and used barter system. Not surprising the pattern of organizing this temple building was from Solomon’s Temple.

They obtained the most beautiful timbers as Solomon did from Tyre and Sidon. They used the beautiful 2 Chronicles 7:3. Israel had a free trade agreement with them. The trade relationship went all the way back to King David.

King David could not build the Temple because he was too deep in war. It was Solomon who would have rest from war and build the first temple. But David made the preparations and began gathering the timbers from Lebanon.

There was a job to do. They rallied to it and the work was underway. They began the work in the second month just as Solomon did. They were organized for the task. The Levites were giving supervision. There were religious specifications that needed to be kept in mind when they built.

Praise and Thanksgiving, Ezra 3:10-11

They began the work and now the foundation was laid. This showed everyone that the temple was becoming a reality. That meant one thing. It was a time for celebration. They took time to rejoice at the progress that was made. It meant a time of praise and thanksgiving.

It was a time of worship, but even the act of building the temple was worship too. Those who laid a stone or supervised the work did this to the glory of God. We don’t want to compartmentalize our worship.

We think of something like planning and erecting a physical structure as mundane. If a building is built in the will of the Lord to the glory of God, then all that is done to that end can be worship. It is done to bring glory to God.

It was a time of victory. It had been nearly a generation since Solomon’s great temple had been destroyed, but now the foundation for the new temple was laid. They had such a grand celebration at the completion of the foundation. It shows how important the new temple is to them. Even their worship was patterned after the worship at the building of Solomon’s temple.

They sang, “He is good, his love endures forever.” This was the same song 2 Chronicles 7:3 that was sung at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple. They sang it now at this joyous occasion.

The song is attributed to King David as his prescribed the pattern of worship. It included Priests who blew trumpets. The Levites played the cymbals. There was shouting and singing. There is emotional worship here.

This foundation was the dawn of a new day. God’s house symbolized so much to them. There was a new vitality, a new hope and a spiritual renewal. The foundation of the Temple was laid.

Mixed reactions, Ezra 3:12-13

There were some people among them that had seen Solomon’s temple first hand. Just by looking at the foundation they knew that this second Temple would never compare with what Solomon built. So the songs of praise were mixed with weeping and mourning and sadness.

Bystanders couldn’t tell the difference from the joy and mourning. Those who remembered the old were shouting and mourning and weeping and the younger were shouting with joy and it was all mixed together.

We have to get beyond trying to live in the past. No, the temple was not as big and it was not going to be as grand. But God is moving his redemptive work forward. The prophets of the day needed to encourage them.

A little later after the foundation was built the prophet Haggai gave a message about the promised glory of the temple. Haggai 2:3-10 and also Zechariah. Zechariah 3:8-10 The prophets met the mood of discouragement. They had to counter those living in the past who said, “it used to be like this.”

They brought attention to a great truth. There is something more important than the size and splendor of the Temple. That is the purpose of God through the Temple. They allude to God’s purpose in Christ. Any building even Solomon’s Temple was a means to an end. What is the true purpose of their temple or any sanctuary building?

It is to bring glory to God and to help people to know Him. Even Solomon’s Temple could not contain God. The purpose is to enable God’s people to bear spiritual fruit.
That is the main thing. That is why even the very act of planning and constructing a church building can be worship.

The story of foundation laid is ultimately preparing the way for God’s redemptive plan in Jesus. Ultimately the knowledge of the Glory of God will cover the entire earth. Habakkuk 2:14. Is foundation of Jesus Christ laid in your heart?

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