Ezra 3:8-13 Foundation Laid
Two years pass before the foundation is finally finished. Mixed emotions fill the people as they gather to see the foundation that was laid.
The first thing I want to talk about is why it took two years for the people to get the foundation laid. When originally looking at this fact I thought, “This smaller group needed time to raise the funds for this project.” Building projects are costly. I remember being a part of a small church that was raising money for improvements. They didn’t wait until all the money had come in before starting the project. Work stopped many times in the process. They became known in town as “the church that was burying themselves” because of the mounds of dirt around the existing structure. I don’t know if they ever finished the project because we changed churches before it was completed.
Then I remembered that Cyrus himself had committed funds to the building project and asked his people to do the same. There should have been plenty of funds to complete the project. Cyrus was king of Persia. HE personally committed to seeing this work done. If the returnees ran short on funds I’m certain they could have asked for more and he would have supplied what was needed.
Another hold-up in the process might have been assembling all the needed materials. It took time to cut all the timbers of Lebanon and have them brought to Jerusalem. The stone had to be quarried and dressed before it was ready for building. Without the modern day machines this could have taken a LONG time to complete. The number of people involved in the process didn’t help speed things up either. The returnees were about one tenth the size of Israel and Judah at the time of captivity.
Another reason might be the ‘cares of the world’ got in the way. Besides rebuilding the Temple, the people were rebuilding their lives. They were planting fields, restoring vineyards, repairing houses, and reopening shops. Their lives were full. They were observing the Law in regard the sacrifices and feasts, but was that all the time they had for the Lord?
I noticed that our text tells us that the ‘supervisors’ weren’t even appointed to this task until the second year. A full year and two months pass since returning to Jerusalem and Judah. Now the people are ready for supervised rebuilding. How much longer it took for the foundation to be completed, we are not told. It certainly didn’t happen in a day, week, or even a month. But it DID get done.
My heart identifies with both the joy and sadness expressed the day it was finally finished. Sadness for the comparison to what was before with what was now. The Temple that Solomon built was SO MUCH MORE than what this little group had constructed. The grandeur was gone. In its place were function and practicality. Is it possible that what now stood was on the scale of the original Tabernacle?
On the other side of the isle was the rejoicing over the fact that the House of the Lord was finally underway. The people could see the true beginnings of the Sanctuary promised for their God. They could clearly see where the walls would stand and how the rooms would be divided. It was no longer simply a mental image or lofty idea. It was solid and real. You could put out your hand an touch it. You could point to it and say with certainty, “This is the place where we will worship our God as He deserves.”
Until this moment, none of the neighbors believed anything would come of the Jews’ ‘pipe dream’. We are going to see next time that their shouts awakened the neighbors to the real possibilities that this group could mean trouble for the current status quo. I have a few questions regarding the friction that developed over the building project. But that will wait until next time.
I want to wrap up our time today looking at the moment or revelation of the foundation. EVERYONE had a reaction to what they saw. Their reaction was tied directly to their expectations. The joyous group saw their dream becoming a reality. The sad group saw their dreams crumble. It all came down to expectations and whether they were met or not.
We do the same thing all the time. It is important to have some expectations as they are what drive us to succeed. Without them we would be tossed about with every wind. But we need to be careful in how we set them. We cannot set them so high that they are unachievable or so low that they offer no motivation. We also cannot hold them so tight that they strangle others or ourselves.
I was thinking of a couple of examples of this while I was taken away from my computer for a time. The first one that came to my mind was my grades in collage. The first term I had no expectations. All I had was a drive to get through it the best I could. When my first grade report came out with all A’s I was floored! That set my expectations from then on. I EXPECTED to get all A’s and worked hard to see to it that that happened. One term though I was knocked for a loop. The expectations of class performance changed in mid-stream. What we were initially told was inaccurate. In the end I came away with a B. Not a wholly unacceptable grade but one that crushed my expectations; and still haunts me to this day. I beat myself up for not meeting my own expectations.
The other example that came to my mind has to do with my daily expectations of getting things done on MY time schedule, even my bathroom time. I used to have the expectation that I could be in the bathroom as long as I needed. Now I rush through whatever or expect to be interrupted to meet my husband’s needs. This used to frustrate me because my original expectations were not being met. I have since adjusted my expectations and am pleasantly surprised when I’m not interrupted. I control my own frustration in this way.
The point I’m making is that we control our response when we have right expectations. A person who is angry at God for not healing their loved one instead of allowing them to die is working with an expectation that favors their preferred outcome. If they looked instead at the fact that God never left that loved one alone in their process and is with them now in an even deeper way their emotional state would change with this new expectation. So I guess when God says “No” to our prayers, He is really saying we need to adjust our expectations to match His.
Father God, work on my expectations so that they line up with Yours. I don’t want to drop all expectations as they are also my motivators but I also don’t want to set myself up for disappointment. Although, disappointment can sometimes be a motivator in itself. What I’m really asking for then is godly expectations. Ones that meet Your plans for my life. Ones that meet Your expectations for me and guide me into becoming the woman You planned for me to be.