By Guest Writer
“Let the house be rebuilt” (Ezra 6:3). It was a long time before those words became reality—when the returned Israelites finally stood in the finished rebuilt temple.
Seventy years after Solomon’s temple was destroyed.
Twenty-three years after Cyrus decreed and funded the rebuild.
About twenty years after the foundation was laid.
And about four years after the building began again after being interrupted.
With many doubts, discouragements, and outright opposition along the way, the people were finally able to dedicate this new house of God. At last, there would once again be a place for God’s people to remember and relearn what it is to worship Him alone.
I’m sure many of the Israelites wondered if the day would ever come. Would they ever stand in the place that God had ordained for His presence to dwell? Few people would have still been alive who had seen the first temple since seventy years had passed since its destruction. So for most, it was a completely new experience to stand in the house of God.
Of course, as I read about this dedication of the second temple in the book of Ezra, I can’t help but look back to the first temple dedication that we read in the 1 Kings account. To be sure, much was different about the dedication in Ezra’s account than Solomon’s earlier temple and ceremony. There were fewer sacrifices, and the building was certainly smaller. Overall the festivities were not quite as grand.. A divided kingdom, exile, and a long-awaited return separated these two celebrations. But one thing remained the same: This was an occasion marked with great joy.
The Israelites, including the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles, celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy.
After everything the exiles had been through—joy! Perhaps even more joy because of the journey it had taken to stand where they stood. And even for all the differences of this second temple, it was a representation of God’s presence among His people. And for that, they could celebrate with deep, sincere joy.
The joy of the returned exiles was echoing the joy of Solomon, celebrating because not one of God’s promises had failed (1Kings 8:56). It’s why Solomon stood and dedicated a house to God. And generations later, after that temple had been destroyed and God’s people exiled, they stood on a new foundation and dedicated a new temple to the same God of the same promises. He still had not failed. His promises were still true. And because God was still faithful, the people stood and offered back to Him what He alone had promised and provided. And they did so with great joy.