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 (Manna 50: Our Church)
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Samuel Kuo – Champagne, Illinois, USA

I signed off-line and I sat dejected at my desk.

Fortunately, I was about to begin Bible reading for the evening.

It turned out to be a taxing May—mostly from the growing number of personal problems and conflicts I had been hearing from church members about church members. Usually these disheartening and ugly situations are disclosed to me to request my prayer, and sometimes for advice. But every time, I wind up leaving the conversation with the burden of a heavy heart.

This time was no exception. My mind raced and questions flew.

            “How can this happen in the true church?”
“What happened to our church’s glory? Where is our glory now?”
“Isn’t the glory of the second temple greater than the first?”
“I’ve long heard about the early days, but where is it now?”

Sure, perhaps these are spiritually immature questions, but they are very real nonetheless—questions that have often surfaced in my thoughts.  Questions—especially in the recent past—that became noticeable fissures in my faith.

            “When will this church prosper?”
“When will this mountain be exalted above all hills?” (Isa 2:2)

That week, I had been revisiting the book of Ezra by the suggestion of a friend, so I continued onward with chapter three that night.

After many years of captivity, the Israelites had returned to their motherland and were beginning to rebuild the second temple. As I read, I couldn’t help but notice the increasing relevance of the passage to my reoccurring despondent thoughts.

I was stopped cold by verses 12 and 13:

            But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted with joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off.

My first thought was, “Why are these older Israelites weeping? Were they tears of joy because the second temple had begun construction? Or were they tears of sadness? And if so, why?”

I quickly skimmed to the bottom of the page of my study Bible. The comment read:

Fifty years after its destruction, the temple was being rebuilt (536 B.C.). Some of the older people remembered Solomon’s temple, and they wept because the new temple would not be as glorious as the first one. (NKJV Life Application Study Bible, 784)

Really? I did not see a biblical reference included for support.

Not trusting this interpretation, I wondered where I could find the truth. Thankfully, a couple moments later, God reminded me of a verse in Haggai 2:9: “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.”

I quickly turned to that chapter to look at the context. Sure enough, I found verse nine, but then started to skim upward, and then very plainly:

            The Lord said, “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it is this not in your eyes as nothing?” (Hag 2:3)

Wow, they really wept because the second temple did not compare.

It was at this moment that I began to weep. It seemed like God was addressing the very doubts that had so often clouded my mind. I felt the Spirit churning and stirring within me.  As the tears poured, I began to feel comfort.

They went through the same, exact, experience. Yet we find God faithful to His word.

In time, the second temple was more glorious–two times taller than the first (cf. 1 Kgs 6:2; Ezra 6:3). Furthermore, along the emotionally rough journey, prophets Haggai and Zechariah were sent to encourage and to stir up the hearts of the Israelites, since they were eventually so disheartened they stopped temple reconstruction at the first sight of trouble (cf. Ezra 4).  Indeed they wept because the second temple did not compare, but God spoke through Haggai and Zechariah with dawning encouragements like these:

            “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,” says the Lord of hosts, “And in this place I will give you peace,” says the Lord of hosts. (Hag 2:9)

            This is the word of the Lord to Zerubabbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” Says the Lord of hosts. (Zech 4:6)

It seemed as if God was telling me that night, “Everyone goes through this. Child, just have faith in Me. If I can do this twenty-five hundred years ago, I can just as well do the same in due time.”

Our “foundations” may seem just as unglamorous now, especially in comparison to olden days.  We will sometimes be unsightly, and there will be weepers, as in that generation. But assuredly—the true church will rise. We just need to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).

After finishing the chapter, I rose and prayed and went to bed with much thanksgiving and a renewed faith.

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Publisher: True Jesus Church