No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise.
— Ezra 3:13

When the exiles returned to Jerusalem, one of their first tasks was to rebuild the temple so that the worship of God could be restored. The text emphasizes the community’s excitement about this project, and their gratitude to God for bringing them home again. The people gave sacrificially for the work.
But we are also told that many of the older people wept. They had seen the glory of the former temple and did not think that this new one would be as glorious (see Haggai 2:2-9).
Joy and regret sometimes go together. When we look back in life and see that we should have acted differently or made different decisions, we can see with sadness the effects of our sins on the people around us. And sometimes we only understand the full weight of our wrongdoing after God restores us and welcomes us back to himself.
The tears of the older exiles did not signal a disappointment with God. Those tears reflected an awareness of how much the nation’s sins had cost. The old temple had been ruined because the people had rebelled against God.
Yet the people recalled another key truth: “[The Lord] is good; his love . . . endures forever” (v. 11). In Christ, every sin is removed and every tear is wiped away so that what remains is only the joy of salvation.

Lord God, give us godly sorrow for the effects of sin in and around us. But also give us joy, we pray, in the glory of your gift to us in Jesus. Amen.

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