April 24, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on October 11, 2015.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Joy and Sorrow at the Same Time”

Ezra 3:12-13

But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.

The referee blows his whistle to signal the end of the game.  From one end, a roar of jubilation erupts.  Exuberant players jump up and down and embrace.  Coaches are baptized in Gatorade.  On the other end, tears flow—not of joy but of regret and bitter disappointment.  Players of a different uniform fling themselves onto the ground and weep.  They tell themselves and one another to never forget this feeling, because they never want to experience it again.  There is something about sports that resonate with the human experience: joy on one hand; sorrow on the other.   

It’s rare that joy and sorrow are experienced by the same team at the same time.  But that’s what is depicted here at the end of Ezra 3—sorrow and joy from the same team.  We can understand the joy of the exiles as they saw tangible evidence for hope and the faithfulness of God.  But as the people gathered to celebrate the laying of the new temple’s foundations, the people could not distinguish the cries of sorrow from the cries of joy.  

Could not distinguish?   Joy is usually much louder than sorrow.  What was behind the sorrow so that its sound matched the sound of joy?  We are told that it was the elderly who had seen the first temple who wept aloud.  Perhaps they mourned as they compared the beginnings of this new temple with their remembrance of the majesty of the former temple.  The prophet Haggai seems to confirm this in Haggai 2. 

But does this explain the intensity of their sorrow?  I suspect that they could have been remembering what had made this day of celebration necessary.  It was their (and their nation’s) sin and idolatry that had brought divine judgment in the form of the Babylonian captivity.  Perhaps they grieved as they remembered how they and their fathers had grieved God.  

I believe Ezra 3:12-13 gives us a whole picture of worship.  We give worship to God in joy and sorrow.  My wife Sunny has been reminding me recently that our worship to God is given in the midst of brokenness and pain.  This is a special kind of worship that we will not be able to offer in heaven where we will worship in the perfection of God’s shalom!  

Even our ability to bring worship to God captures this tension.  We can only come into the presence of God because of an event that also evokes joy and sorrow:  the joy of the resurrected Christ and sorrow that our sin required the death and suffering of the same.  

I believe God is honored as we come to Him with both joy and sorrow.  

Prayer: Father, I want to worship You with the wholeness of my being, bringing worship in the midst of my brokenness and pain, and remembering with sorrow the cost of my sin.  Yet I’m filled with joy and hope because of what You have done.  Thank You for Your compassion and sorrow that moved You to redeem this world.  Thank You that You invite us into the fullness of Your joy.  Help me to grow in each of these areas.  In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 14

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