Ezra 3:11,13 And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid… No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.
Worship means different things to different people. Styles and forms of worship vary from generation to generation. The journey of our individual lives impacts the relationship we have with God. The call to follow Him affects us all in a different manner as we rebuild our lives. The form and substance of our lives is individually molded and shaped by Him who loves us completely. Our response to him, therefore, will vary from person to person. The response of the people at the laying of the Temple’s foundation is mixed.
The worship was filled with the sound of instruments, voices of praise and much thanksgiving shouts. The peoples were worshipping God. Those who grew up in captivity never knew firsthand the splendor of the Temple. Their joy was fueled by the teachings and hopes of the elders who promised that God would one day bring them home to Jerusalem. The promises they learned are being fulfilled.
There were those who had lived through the exile but had also been through the destruction of Jerusalem. They had lived through the actual fall Judah and the subsequent hardships of the exile as it began. For them, this laying of the foundation walls was a reminder of the sins of a nation that caused this entire series of events. The entire event of the fall of Jerusalem, the forced captivity, the years of exile were brought about by the sins of a nation, all the people. The weeping and tears were both of sorrow for the past sins remembered and of joy for the final fulfillment of God’s forgiveness in the return of his people to Jerusalem. Together, all the people raise their voices in praise to our God.
This story reminds me of the sinful woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and with her tears. Jesus said of her to the Pharisee, “Her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”