I taught Sunday school this morning. Something I do once a month for the 4th and 5th graders. Even though it is a challenge every time, I am always glad that I participated and that I am getting to know these young people. The challenge for me is teaching this particular age group. I don’t have much confidence in my ability to connect with them. However, they generally respond well, and that is due to their parents placing a priority on Bible teaching and good manners.
Our lesson this morning was about the captive Israelites being repatriated to their homeland after 70 years of exile in Babylon (Ezra 1-3). The main point of the lesson being “God keeps His promises.” God had told the children of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah that they would be taken captive to Babylon but after 70 years they would be set free. Ezra 1:1 says that when Cyrus became king of Persia, during the first year of his reign, God stirred up his spirit so that he made a decree to repatriate the Israelites. They were to be returned home with resources to rebuild the temple of God. Scripture says there were nearly 50,000 who went back to their homeland.
They returned to their land and began to restore the temple, and when the foundation was laid there was great rejoicing. But there was also great sadness among the older generation who had seen the glory of the original temple. According to Ezra 3:13, the noise of joyful shouting and loud weeping was heard from afar, and the two different sounds could not be distinguished. I am struck by the juxtaposition of great rejoicing and great sadness in the face of God’s faithful promise-keeping. I wonder if those elders who wept ever after saw the rebuilt temple with a complex mix of emotion. It was both the evidence of their sin that led to captivity and the evidence of the powerful, faithful and merciful God who set them free.
God redeems. That is who He is: a redeemer. And He keeps all His promises. Can you let go of the memory of lost glory and lay hold of the reality of present faithful love? Hope lies ahead in the sure promises of God. Take some time this week to rehearse the promises of God, and know that He will stir the hearts of whomever He chooses to accomplish those promises.
This song has been one of my long-time favorites. I’ve heard it many times, and still it thrills me with hope and expectation.
Until next week, may your response to His faithful promise-keeping be full of joy.