Ancient Men Wept - Ezra 3:12-13


Today's story is not about why (or why not) men should cry. I am a bit of a crier, and when I see a man cry it touches me in the hardest part of my heart and turns that to warm molasses. Whatever you think about men crying, this is what I just read in the book of Ezra, in a passage that grabbed me and would not let me concentrate on anything else until I just got these words out.

The Old Testament book of Ezra is one of those that didn't really catch my attention from the beginning. You know what I mean...it is one of the books that tells a historical account of something that happened in a land far away, to people whose lifestyle is very different from mine, and in words that I don't relate to , such as "vessels and chargers of gold". There are names of people that I can't pronounce. This morning I am embarrassed to say that I actually said out loud, "blah, blah, blah" as I skimmed names and lists of children, amounts of cattle and horses, and more facts that made me wonder why God would find this necessary for me to read. At 5 a.m. I, myself, was about to weep. In a nutshell, the book of Ezra tells of about 50,000 Jews returning to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, after they had been enslaved for 70 years by the Babylonians.

If you can hang in there until Chapter 3, you'll read the passage that grabbed me. It is Ezra 3:12-13 ( full text printed below). It describes the reaction of the people, when they saw the foundation laid for their new temple. The young guys are hollering and shouting with joy, but it is the reaction of the "Ancient Men" that got me. They wept with such a loud voice that the noise was confusing in that you couldn't tell who was laughing or crying. Think for just a second how loud that cry has to be, for it to be confused with hollering. Next, think about an old man you know, and now picture him wailing this loud. That would probably mean it was a big deal to him, or otherwise he would just be standing around clapping and whooping, right? But no, the old men are wailing because "they had seen the first house."

This means, the old guys knew what their people had lost, and now they see it being rebuilt. It wasn't just the building that had been lost; God didn't leave His people because they had no building to go to. God was still with them. Yet they were wailing from joy, at the promise of a rebuilt temple where they could worship. The young guys are happy to have it; the old guys remember losing it and their reaction shows the difference.

If you rewind history here, 70 years ago these ancient men may have been young men who were taken from their homes, marched over to Babylonia, and asked to worship the king there. They would have been boys then, who knew Daniel. I imagine their thoughts of Babylonian captivity, where they were forced to alter their form of worship, in comparison to this day, when they are free to worship again. The reason the young guys are only shouting (not wailing) is because they only remember captivity; this freedom is new and exciting to them. The ancient men feel the pain of what was lost for a whole generation. I wonder how many actually fell into worship the king and now they feel guilty. I wonder how many wish they could turn back the clock and fight harder than they did, while they still had the good life. How many had never imagined the events that were about to take place, would ever happen to them.

I pray that God will give my children the wisdom of these ancient men, so that as young people they do not take their freedoms for granted. I don't want militant, defensive children, but I do pray that they will stand up and fight for their freedom to worship so that they enjoy that freedom instead of mourning the loss of it 70 years from now.

I pray that young men now, will stand up to cherish and defend our freedoms to worship today. What a treasure it is to enjoy our blessings from God, instead of past regrets of taking them for granted.

"But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for 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 noise was heard afar off."