Looking back, looking forward

At this time of year, it is a fitting moment to look back and consider our experiences of the past 12 months, and perhaps to consider our hopes and dreams for the new year. What was 2022 like for you? I am sure that many of us will have had our share of disappointments and dashed dreams, both in our personal lives, and as a body of believers.

There is an interesting story in the book of Ezra about the rebuilding of the temple following Israel’s return from 70 years of captivity (Ezra 3). Solomon’s ornate temple had been destroyed, and a smaller, less grandiose temple was being constructed. The older priests and Levites who remembered the old temple wept as the new temple foundations were completed, because the new temple would be nothing like Solomon’s temple that they knew. The younger priests, who had no recollection of Solomon’s temple, shouted for joy as the new temple foundations were completed. So, there was the sound of both weeping and joy as the new temple was built. (Ezra 3:10 – 13)

Perhaps we can identify with the older priests and Levites. Those things we had hoped for at the start of 2022 may have not materialized, or were a pale imitation of our expectations. Physical ailments have not been fully healed, money woes are unresolved, job difficulties leading to depression…….

For me what is remarkable in the Ezra story is that those who were disappointed and weeping, nonetheless joined with the younger, joyful priests as the song of thanksgiving was being made: “He is good; his love to Israel endures forever” (v11). My NIV study Bible states that a Babylonian cornerstone (of the new temple) reads, “I started the work weeping, I finished it rejoicing”. This whole story is a great backdrop to Psalm 126, which talks of captive Israel returning to Zion. The Psalm ends with these words: Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them. We may not know just when “the sheaves” will be apparent in our lives, but the promise of abundance and songs of ultimate joy will sustain us, as we place our hope in God.

So, whether we feel joyful or just want to cry as we face 2023, the one thing that unites us all together is that God IS good, and His love ENDURES FOREVER. It was God’s enduring love that sent us Jesus, as summarized in the words of the Christmas time carol: “The hopes and fears of ALL the years, are met in Thee tonight”

Bill Sayer