Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Despising Small Beginnings

Suggested Reading: Ezra 3:7-12

There is a city-building game that I used to play on my tablet based on Tolkien’s the Hobbit. While I played “against” other players, my goal was really just to build up my own city and to build up the “might” of my city so that other people would leave me in peace when they saw how powerful I was. Several times, I built my might to upwards of 500k and was well on my way to the city I wanted to build. Inevitably, though, someone whose might was even greater than my own would come along and attack me and, because the server I somehow chose to play on was based in Italy, I got attacked in the middle of the night and was unable to defend myself. The morning after I was attacked, when I would open up the game expecting to see my might well on its way to 1,000,000 and discover it that it was closer to zero, I got very frustrated. Several times, I nearly decided to simply quit and start over on a different server or just find a new game entirely. Starting over from zero can be very frustrating when you remember how much you used to have.

In the days after the Exile, the people of Israel faced a similar frustration but on a much grander scale. For several centuries, the Israelites and inhabitants of Jerusalem had been able to look in awe on the Temple of the Lord that Solomon had built. The structure had been magnificent, with perfectly proportioned and sculpted stone pillars, inside walls covered with pure gold, and beautiful bronze basins for the ceremonial cleansings (one so large it was appropriately named “The Bronze Sea”). The Temple that Solomon had built was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. But it had been destroyed when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and took its most prominent citizens into exile. Now, coming back to Jerusalem after seventy years, Jerusalem’s citizens began rebuilding the temple under the direction of Zerubbabel. Some of the returning exiles were old enough to remember Solomon’s temple in all of its glory and many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation (Ezra 3:12, NLT). But God addressed these people directly through the prophet Zechariah, saying, Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).  

All of our lives go through cycles when we have to start something over again. Sometimes we begin new careers and have to start from the beginning. Other times we encounter tragedies that destroy the things we’ve worked much of our lives to build. And sometimes God moves us from a place of success to a new place where we are tasked with building something from scratch. At any of those times, and numerous others, watching the new, small beginning can be discouraging – especially if we remember the grandness of what we had before.  When we come to those places and we feel discouraged, God says to us, Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin.

If God has led you to a new beginning, frustration and despair can be natural reactions when comparing the small beginnings you are currently faced with to the wonderful memories of what you once had. But we cannot allow those feelings of frustration and despair to overwhelm us. Do not despise these small beginnings. If God rejoices to see the work begin, we can learn to rejoice in new beginnings as well. Don’t allow the “finished product” you previously had ruin the joys of the process God has you experiencing now. You might very well miss out on something even greater than what you had before. 

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