The Review and Herald

1480/1902

April 11, 1907

The Return of the Exiles—No. 3

An Occasion for Rejoicing

EGW

As preparations for building the temple advanced from month to month, the faithful remnant of Israel began to gather courage. Long had they been deprived of every visible token of God's presence with them. And now, surrounded as they were by many sad reminders of the terrible apostasy of their fathers, which had finally resulted in lifelong captivity, they longed for some abiding token of divine forgiveness and favor. Above the restoration of personal property and many ancient privileges, they valued the approval of God. Wonderfully had he wrought in their behalf; and now they longed for an assurance of his pardoning love and protecting care. By working diligently to rebuild the temple, they hoped to hasten the restoration of special blessings connected with the sanctuary service. Within the walls of this second temple they expected to see revealed the glory of the Lord. RH April 11, 1907, par. 1

Wise plans for the prosecution of the work were laid by Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and their associates in authority. They “appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to set forward the work of the house of the Lord.” “All they that were come out of the captivity unto Jerusalem” responded nobly, and with willing hands began to prepare the building material. Some of the immense stones brought to the temple site in the days of Solomon, had escaped destruction at the hands of the Babylonians. These stones were made ready for use, and much new material was provided. RH April 11, 1907, par. 2

The foundation-stone of the temple was laid amid scenes of great rejoicing. Accompanied by the trumpets of the priests and the cymbals of the sons of Asaph, the people “sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord; because he is good, for his mercy endureth forever toward Israel.” RH April 11, 1907, par. 3

The sentiment of this hymn of praise and thanksgiving is that expressed in the one hundred and thirty-sixth psalm—a most appropriate recognition of God's merciful providences in behalf of the children of the captivity: RH April 11, 1907, par. 4

“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever. RH April 11, 1907, par. 5

“O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth forever. RH April 11, 1907, par. 6

“O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth forever. RH April 11, 1907, par. 7

“To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth forever. RH April 11, 1907, par. 8

“To him that by wisdom made the heavens;” “that stretched out the earth above the waters;” “that made great lights;” “the sun to rule by day,” “the moon and stars to rule by night,”—to him, the Creator of all these, the congregation of Israel gave thanks, acknowledging that “his mercy endureth forever.” RH April 11, 1907, par. 9

“To him that smote Egypt in their first-born,” “and brought out Israel from among them,” “with a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm;” “to him which divided the Red Sea into parts,” “and made Israel to pass through the midst of it,” “but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea;” “to him which led his people through the wilderness;” “to him which smote great kings,” “and slew famous kings,” “Sihon king of the Amorites,” “and Og king of Bashan,” “and gave their land for an heritage,” “even an heritage unto Israel his servant,”—to him, the Mighty Leader of the hosts of Israel, the returned exiles now rendered praise as the One whose mercy endureth forever. RH April 11, 1907, par. 10

And this same Mighty Leader is the One who hath “remembered us in our low estate,” “and hath redeemed us from our enemies.” O, let us ever “give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth forever!” RH April 11, 1907, par. 11

The laying of the corner-stone of the second temple should have called forth expressions of gratitude from every heart. The house that was about to be built was the subject of many prophecies. The Lord's servants, and especially those who had had long experience in the things of God, should have recounted the remarkable providences leading up to the work that was being done; and they should have entered heartily into the spirit of the occasion. Especially should all the aged have rejoiced because God in his mercy had not cut them off in their iniquities at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. Throughout the long period of captivity they had been spared, and now they were permitted to witness this scene of rejoicing. RH April 11, 1907, par. 12

But mingled with the music and the shouts of praise ascending on that glad day, was a discordant note of sorrow and dissatisfaction. “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.” Among the aged men who had seen the glory of Solomon's temple, there were some who lamented and wept over the inferiority of the building that was now to be erected. RH April 11, 1907, par. 13

It was but natural and right that these aged men should have feelings of sadness because of the results of long-continued impenitence. Had they and their generation obeyed God and carried out his purpose for Israel, the temple built by Solomon would not have been destroyed, and the captivity would not have been necessary. It was because of their former ingratitude and disloyalty, that they had been scattered among the heathen. Through long years of exile they were brought to realize the sacredness of God's law and the sinfulness of disobedience. RH April 11, 1907, par. 14

But conditions were now changed. In tender mercy the Lord had once more visited his people, and had allowed them to return to their own land. Feelings of sadness because of the mistakes of the past should have given place to feelings of joy. In a remarkable way God had moved upon the heart of King Cyrus to aid them in rebuilding the temple at Jerusalem, and this should have called forth expressions of profound gratitude. But some failed of discerning God's opening providences. Instead of rejoicing, they entertained thoughts of discontent and discouragement. RH April 11, 1907, par. 15

This spirit of murmuring and complaining, and of making unfavorable comparisons, had a depressing influence on the minds of many. The expressions of doubt and discouragement weakened the hands of the builders. The workmen were led to question whether they should proceed with the erection of a building that at the beginning was so freely criticized and was the cause of so much lamentation. RH April 11, 1907, par. 16

There were many in the congregation, however, who did not look upon the lesser glory of this temple, as compared with the first temple, with such dissatisfaction. “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.” RH April 11, 1907, par. 17

Our words and actions have a far-reaching influence for good or for evil. Could those who failed to rejoice at the laying of the foundation-stone of the temple, have foreseen the results of their mournful conduct on that day, they would have been appalled. Little did they realize the weight of their words of disapproval and disappointment. Little did they foresee how much they delayed the final completion of the Lord's house. RH April 11, 1907, par. 18

“O that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.” “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord.” RH April 11, 1907, par. 19