Summary: If you always keep an ever humbling reminder of why you had to be restored and what consequences your time in sin produced, you will never need another restoration.
Exiles have begun returning to Jerusalem. Years of Babylonian captivity due to disobedience is the only reminder of a land once favored by God. Remnants from Israel now return back to their homeland with the daunting task of picking up the pieces.
Jeshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor are now leading the people towards reconstruction. Earlier in chapter three, we read how a time of worship for the people had been restored in Jerusalem. However, there was no temple to worship in. The great temple of the Lord, commissioned by King David and erected by King Solomon, no longer stood. It was a stark reminder of the consequences of sin.
And so also this may be your condition today. You once stood in the favor of God through His grace, but have since walked away, as did the prodigal son. Sin has consumed your life, and you find yourself starving in the hog pen of this world. Now, you stand before God with a life of ruins desiring His forgiveness and mercy.
And so it is, that God in His infinite love towards you, picks you up and sets you back on solid ground. He forgives your sins, and you experience the warmth of His ever-holy presence. However, through the radiant glow of restoration, lies marred remains of a life that sought to usurp the authority of this loving and almighty God.
Now comes the task of rebuilding that once vibrant relationship, that marvelous fellowship you shared with Christ. In order for this relationship to stand the test of time, there must be a solid foundation. But we see that Israel no longer had any foundation. The foundations had to be laid again, just as the foundations of your spiritual life with Christ must once again be laid.
As the result of this task which faced Israel, we see two important things that occurred in their hearts, as it should yours as well. First, Israel experienced a time of great praise. They praised God in unity for verse 11 states, "And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the Lord." They praised God because He is good and His mercy endured forever towards them. They shouted with a great shout when they praised, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. You too should experience a time of great praise unto the Lord for His mercy that He extended in your direction. You should shout hallelujahs to the One who pulled you from the depths of despair and placed you on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. You should praise as the Psalmist when he wrote, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell."
Oh, now what a seat of joy that you sit! But wait a minute. Go back and read about those of Israel who were around during the time of Solomon’s great temple. What was their reaction? The Bible tells us that while the others were shouting praises to God for their restoration, these were weeping "with a loud voice." Why? Were they not happy that God had brought them home? Were they not pleased to see the new foundations laid? Why were they weeping so loud that they almost drowned out the sound of the praising?
I believe that it brought back a time of solemn remembrance. They remembered what they had lost and now where they stood. First, I believe that they remembered that sin was the cause of their ruin. Ezekiel 18:4 reminds us of sins consequences in stating, "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." Galatians 6:7-8 warns us that God is not mocked and that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." It was obvious to these ancient men that sin was the ultimate cause of their ruin.
I believe that they not only remembered where they were before sin, but also were sorrowful knowing where they could now be. Were it not for sin, Solomon’s temple would still be standing in grandeur, Israel would not be in bondage, and God would still be the center of their lives. To the ancient men, this temple, although wonderful to many, would never measure up to the glory of the previous.
Haggai 2:3 speaks of this second temple, "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do you see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?" God was revealing that in the eyes of the ancient men, compared to Solomon’s original temple, this new one doesn’t even register on the charts. However, remember what Jesus told the church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:5? Following His command for them to repent, He gives them further instructions to "do the first works." They were told to simply start over. This was Israel’s state, and so it is yours. You should solemnly think of where you could be in your walk with God had it not been derailed by sin. You can’t go back to the place where you left off. No, you must begin again and do the first works.