Why You Really Need Joy and Sorrow

Our thoughts for the past couple of weeks have centered around a Season of Hope, and our theme at East Side this year has been “Hope.” Advent is a season of hopeful waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises.

The last several weeks have been looks at the prophecies leading up to the destruction and exile of Jerusalem & Judah. Last week we looked at Isaiah 40 and the hopeful promise that God’s people would return home, and he would come to them! This week we see the fulfillment of God’s promise that the people will return home, but not all is joyful.

Ezra begins in the same way 2 Chronicles ends with a proclamation from Cyrus king of Persia. Ezra also wants us to remember that this fulfills the Jeremiah 25 & 29 prophecy that the people would return home from exile. God is keeping his promise to the people!

Ezra 3 tells the story of the reestablishment of worship in Jerusalem. The altar was rebuilt and the people celebrated the Festival of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-43). I find this a fitting first celebration for the newly resettled exiles. Tabernacles was to remind the Israelites of the time they lived in temporary huts during the journey out of Egypt. The entire festival recalls the journey out of Egyptian slavery/exile to the promised land; a fitting reminder to those having just journeyed back to the promised land from Babylonian exile. In both generations, God was faithful in keeping his promises.

Our text in Ezra this week ends with the end of chapter 3 and the laying of the foundation of the temple of Yahweh. I find this text both beautiful and haunting.

With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away.

Ezra 3:11-13 NIV

Notice that everyone praised God in this moment, but the emotions were very mixed. Some were joyful to see this day come. Some were lamenting the loss of the original temple. What brought joy to some brought mourning to others. Excitement and weeping. Yet a great shout of praise came from all.

Our church family is much like this group in Jerusalem, a place of rejoicing and mourning. Sometimes those two feelings are so intertwined that we feel them all at once, especially this time of year. A friend recently reminded me Advent is a time for the church to come together as one, despite our emotions, in hopeful expectation of the second Advent of Christ.

For some the waiting brings joy, for others sorrow. We need both. We are called to rejoice together and mourn together because we are called to be together! The church becomes more like Christ when we rejoice and mourn together.

Wherever you find yourself in the emotional spectrum, you are welcome here. Join the body of Christ as we worship our God in hopeful expectation of his Advent! Come Lord Jesus!

Sermon text for 12/15/19 – Ezra 1:1-4; Ezra 3:1-4, 10-13; Luke 2:25-32

Daily Psalms – Psalm 146

Daily Psalm Reading – Psalm 146-150

Psalm 146 is one of my favorites. As the psalter comes to a close today, we are reminded of many important beliefs and practices through these praise psalms.

I attended a funeral service yesterday that was life changing for all who were present. It was a celebration of a Christ-centered life well lived. As I read this psalm this morning I couldn’t help but recall all of these themes from yesterday’s service.

I will praise the LORD all my life;
    I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Psalm 146:2 NIV

We are called to praise our God as long as we live, no matter what life holds. In the good times and the bad, in joy and sorrow, in health and in death, we are to praise God!

Do not put your trust in princes,
    in human beings, who cannot save.
When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;
    on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Psalm 146:3-4 NIV

Life is short. We are all from dust and to dust return. Nothing in this life lasts, therefore our trust should be in God alone.

He is the Maker of heaven and earth,
    the sea, and everything in them—
    he remains faithful forever.

Psalm 146:6 NIV

This is difficult to remember at times. When chaos seems to affect our lives it’s difficult to remember God is faithful. Yet he always has, and always will be faithful and we are called to join him in this faithfulness. No matter what life hands, no matter how much hurt or pain or destruction comes in this life, God is faithful. We are called to be faithful as he is faithful.

The LORD watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.

Psalm 146:9 NIV

This is a key theme throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. God is one who looks after the widow, orphan, and foreigner. We are called to do the same. God is compassionate and cares for those in need. We are called to do the same.

Today I am thankful for who God is and for what he has done. Though I don’t always understand why things work out the way they do, he is sovereign and faithful. He loves the sinners and abhors the sin. He cares for the needy and those whom society has forgotten. He is faithful forever, and loves us in spite of our faults. And he calls us to be just like him. And for that we praise the LORD.