The Snare of the "Old Days" Pt 1
The Snare of the “Old Days” Pt 1
“Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?”
The elation of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple soon turned to discouragement and despair. When Ezra brought the people back and began the process of rebuilding, many were rejoicing. It was a time of renewal and celebration. For 70 years, the temple was in ruin, and the place of worship was vacant. When the people arrived with Ezra, there was an air of excitement and anticipation as they sought to restore the nation to its glory. In Ezra 3, we read that after the initial work of restoring the foundation of the Temple, there was a great joy. Verse 11 states that they were singing and praising God, and the people were shouting with great joy. But in verse 12, we read that as the people were shouting for joy, the old men, who had seen the first temple, were weeping. But their weeping was not in joy but sorrow, so they became discouraged and eventually quit building. They had fallen into the trap of the “good ol’ day” mentality. This is the trap of looking back and seeing the present through the lens of the false illusion of “remembering the good old days.” This mindset idealizes the past to the point that we see the present with all its faults and the past only with all its triumphs. The old days were always better, and the present is always worse. In the church, these creep in and bring discouragement and disillusionment. The mantra becomes, “This is nothing; I remember when….” When these thoughts creep into the church, it brings a sense of defeat and discouragement. It short-circuits joy and minimizes God’s activity.
In Haggai 2:1-3, we find the people had fallen into this deceptive snare. They looked at the temple they were rebuilding under Ezra and compared it to the temple of Solomon. Consequently, they concluded that the new temple was a poor replacement. Instead of rejoicing, they wept. Instead of invigorating the new project, they undercut the enthusiasm. In their minds, the new Temple “seemed to be nothing in comparison.” They did not remember the idolatry and lifeless worship that became characteristic of the temple worship in the final days before the exile. They did not remember how the priests became more concerned about their power and prosperity than they did about the worship and glory of God. In their eyes, they saw the glitz and polish of the elaborate temple. In contrast, God saw an empty building devoid of any life.
In the church today, it is easy to start to see the world through dark-colored lenses. We see the problems, the moral decline, the presence of false teachers, and the hopelessness of our world. We see the church struggle in its attendance and ministry, and we lament, “I remember when….and it is nothing like the old days.” As a result, we become discouraged, and the people around us become discouraged. We have fallen into the snare of the “good ol days.” And it is one of the worse traps to fall into, for it is ultimately a distortion for the ‘good ol’ days’ were never as good as we think, and the present is never as bad as we envision.
Tomorrow: Pt 2: Why the good old days are not good, and the present is not bad.