Monday, December 17, 2007

Advent - Hidden Glory

His memory betrayed the hour at hand. For even as Zerubbabel rallied the returned exiles to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, his memories recalled another temple. The glory of Solomon's temple dulled this present project. Built at the height of Solomon's reign, the temple reflected the hope and glory of a people set apart to worship and proclaim the one true God.

Zerubbabel grew up in the shadow of stories from ancient Israel. His great grandfather, King Josiah, seeking to restore the ancient fervor, renewed the covenant with the Lord and called on the whole nation to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But the dark disobedience of his fathers required judgment, and the nation fell captive to Babylon.

Leading a band of exiles back to Jerusalem, the elder Zerubbabel was commissioned to oversee the rebuilding of the temple. This temple was not the product of Israel's great wealth and glory and power as reflected in Solomon's temple. No this temple would be built by a group of broken, humiliated and poverty-stricken people.

Under the direction of their captors, they were sent back to the land to rebuild the ancient ruins. As Zerubbabel looked over the process of rebuilding, his heart grieved - for his memories denied the hope before him. All he could see were the glory days of what once was and would never be again. How can a leader inspire his people when his vision for tomorrow has been extinguished by yesterday?

Haggai comes from the court of the Lord to encourage Zerubbabel.

"Be strong,' says the Lord, 'for I am with you.'" Then under the inspiration of the God's Spirit, Haggai recalls a more ancient memory. "According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remains among you: do not fear!"

The same God who rescued a broken band of slaves in Egypt, now speaks to a broked band of exiles. "For thus sayeth the Lord of hosts: 'Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the Lord of hosts."

Something deep inside Zerubbabel awakens to the call of God. As he listens, the hope of glory continues, "The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the Lord of hosts. 'And in this place I will give peace,' says the Lord of hosts."

What Zerubbabel could not see was God's hand acting through Zerubbabel and all the exiles to prepare the way for a temple not made by hands. The glory of the latter temple was great because God was moving to bring all nations to the holy mount Zion.

Today we prepare our hearts to celebrate the coming of the Son. We remember the coming of the Savior in the manger. Just as Zerubbabel's temple seemed a dull reflection to Solomon's temple, so the birth of Jesus seemed but a dull reflection to the birth of Solomon, the Golden Son. Today we remember, we celebrate, we rejoice in the birth of Jesus—not the birth of Solomon.

As we prepare our hearts for His coming afresh, may we have eyes to see the glory of the Lord hidden in ancient ruins, broken places and out-of-the-way mangers.

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