11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voiceEzra 3:11-12 ESV
In grief and in joy, we can recognize that God is good. The truth of His steadfast love does not rely on our current condition, and we can praise him regardless. Some in that crowd looked back to the “good ol’ days” and say the lack that the present day held. Others, simply savored the moment that they thought would never again happen.
It is significant that those from both groups praised God regardless of the ache they had experienced or the one they currently felt. They clung to God and recognized His goodness, a hope that would need to carry them through yet one more set of confrontation.
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to buildEzra 4:4 ESV
Faithfully following after God does not often happen without opposition. Despite the unified praise for God and obedience in rebuilding the temple, their plans hit a temporary discouraging hiccup when opposition stirred up King Artexerxes against their work to rebuild the temple. They had to stop building for a time, and trust that God remained in control while they waited for the return of the green light.
The righteous flourish like the palm treePsalm 92:12-15 ESV
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Lifelong, faithful obedience to God is a beautiful thing. I doubt most Christians that find themselves looking back on decades of living for God do so without seeing some seasons of challenge, or even times when growth stopped or regressed. And yet, I have seen many with fruitful ministry as this psalm promises. While their physical bodies might show some wear and tear from trials and age, their spiritual lives remain vibrant and sometimes more full of life as the years go by. They know from study and experience that God is their rock. They know that they can praise God in both storms and calm. They have lived it, learned it, and thrive as a result.
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of lifeI John 1:1 ESV
Listening to someone closer to their end of life who has faithfully followed God through full-time ministry around the world or the daily faithfulness of motherhood and family, shows the vibrancy of their relationship with God and their subsequent view of Him. God is not truly invisible. He can be heard if we are quiet. Seen if we scrutinize. He can bring tangible peace, supernatural wisdom, abundant blessing, and a joy not dependent on circumstance.
Lord, keep my eyes open to your work. May my lips praise you through both the stormy and the still days. Hold me strong through opposition that at the end of my life, my faith may be more alive than ever. For your glory. In Jesus name, amen.