COVID-19 has turned the way the church functions upside-down. To reduce the virus spread, many church buildings are closed and have shifted to online services. Is this a good thing or not? Can we truly worship God when we can’t gather together in the usual manner? Are online services much worse than actual services? Should we just bide the time till we can gather together?
I believe this passage speaks to this very issue.
The Israelites returned from exile to their homeland which was destroyed by the Babylonians. The first thing they wanted to do was to rebuild the temple so they can resume their worship service to God. We read at the start:
In early autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose.
They had a “unified purpose” which was to rebuild the temple. Even though they had fear of the inhabitants around them, they bravely carried on the rebuilding process. They teach us that we must bravely rebuild the church service even it is online or some other vehicle. Moaning and complaining about the current situation will not help. Taking action does.
When the temple foundation was laid, there was a great celebration! I want to focus on these few verses:
…Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.
But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.
This is a fascinating account. Some were celebrating while others were weeping! How could this be? We are told that some of the older priests who had seen the glory of the previous temple before it was destroyed wept at the sight of the new temple. They knew it could never compare to King Solomon’s temple. Of course it couldn’t! They held on to the past glory and it stopped them from truly worshiping at that moment.
However, the younger people were celebrating because they never experienced worship in a temple before since they were born during the exile. They embraced the new experience.
Even the prophet Zechariah was sent to remind the Israelites not to despise the new temple though it might have been less glorious. We read:
Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
I love that phrase – Do not despise these small beginnings! Why? Because the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. This has serious implications for us today.
With the spread of Covid-19 in our world, many churches are closed and forced to conduct online services. It is a whole new digital landscape for church goers. Just like the Israelites, some mourn the loss of worshiping in a physical church building. Others celebrate the opportunity to worship in whatever manner it may be.
It will never compare to the previous way that church has be run. But the main thing is to focus on the fact that we’re still worshiping God! No one can take away our ability to worship Him. The vehicle of worship may be Zoom, YouTube or Church Online but it doesn’t matter – as long as we worship God in Spirit and in truth. Don’t despise these small beginnings!
You can either be a complainer or a worshiper. You can’t be both at the same time. Don’t let the past determine your present. Face reality head-on. The situation has evolved and we need to adapt. Keep on worshiping God no matter what the situation or method it may be. God rejoices when we worship Him.