Be it an old house or an aging sanctuary, many of us have faced the choice of “preserve and refurbish” versus “tear down and start over.” Sometimes, there’s really no choice. The old must go. But other times, reclaiming the old is grander—even if more expensive.
Today’s Scripture informs discouraged returnees to Jerusalem that they will “build up,” “raise up,” and “repair” the ruins of the ancient city (v. 4), vetoing the devastations which hostile armies and the ravages of abandonment have wrought. Beloved, long-lost sites will be visible and habitable once again.
In one sense this promise fits within a larger theme of Scripture. God seems to prefer to work with the existing rather than start all over. One way to interpret the story of Noah’s rainbow (Gen 8:21) is that God will not destroy what God has made, but will find a way to make it whole. Jeremiah’s beholding a spoiled vessel reworked into a useful one is another example of this divine tendency (Jer 18). The pattern is fully revealed when the One upon the throne announces: “I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5).
Honestly, I’m astonished at God’s ability to find a usable past within yesterday’s debris. With God there are always bricks and timbers, pillars and glass within the rubble that can be refashioned into beauty and usefulness.
God specializes in such. Always has. Always will.
Do notice, however, that the promise is that “they,” the despondent returnees, will be the builders. God makes the project possible, but we supply the sweat, the tears, the love, and the labor to make it so.
What discarded dreams do you need to reclaim and work to make come true?
God of patient hope, help me identify what I may wisely use from my mistakes and trust you to help me build a better tomorrow. Amen.