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Enthusiasm and experience

Many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders remembered the first Temple, and they wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. — Ezra 3:12

Young people look forward; old folks look back. Youth embraces the future, where most of its life lies; old age reveres the past, where most of its life has gone. Youth has little in the past to which to refer; old age has not much in the future for which to plan. So when youth and old age stand together in the same place, they look in opposite directions and see different scenarios. Old folks see the good old days; the young see only bright horizons. Little wonder they often disagree and not infrequently clash!

On the day when the new foundations of the ruined temple were laid in Jerusalem after 70 years in exile, the reactions of the generations were markedly different. The young people were so excited about what was new and fresh that they sang and shouted and danced for joy. Their faces were wreathed in smiles. But the shouts were mingled with sobs because, while the young were delighted, the old were dismayed. Their cheeks wore no smiles, but were bathed in tears (Ezra 3:12). They remembered and mourned the old temple, the old days, the way things were. And they looked with dismay at what was destined to take its place. In their minds the new was far inferior to the old.

The mingled sounds of delight and dismay were apparently indistinguishable from a distance (3:13). That was good, because it would have been unfortunate if only the shouts of youth had been heard, and it would have been unforgivable if the moans of the old had prevailed. Both had a point. The old had experience, which gave insight to what had been; the young had enthusiasm, which promised momentum for what was to come.

Enthusiasm without the cautions of experience can lead to projects crashing in flames. Experience without the fire of enthusiasm can lead to projects never leaving the ground. Old people harping on the way things were can kill the hope of the future, while young people worshiping the way things will be can be wounded if the lessons of history go unheeded.

God made youth and old age for a reason—they need each other! So let’s thank Him for youth and praise Him for old age, and let’s pray that enthusiasm and experience will kiss each other and live happily together.

For further study: Ezra 3:1-13

Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.