No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping. Ezra 3:13
Angela’s family reeled with sorrow as they experienced three bereavements in just four weeks. After the one involving the sudden death of their nephew, Angela and her two sisters gathered around the kitchen table for three days, only leaving to buy an urn, get takeout, and attend the funeral. As they wept over his death, they also rejoiced over the ultrasound photos of the new life growing within their youngest sister.
In time, Angela found comfort and hope from the Old Testament book of Ezra. It describes God’s people returning to Jerusalem after the Babylonians destroyed the temple and deported them from their beloved city (see Ezra 1). As Ezra watched the temple being rebuilt, he heard joyful praises to God (3:10–11). But he also listened to the weeping of those who remembered life before exile (v. 12).
One verse especially consoled Angela: “No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise” (v. 13). She realized that even if she was drenched in deep sorrow, joy could still appear.
We too might grieve the death of a loved one or mourn a different loss. If so, we can express our cries of pain along with our moments of rejoicing to God, knowing that He hears us and gathers us in His arms.
Why do you think you can experience both joy and sorrow at the same time? How can you cultivate joy today?
Loving God, in this world we experience pain and suffering. Spark joy in me as I look to You for hope and peace.
The book of Ezra captures the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile. Ezra 1–6 tells of the first return of fifty thousand led by Zerubbabel (538 bc). They rebuilt the altar (ch. 3), reinstituted the sacrifices, and attempted to rebuild the temple (536 bc). But the temple work stalled for sixteen years because of strong opposition from enemies (chs. 4–5). Under the ministry of Haggai and Zechariah, the temple was eventually completed in 516 bc. Ezra 7–10 records the second return of five thousand Jews eighty years later, now led by Ezra himself (458 bc). The third return led by Nehemiah (444 bc) is recorded in the book of Nehemiah.