The altar of the Lord God was rebuilt after the children of captivity returned to Jerusalem. Knowing that for the length of time they were away from their homeland, and the fact that the Lord saw to it that many were able to return, the leadership set about to put things together that were important, such as the altar of burnt offerings (3:1-7). From there they set about to lay the foundation of the temple, with the Levites supervising the activity. However, as the old folk who had seen the temple of the Lord before it was destroyed, and now see the foundation of this temple, could not help (evidently) but to shed tears about what was and now is (3:8-13).
Application: The restoration of what was, but now is not, is a difficult task. Just as they were starting from scratch to do things as the Lord prescribed (3:4), many have to start from scratch in their own lives in order to get where they need to go – to the Lord. It is much easier said than done, however. Paul called upon the Christians in Colossians to seek, set, and put to death (3:1-5), and it is imperative that we do exactly that. Sin is damning and hard to contend with, but the Lord is our advocate (1 John 2:1), and because of that – to whom else shall we go?