For us today this scenario could play out with a shekinah-less church that gets planted and grows as a counterfeit church, proclaiming a false gospel based on the philosophies and preferences (and sometimes downright atheism) of man. For what else can we call it but atheism when God is reconfigured into something He is clearly not and His Word is not taught or deemed authoritative in a church. As we’ll see in Ezra, the Israelites choosing to live in disobedience and alliance with the ways and worship of other gods puts their faith at risk of extinction, just as it does ours today.
The wisened returnees from exile knew exactly what it is like when God’s glory is present, and what it is like when it’s not. They knew what it means to have God leave the building. After all, they were the ones weeping.