BY MARK MOON
Key verse 2:4
“’But now be strong, O Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
The rebuilding of the temple was a very special task, for it meant the restoring of true worship in Jerusalem. Completing the project would please the Lord and be a great testimony to the unbelieving nations who were watching the remnant in Jerusalem. In this passage, the Lord delivers simple messages to encourage the laborers to complete their work through the prophet Haggai.
The remnant was discouraged (1-3)
Read verses 1-3. The Lord spoke this message through Haggai about a month after they began the work. They began to work on the twenty fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of King Darius, and this message was given on the twenty first day of the seventh month. When the foundation of the temple was laid sixteen years, all the people of Israel gave a great shout of praise and joy. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads who had seen the Solomon’s temple wept aloud. They became sad and discouraged as they remembered the glory and beauty of Solomon’s temple (Ezra 3:8–13). The temple they started building seemed to them like nothing (3). Haggai was a member of the older generation and had seen the temple before it was destroyed, but he certainly didn’t weep with the rest of his peers. He rejoiced that the work had begun, and he wanted to see it completed. Rather than ignore the problem of discouragement that was sure to come when the people contrasted the two temples, the prophet faced the problem head-on. He picked an important day on which to deliver his message: October 17, the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast was devoted to praising God for the harvest and for remembering Israel’s pilgrim days in the wilderness (Lev. 23:34–43). But the important thing about the date was this: It was during the Feast of Tabernacles that King Solomon had dedicated the original temple (1 Kings 8:2), and Haggai wanted the people to think about that. The restored building had nothing of the splendor of Solomon’s temple, but it was still God’s house, built according to His plan and for His glory. The same ministry would be performed at its altars and the same worship presented to the Lord. Times change, but ministry goes on.
The Lord encourages the people (4-9)
Verses 4-9 describe how the Lord offers encouragement for the people in four different ways. The first encouragement is God’s presence (vv. 4–5). Haggai didn’t deny that the new temple was “as nothing” in comparison to what Solomon had built, but that wasn’t important. The important thing was that this was God’s work, and they could depend on Him to help them finish it. Haggai said “Be strong!” to the governor, the high priest, and the people working on the building, and those two words would be very significant to them. Let us read verse 4. “But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
This message of “be strong” was amplified when they remembered Israel’s history that was read during the Feast of Tabernacles. The Jews had the book of Deuteronomy read to them (Deut. 31:9–13), so they heard the record of the three times Moses told Joshua and the people to be strong (Deut. 31:6–7, 23). They also remembered that three times the Lord told Joshua to be strong (Josh. 1:6–7, 9), and when King David charged Solomon with the task of building the original temple, three times he told his son to be strong (1 Chron. 22:13; 28:10, 20). “Be strong” wasn’t an empty phrase; it was an important part of their own Jewish history.
It’s one thing to tell people to be strong and work and quite something else to give them a solid foundation for those words of encouragement. Haggai told them why they should be strong and work: because the Lord was with them (Hag. 2:4b; see 1:13). The Lord’s word “I am with you” is the single most powerful promise for a person or people embarking on God’s call. The promise of God’s presence was an encouragement to both Joshua (Josh. 1:5, 9; 3:7) and Solomon (1 Chron. 28:20). Believers today can claim the same promise as we serve the Lord, for the Lord does promise it in Mathew 28:20, “… And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” So, be strong.
The second encouragement is God’s covenant(v. 5). Read verse 5. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ The promise of God’s presence with His people is guaranteed by His unchanging Word (Hag. 2:5). When the tabernacle was dedicated by Moses, God’s presence moved in (Ex. 40:34–38), for the Lord had promised to dwell with His people. “Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them” (Ex. 29:45–46 NIV). The same Holy Spirit who enabled Moses and the elders to lead the people (Num. 11:16–17, 25; Isa. 63:11) would enable the remnant to finish building the temple. The prophet Zechariah, who ministered with Haggai, also emphasized the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit for the enablement needed to do God’s will: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’” (Zech. 4:6). The Lord says, “my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.”
Third encouragement is God’s promise (vv. 6–7, 9). With prophetic insight, Haggai looked ahead to the time when the Son of God would minister in this temple and bring the glory of God into its city. Herod’s temple replaced the temple Zerubbabel built, but the Jews still considered it “the second temple.” Certainly the glory that the Messiah Jesus brought into that temple was greater than the glory of the tabernacle or the temple Solomon built. Listen to what John 1:14 says about the glory of the Messiah, the temple himself. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.
Then Haggai looked even further into the future and saw the end of the ages, when God would shake the nations and Messiah Jesus would return (Hag. 2:7). This verse is quoted in Hebrews 12:26–27 and applied to the return of Messiah at the end of the age. God had shaken Sinai when He gave the Ten Commandments and law (Heb. 12:18–21; Ex. 19:16–25), and He will shake the nations before He sends His Son (Matt. 24:29–30). But today, God’s people belong to a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28), and they will share the glory of Messiah when He establishes that kingdom on earth.
The phrase “the desire of all nations” (Hag. 2:7) is generally interpreted as the Messiah. The nations of the world inwardly desire what the Messiah alone can give, whether they recognize this spiritual intense longing or not. The phrase is also understood as “the desirable things of the nations,” that is, their treasures. The remnant had no beautiful treasures with which to adorn their temple, but when the Messiah comes to reign, the treasures of the nations will be brought to Him and will be used for His glory.
The glory referred to in verse 7 is the glory that Messiah Jesus brought to the temple in Jerusalem, but the glory in verse 9 refers to the glory of the Indestructible Temple that will function during the Messiah’s Future Eternal Reign (Ezek. 40—48; see 43:1–12). Prophets teach that the nations will bring their wealth to the King when Israel is established in the promised kingdom (Isaiah 60:1–5 and Zechariah 14:14).
God not only promised the coming of Messiah and the glory of God in the future temples, but He also promised peace (Hag. 2:9). “In this place” refers to the city of Jerusalem where the Messiah will reign as “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Those who believe on Jesus today have peace with God (Rom. 5:1) because of His atoning death and victorious resurrection (Col. 1:20; John 20:19–21). They may also enjoy the “peace of God” as they yield to Christ and trust wholly in Him (Phil. 4:6–9).
The fourth encouragement is God’s provision(v. 8). Finally, the Lord assured them that, in spite of the bad economy and their lack of wealth, He was able to provide all they needed. “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine” (Hag. 2:8). The remnant had promises of provision from the government (Ezra 1:4; 3:7; 6:4), but government grants are limited. God owns all the wealth, even the wealth stored in the king’s treasury, and He can distribute it as He desires. God promises to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Phil. 4:19).
We have appreciated how the Lord Almighty strengthens his discouraged people in four different ways. The first encouragement is God’s presence, second is God’s covenant, third is God’s promise, and his provision. It’s one thing to get God’s people back to work and quite another thing to keep them on the job. It’s better to fail in an endeavor that you know will ultimately succeed than to succeed in an endeavor you know will ultimately fail. The humble temple the Jewish remnant was constructing would not last, and even Herod’s decorated temple would be destroyed by the Romans, but there would one day be a glorious temple that nobody could destroy or defile. Knowing this, the discouraged remnant could take courage and finish their work.
What we do seems like nothing, and we get discouraged. A handful of Bible studies that are sometimes skipped or short lived, a small size of ministry, a small gathering in college, and a humble place for the past three decades seem like a drop of water in the 5-gallon bucket in this fast changing and fancy generation world. It feels like really nothing when we compare ours to others in the present or in the past. We don’t see such a burning wave of revival or evangelical fervor. Is God’s ministry going out of business like many retailers filing bankruptcy these days? “’This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (6-9a)
So, the people of God Almighty, renounce your discouragement to Abyss. Be strong. Be strong and work in the messianic vision, for the Lord is with you and with us.
“’But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”