By Dr. Robert E. Picirilli
Haggai’s first word of rebuke had come in Darius’s second year or reign. Scripture is exact about the timing: It came on the first day of the sixth month of the year (the month Elul in the Hebrew calendar which is our September). By the 24th of that month, the Jews had repented of their neglect of God’s house and began rebuilding the temple in a spirit of real revival (see 1:1, 14, 15).
It is now nearly a month later (the 2lst day of the seventh month Tisri). Bad attitudes are hard to break. When the first flush of excitement is over and the routine sets in we find it all too easy to revert to them. Discouragement has gradually reappeared among the people. The reason for discouragement this time was different. Previously they had been hindered by political pressures, opposition from enemies, political pressures, and preoccupation with their own selfish interests. Now the problem is that some are comparing the structure they are building with the former, glorious temple that Solomon had constructed. And that comparison robbed them of a sense of the worth of what they were doing.
Thankfully God He is not quick to forsake us. He is patient with the faults of men. Haggai received another message from the Lord to deliver to the the people (2:1). Let’s look at the story and the message.
First, we are given the details of the story (vv 1-3). In these beginning verses we are told that Haggai was sent to address the leaders and the people. In particular, there were some old people present (Haggai may have been one of these people) who had seen Solomon’s temple in their childhood and remembered how glorious it was. It is realistic to say there were still people alive who had seen Solomon’s temple. It was destroyed in 588/7 B.C. The time of these present events was 520 B.C. in Darius’ second year of rule.
The elderly among them remembered the magnificence of Solomon’s temple. By comparison, what they were building now was as nothing (v. 3). But they could not afford to do better. They were only a small band of Jews just returned from captivity and surrounded by enemies who did everything in their power to hinder them.
They needed a dose of Paul’s medicine: “forgetting those things that are past” (Philippians 3:13). It is a mistake to compare what we’re doing with what’s being done by someone else. It is not even a good idea to compare ourselves with what we’ve done at some other time and place.
What God gives one person is not necessarily what He gives another. What He gives you one time may not be what He gives you another time. The only question is whether we’re doing what we can with what God gives us right now. We should not lose joy in doing God’s bidding by comparing it with something else.
Second, the Israelites were given a reassuring challenge (verses 4, 5). The reassurance is a reminder of God’s presence: “‘l am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts; ‘My spirit remains among you, as I covenanted when I brought you from Egypt.’” When we’re doing God’s work, however insignificant it may seem, God is there. And His presence is always a blessing.
The challenge to “be strong…and work” is addressed to Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and the people. God’s presence is the source of strength; all man needs is firm commitment to do His will.
Third, the Israelites were given a promise for the future (vv 6-9). They were actually given a set of promises. Notice that there are three promises that begin with “l will“: I will shake, I will fill, and I will give peace.
In summary, God is promising that His temple regardless of its simple appearance will yet be more glorious than it was in Solomon’s day. The time of this promise is identified only as when God will “shake” the heavens, earth, sea, and dry land. Indeed, all nations will divinely affected (vv.6, 7).
Here this can mean but one thing: the overthrow of the nations by the establishment of the kingdom of God. Check out the way this verse is used in Hebrews 12:25-29. This time is said to be in “a little while.” We must remember that God’s “little” isn’t necessarily the same as ours.
At that time, God will fill His temple with glory. Two things are involved in that.
1. “The desire of all nations” will enter in. Some interpret this to mean the
Lord Jesus. There is no doubt that Jesus isthe “glory” of the kingdom of God. But “desire” is plural and more likely means “desired things.” These costly or precious “things” are the treasures of all nations that will adorn the temple in the kingdom of God. After all, as verse 8 shows, all the silver and gold of every nation belongs to the Lord. He will yet reclaim it for His own. (See Revelation 21:26.)
2. When God’s glory fills His temple it will far surpass the glory of any other man-made temple. In the glory of that time God will finally deliver complete peace. That is always how Scripture describes God’s Kingdom. The words of the “Lord’s prayer” say it best: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). Haggai wanted the discouraged Jews to know they could take heart because their feeble efforts were destined for glory undreamed. It is thus with any honest doing of God’s will. Our efforts may be feeble and the results unspectacular, but whatever we invest in the kingdom of God will one day be transformed into a thing of beauty and glory worthy only of Him who is the great architect of the universe.