Today: [Haggai 2] The Glory of the Former Temple: In ch. 2 of Haggai the prophet encourages the people in the building of the Restoration Temple. They had become discouraged because the temple of Solomon was so much greater, they didn’t see much point in their efforts. The same discouragement plagues the people of God today. Will we ever see an outpouring of God as in the days of Acts? Many suggest it is foolish to even hope for such a thing, but Haggai speaks not only to his day but our day as well of a promised greater glory to come, that is not a false hope but the sure outcome for a people willing to build into it.
[Hag 2:1-23 KJV] 1 In the seventh [month], in the one and twentieth [day] of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, 3 Who [is] left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? [is it] not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I [am] with you, saith the LORD of hosts: 5 [According to] the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it [is] a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry [land]; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver [is] mine, and the gold [is] mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.
In chapter 1 f Haggai the prophet comes forward to urge the commencement of restoring the temple of Solomon that lay in ruins. The first group of returnees had been in the newly established province of Yehud (Judah) but had yet to begin clearing the rubble of the ruined temple, choosing instead to concentrate on their own interests. After Haggai calls on the governor and the high priest to correct the situation, the people come together and begin the project of building the second temple.
In chapter two after a period of time the word of the Lord comes to Haggai to again speak to Zerubbabel and Joshua to encourage them in the work. The temple of Solomon was glorious and there were some of the elderly among the returnees who could remember what the temple was like in all its glory. To them the efforts of the people to erect a replacement were pitiful and depressing. How would they ever build anything comparable to what Solomon erected in his day? The enormity of the task, and little promise of a favorable outcome were weakening the hands of the builders and causing the project to falter. Notice however that there was no such discouragement mentioned or that caused any difficulty while the people were building their own houses. They came, they labored to remove rubble, rebuild the walls, established lay lines for renewed streets and plats of ground and by all accounts raised up nice homes, many reflecting the standards of luxury at the time. Yet not once, regardless how difficult the effort was, were they tempted to cease building. Why? Because the outcome of what they were doing benefited them directly. The work of the temple however, was not a direct benefit to them.
These returnees had carried on the religious life of the Hebrews for 70 years without benefit of any temple. They had adjusted to the reality of a ruined temple by substituting the synagogue system that continued in Jesus’s day and is largely unchanged even down to our day. What need of a temple? The haunting image of the once great temple of Solomon, made the temple the thought they could raise up a laughingstock. Why were they working so hard? The problem they are dealing with is not without relevance in our day considering that Christianity in many respects regarding how it conducts itself is identical to the synagogue system raised up in the captivity under Ezra and Nehemiah.
Zerubbabel as the governor of Jerusalem and the province beyond is a proto-type of the apostles that were to come. The apostles were foundation layers, and that is exactly what Zerubbabel is attempting to do – lay the foundation so that the temple can be restored. Haggai prophesies strength and encouragement to Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest. Strength for what? Strength to resist the discouragement attended by the comparison between what was in Solomon’s day and the realities of the present day declension of Jewish worship in the struggling city of Jerusalem with a ruined temple.
What of our day? Pastors and leaders look back at the church of Acts and can establish no line of comparators to what the church was in its glory to what it is today. Many just dismiss the notion altogether, claiming that was the church in its infancy and that God never intended for the church or our time to resemble in the slightest regard what it was then. In other words, they move the bar, they shift the metric in order to justify leaving things they way they are. Why? Because it is too discouraging to set the standard so high as to work toward such a shining example of a robust, powerful and influential apostolic community considering the struggling nature of what we are dealing with in terms of religious culture today. The message of Haggai could not be more relevant.
Haggai predicts by the word of the Lord that the work of restoration is not in vain. He declares that there will come a shaking by the hand of God by which “the Desire of all Nations” will come. What are we talking about? The Messiah! The house will be filled with glory and one day the latter house will be greater than the former house. That is the promise of God. One day you and I will look back on the church of Acts as a former glory compared to the greater glory of a perfected corporate bride in the earth. What are we to do in the mean time? Be temple builders. Refuse to acquiesce to the status quo. Refuse to call this darkness light. Continue laying the foundation with is not a stylized synagogue system dressed up in Christian symbols and nomenclature. Hold out for and become engaged in the work of God even if it is clearing the rubble of the old to make room for a new, apostolic foundation. Those invested in the status quo will sit back in houses of their own building and say “what is the point?” but the words of Haggai urge us on, refusing to relinquish the greater vision of what God has promised, for the natural temple yes but for the spiritual temple which we are and the church is in the days we live in as the latter days!
Of course, when you speak of any building project what is the challenge? Where is all the money going to come from? Interesting that they seemed to have no difficulty in building their own luxury home, outfitted with every modern appliance. But when it came to the work of God, suddenly there doesn’t seem to be the budget for it, and after all wasn’t Jesus poor? Didn’t He live His life with His pillow a stone? It is fitting for us to have fine homes, why do we have to sacrifice for something esoteric in vision beyond what serves our own needs? To which the Lord replies “the silver is mine and the gold is mine…” we might think it is ours, but it is not. We might think we only owe gold a measly 10% (which statistics say only 2% of Christians tithe) but Jesus taught “sell all” and “give all” and the New Testament record was that of liquidation and laying the money at the apostle’s feet. This is what brings the transfer of the wealth in our day. It isn’t some get rich quick scheme! It is investing in the kingdom, with expectations held out for all that God has promised to be our portion when we engage with the economics of the kingdom through sacrificial giving.
10 In the four and twentieth [day] of the ninth [month], in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests [concerning] the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If [one that is] unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So [is] this people, and so [is] this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so [is] every work of their hands; and that which they offer there [is] unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those [days] were, when [one] came to an heap of twenty [measures], there were [but] ten: when [one] came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty [vessels] out of the press, there were [but] twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye [turned] not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth [month, even] from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider [it]. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless [you]. 20 And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth [day] of the month, saying, 21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; 22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.
The focus now shifts in verse 10 with a third prophesy of Haggai about that which is clean and that which is unclean. He asks a question regarding the finer points of the law of Moses. If something clean touches something that is unclean, the unclean thing does not become clean. If something unclean touches that which is clean however, the clean thing then becomes ceremonially unclean. What is the message? Holiness doesn’t rub off. The returnees at Jerusalem, were surrounded by a mixed multitude of people in the land who didn’t rejoice to see the city of Jerusalem rebuilt. They tried everything they knew to distract the builders, so much that those that were engaged in the work did so with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other. So today, we must work with the sword of God’s logos and rhema word always close to hand, because there are those who will stop at nothing to maintain things as they are. They don’t want change because their lives and livelihoods are invested in keeping things in church the way they are. If you are going to be a part of the solution for what God is building and not part of the problem, as one that inhibits what God is doing in the new foundation of His latter-day house, you are going to have to know what you will allow to touch your life and what you won’t. Otherwise what you offer as Haggai warns the people, will become unclean. For this reason, they were bringing into the temple, but they were doing it with a divided interest. Basically, there were those who were giving just to get Haggai and Zerubbabel off their backs, and to them Haggai speaks his warnings. Yet to those determined to see the foundation of what God is doing laid in fullness the promise is that from the day their all-out commitment is registered in the annals of heaven, God says “from this day I will bless you…”
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