Restoring His Glory Series
“Desiring the Fullest of God’s Glory”
Last week we began a new series on the book of Haggai. Haggai, whose name means “Festival,” was one of the Lord’s prophets who prophesied to the Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon under the proclamation of King Cyrus of Persia to rebuild the Temple. (Ezra 1.1-4) Once these returning exiles arrived back to Jerusalem they found the city and Temple in ruins. The Bible tells us that those who returned came together as one man, dug the Temple’s foundation, and built the altar so that burnt offerings could resume. (Ezra 3.1-3) Everything was going along fine until after two years the returning exiles became discouraged and disillusioned by outside opposition and stopped rebuilding of the Temple. (Ezra 4.24) For the next sixteen years the people focused their attention on building their own homes and cultivating own land while the Temple remained in ruins. But on August 29, 520 BC the Prophet Haggai issued his first prophecy calling the people to reject spiritual apathy and return to rebuilding the Temple. (Hag.1.1-15)
Why is the Temple so Important?
As I did last week I must take a few minutes to answer the question, “Why is the Temple important?” Even though answering this question will be repetitious for those who heard last week’s sermon, I believe that understanding why the Temple is important is fundamental in grasping the significance of Haggai’s prophecies. You see like the Tabernacle before it, the Temple is important because it pointed forward to the work of Jesus Christ. Again let me explain from Scripture how the Temple pointed to Jesus Christ. First, the Lord Himself forever linked the Temple to Christ’s finished work in the covenant God made with King David in 2 Samuel 7. In the Davidic Covenant the Lord told David that his son, Solomon, would build the temple but His Son, Jesus Christ, would establish the throne of His kingdom forever. (2Sam.7.13) We see the angel Gabriel confirmed this covenantal link when he told Mary that her child Jesus “will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Lk.1.30-33) Secondly, the Old Testament Temple was where the presence of God dwelt among God’s people. And we see the fulfillment of God’s presence in the person of Jesus Christ when the Bible tells us “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’’ (Jn.1.14) Actually the word “dwelt” is “tabernacle,” which was the temple until Solomon. Brothers and sisters, Jesus is our Immanuel, which translated means “God with us.” (Mt.1.23) Lastly, remember how Jesus outraged the religious class when He told them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. (Jn.2.19-21) Jesus was telling them that He was the fulfillment of the Temple.
The Bible teaches us that the Old Testament Temple was designed by God to be a temporary edifice looking forward to the completed work of Jesus Christ. Every part of the Temple, every piece of furniture, every instrument used by the priesthood, and even the priesthood itself pointed to the finished work of Christ. The Temple and everything in it were signs and symbols that God would send His Messiah to fulfill the redemptive plan of God. So, when the Temple was destroyed in the Babylonian invasion it seemed as though the redemptive purposes of God had been lost. But when the opportunity came for the exiles to return and rebuild the temple it seemed as though the redemptive purposes of God had been resurrected. Those who returned were spiritually motivated to rebuild the Temple but after two years they lost their focus on the purposes of God.
Returned to Rebuilding
But after stagnating in spiritual apathy for sixteen years the people responded to Haggai’s first prophecy and returned to rebuilding the Temple. Starting with Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest, all the people “obeyed the voice of the Lord” through the Prophet Haggai. (1.12) The Lord “stirred up their spirit” and all the people “came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.” (1.14)
But as it is with any restoration project renovation can only begin after demo and clean up. Well the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar had already provided the demo eighty-six year earlier when he destroyed the Temple and burnt it to the ground. The Temple had been lying in ruin for decades and the Temple site looked like a bomb had fallen on it. The rubble from the stones covered the ground and the timber was scattered like pixie sticks throughout the entire area. Weeds had been growing up between the cracks of the debris for decades. The unpleasant work of clean up had to be done before construction could begin but the clean up was hard and strenuous.
As the people were busy cleaning and clearing out the rubble they began to compare the Temple they were going to rebuild to the glory of Solomon’s Temple that had been demolished. The people recalled how King David, Solomon’s father, had gathered materials for years prior to his death, giving Solomon an abundance of resources to build his glorious Temple. The people remembered the stories of how Solomon engaged his citizens in mining projects that yielded precious metals. The people recalled how Solomon paid ten thousand workers to go into forest of Lebanon to cut the finest of cedar wood in the world and ship it to Jerusalem for the construction of the Temple. (I Kings 5) The people were reminded of how Solomon had an abundance of skilled craftsmen in all the trades needed to build such a glorious temple. The people remembered that after Solomon finished the construction of the Temple he used gifts of gold, silver, and ivory from foreign dignitaries to enhance the splendor of the Temple. (I Kings 10) So as the people cleared the rubble from the Temple site it became clear to them that they had none of these things.
The people were also familiar with the grand prophecies of Isaiah (Is.60) and Ezekiel (Ez.40-43) who prophesied that the future Temple would be even more glorious than Solomon’s temple. But as they looked around they wonder how their efforts could ever accomplish the fulfillment of those prophesies. So after three and a half weeks of clearing and conversing the people were growing weary. So the Lord sent the Prophet Haggai to issue his second prophecy.
Hear now the Word of God Haggai chapter two verses one through nine.
1 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? 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. 5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’ 6 “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. 7 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. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” (Hag.2.1-9)
Discouraged and Disillusioned
Even though these people started off strong, they once again fell into a state of discouragement that had them on the brink of stopping the rebuilding project. The problem this time wasn’t opposition from the outside but disillusionment on the inside. Haggai, whose name means, “feast,” issues his second prophecy on last day of the great feast, October 17, 520 BC. The Prophet knew that among the cleaning crew were some who had seen Solomon’s glorious Temple. So the Lord inspired Haggai to ask three questions. ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? (2.3) Of course the Lord inspired the Prophet Haggai to ask these questions because the Lord knew what the people were feeling and thinking. Brothers and sisters, the Lord knows what you need before you ask Him. (Mt.6.8)
The prophecy continues, “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.’” (1.4) The Lord’s threefold call to “be strong” reminds us of the threefold call to Joshua as he led the Israelites into the Promise Land saying, “Be strong and very courageous.” (Josh.1.6-9) It also reminds us of the Jesus’ threefold call to Peter to “feed My sheep.” (Jn.21.15-17)
But notice that God also gave these leaders and all the people a threefold remedy – be strong, work, for I am with you. You see the Lord not only knows what we need before we ask Him but He knows the remedy for our needs before we ask Him. What is interesting is that the Word of the Lord to Haggai’s audience to be strong, work, for I am with you is very similar to the inspired words King Davis told his son Solomon prior to his constructing the Temple. David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished. (IChron.28.20) It seems to me that the Lord is making a point to Haggai’s audience. It seems the Lord is saying, “You pout as you remember Solomon’s glorious Temple but you are not concerned that you forgot My Word.” “What I told David to tell Solomon is the same thing I told Haggai to tell you.” It seems the Lord is saying, “You are allowing these obstacles, these sticks and stones, to block the vision for the future.”
Brothers and sisters, I have to stop here and make a comparison to our day. COVID has caused many to suffer discouragement and become disillusioned. People look around and they see are all the destruction that COVID has caused and wonder if we will ever return to the glory days prior to COVID. But the problem is that in many cases we remember the glory days prior to COVID but forget promises of God. In many cases we allow COVID to block our vision for the future.
It seems that the people in Haggai’s day had forgotten the prophecy the Lord gave to Jeremiah years before for those who would return from captivity to rebuild the Temple. Listen to this wonderful promise of God. This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. (Jer.29.10-12)
The Lord spoke these words through the mouth of the Prophet Jeremiah eighty-six years earlier so that the people in Haggai’s day would have hope in the promises of God. The Lord promise decades before that He would come to them and bring them back. The Lord promised to prosper them and give them a hope for the future. But instead of clinging to the promises of God the people sunk in despair. Brothers and sister we cannot allow COVID to cause us to forget promises of God. We cannot allow COVID to be an obstacle that blocks our vision for the future. We must be strong, doing the work of the Lord, knowing that He is with us.
So the Lord speaks through Haggai saying, “This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.” Basically the Lord is reminding the people that He had always been with them. A covenant is a divine promise and since God cannot lie His covenant promises are a source for strong encouragement and an anchor for our souls. (Heb.6.17-19)
The word of the Lord is always relevant and will never pass away. (Mt.24.35) The Lord promised, “My Spirit remains on you.” Brothers and sister, the Lord has made a covenant with us that His Spirit will remain on us no matter the mess and debris that surrounds us. Brothers and sisters, when the enormity of task seeks to overwhelm us and the enemy seeks to devour us let us as God’s covenant people and remember that it is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord
Almighty. (Zech.46) Therefore, there is no reason to fret or fear for our God is here!
Describing Future Events
The Lord continues by describing future events saying, “Once more, in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. (2.6) This is the only verse of Haggai that is quoted in the New Testament. The inspired writer of of the book Hebrews wants his readers to know that the Lord shakes the things that can be shaken in order that things that cannot be shaken remain. We should know that every once in a while God will shake things up in our lives so that His purposes are firmly established in us. We should not consider the Lord’s shaking as something unusual but we should consider the Lord’s shaking as normal operating procedures. The Lord often prunes so the new growth we come.
The Lord wants Haggai’s audience to know that even though they are facing some big obstacles He will once more shake things up so that His purposes would be fulfilled. The Lord says, “Once more” because in the past the Lord has shook up the nations to fulfill His purposes. The Bible tells us that the Lord rules over the nations. (Ps.22.28) Brothers and sisters, the Lord guides world history in order to fulfill His purposes. And as we face another election season we must remind ourselves that all history is His Story. We may vote but it is the Lord who choses the President. The kingdoms of this world will rise and fall but the Kingdom of the Lord will reign forever!
The people in Haggai’s day must had forgotten how the Lord just sixteen years prior shook the nations and caused Babylon (their captures) to be overthrown by Persia.
This shaking delivered them out of exile and allowed them to return to Jerusalem. (Is.13.1-22; Jer.50.46) And now the Lord promises that once more in a little while He will shake up the nations to bring the fullness of His glory. Many empires did rise and fall during the next five centuries leading up to the coming of Christ. The Persian Empire who ruled during Haggai’s day will give way to the Greek Empire. The Greek Empire will give way to the Roman Empire. But I want you to see that the Lord shook the nations to establish the Kingdom of God through Christ. Let me explain. The Persians allowed the exiles to return to rebuild. The Greeks under their empire established a universal language. The Romans built a road system, establish a central currency, and a system of law that guaranteed the safety and protection of all citizens whether they were on the sea or dry land. All of these things created a world ideal for the proclamation of the Gospel and the advancement of the Church of Jesus Christ. The Lord shook the kingdoms that could be shaken to establish the His Kingdom that cannot be shaken. (Heb.12.27-28)
The Lord continues, “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.” (2.7-8) As the Lord shook the nations the coins in their pockets fell to the ground like man being held upside down and shook by a large giant. Without them even knowing it the Lord literally used the wealth of the nations to pave the road for the proclamation of the Gospel into all nations. The people in Haggai’s day were discourage because of the lack of resources so the Lord reminds them, “the silver is Mine and the gold is Mine.” Brothers and sister, the Lord will provide the resources to fulfill His purposes.
Declaration of the Future Glory
Then in verse nine the Lord declares that the final glory of this house will be greater than the first. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty. And in this place I will grant peace, declares the Lord Almighty. (2.9)
The Lord is declaring that even though the Temple they were working on didn’t have the splendor and shine of Solomon’s Temple, the final glory of this house would be greater than the former Temple, Solomon’s Temple. How can this Temple be more glorious than Solomon’s? How could this temple out shine the glory of Solomon’s Temple? Because the Temple they were building would usher in the fullness of God’s glory through the person of Jesus Christ. The fullest of God’s glory will be seen when the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn.1.14) The full radiance of God’s glory was seen in the face of Christ. (2 Cor.4.6; Heb.1.3) The Temple pointed to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive purposes through Jesus Christ. The Lord was declaring that if the type had glory then the One for whom the type represents would have greater glory. So the Lord is declaring that if the Temple had glory then the One who the Temple represents would have greater glory. The Lord is declaring that the Temple became obsolete when the One who is greater than the Temple arrived. (Heb.8.13) Jesus told the Pharisees, “But I say to you, that something greater than the Temple is here.” Mt.12.6) By the Lord saying, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” the Lord is declaring that if the signs, symbols, and sacrifices of the Temple had glory then the ministry of righteousness found in Christ abounds in far more glory. For if that which fades away had glory then the One who remains has much more glory. (2 Cor.3.9-11)
As the people stood in the rubble of the fallen Temple covered in dust and dirt listening to Haggai’s second prophecy the Lord was declaring that their work is not in vain. In just a little while the radiance of the Father’s glory, inHis only begotten Son, the One for whom the Temple represents would stand in the exact same spot they were standing and declare that the Kingdom of God has come. Haggai concludes his second prophecy saying, “And in this place I will grant peace, declares the Lord Almighty.”
Brothers and sisters, what I want you to see is that the place that Haggai’s audience stood listening to this prophecy was the exact place where God would usher His peace onto the world stage through Jesus Christ. The same spot where the people heard Haggai’s prophecy was the exact place where Jesus was presented as a child when Simeon the Temple priest said, “My eyes have seen the Lord’s salvation.” (Lk.2.29) The place where the people listened to Haggai’s second prophecy surrounded by broken rocks and lumber was the exact place where Jesus as a young boy would call the Temple “My Father’s house” as He was surrounded by the teachers of the Law. (Lk.2.46-49) This exact place was where Jesus would teach the Word of God and heal the sick. (Mt.21.14, 23) This was the exact place where Jesus would refer to the Temple as His own body saying, “Destroy this temple and three days later I will raise it up again.” (Mt.26.61) This was the exact place where the veil of the Temple would be torn from the top to the bottom at the moment Jesus gave His life for our sins. (Mt.27.51) The people could not see the glory through the rubble but the Lord reminds them that His glory was right in front them.
Brothers and sisters, the rubble in our lives often hinders us from seeing the glory of God. We must have eyes of faith knowing that God’s promises are true and that He will grant us peace if we desire the fullest of His glory through Christ.
In closing this morning I want to share with you one more thing. Five hundred years after Haggai’s second prophecy on the last day of the great feast, Jesus stood up in the Temple and spoke with a loud voice saying, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (Jn.7.37-38) Jesus spoke these words standing on the same spot where the people in Haggai’s day were standing listening to Haggai’s second prophecy. Jesus spoke these words on the same great feast day that Haggai spoke on. Jesus spoke these words in the Temple that the Lord said would have greater glory than the former one. As we discovered last week that the people in Haggai’s day were experiencing a literal drought of water (1.11) and here in the exact spot, on the exact, in the exact Temple Jesus is declaring five hundred years later that He is the source of living water.
Scholars have struggled to determine what Scripture Jesus was referring to when He says, “as Scripture has said.” Scholars struggle because there is no precise quotation found in the Old Testament. So, let me throw in my two cents. Those Haggai’s day who were carrying those large rocks and broken timbers as they were clearing the work site so that the construction of the Temple could begin. As they did this hard and strenuous work they must had gotten really thirsty. But everyone had to be careful to ration the water supply because of the drought. So, Jesus uses this real life occurrence to proclaim five hundred years later on the exact day in the exact Temple that He is the source of rivers of living water and invites anyone who is thirsty to come to Him and drink. Listen, you can’t make this stuff up.
So here is the point. Discouragement and disillusionment can cause our souls to become parched. Often the rubble surrounding us can cause us to become spiritual thirsty. It is during those times that we must desire the fullness of God’s glory by coming to Jesus and drink. It is during those times when we must come to the Lamb at the center of the throne and let Him be our shepherd and lead us to the rivers of living water. (Rev.7.17)
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Rom.15.13)