Recall that the Jews who had returned from exile had begun rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem some 15 years before but in the face of opposition they had given up. It was now 15 tears later tat Haagai came on the scene and we saw last week how God used Haggai to speak to the people. He challenged them to resume the building programme. The repented and obeyed God and began to build and God had promised to be with them.
But you know, old habit and attitudes die hard. Less than a month had gone by since the started rebuilding and already they were getting “Builders’ Blues”.
Just because we have overcome some weakness or sin in our lives doesn’t mean that we can relax and drop our guard. Satan is very cunning and will trip us up over the same issue again and again if he can.
This rebuilding was not an easy task. The original temple had been burnt to the ground and the rubble had been lying on the site for nearly 70 years. No doubt it was overgrown and resembled a builders tip. Whenever we do any building or decorating it is always the preparatory work that is the pain in the neck, isn’t it? No doubt the Jews found clearing the site a pain in the neck [and back] as well.
It is very easy to loose heart when you work hard but don’t see much progress.
- THE REASONS FOR THEIR DISCOURAGEMENT.
1.1) Nostalgic comparison to the original temple.
“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? [v.3]
There were among the returned exiles those who had seen Solomon’s magnificent temple before it was detroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Now seeing the pile of rubble and probably realising that the new temple was never going to be like the old one they became dispondent.
It is not like it was in the good old days!! What is the point of building something that is second rate?? I can remember how it used to be….
Their first excuse in ch.1 was “It is not the right time.” Now it was “It is not going to be good enough; it will never be what it used to be.”
It is easy to be a wet blanket! To whinge and to criticise! It has never been done this way before. It is more difficult but far more profitable to encourage. We all need encouragement. We need to help not hinder!
1.2) Past disappointment was making them gloomy about the future.
Some of them were probably saying, “Well, we didn’t get very far 15 years ago and nothing much has changed so I don’t know why we are working so hard for somthing the probably won’t succeed.”
Past failures don’t necessarily mean present and future failures as well.
“I’ve spoken to my friend or neighbour about God and they were very negative so there is no point ever trying again.”
Just because their forst attempt at rebuilding failed it didn’t mean there was no point trying again.
1.3) Religion gets in the way.
They had started enthusiastically but they had to stopped frequently because of Holy days and rest days. There had been three Sabbaths since they started. They 1st day of the month [7th] had been the feast of Trumpets. The 10th day was the Day of Atonement. On the 15th day the week-lomg festival of Tabernacles had begun. [ A time that reminded the Israelites of the Wilderness wanderings].
It can be very irrataing when you have work to do and you keep getting interupted. These religious observance seemed like an unnecessary disruption. “We haven’t got time for all these spiritual stuff. We want to get on with the work”
We can fall into the same trap. We can be so busy doing church work and serving the Lord that we neglect to spend time in private and public worship and prayer.
What made matters even worse for the builders was that the Featival of Booths was linked to a time of thanksgiving for God’s provision of the harvest. But as they sat around they would have had time to reflect that the harvest they had recently brought in was so poor that it was hardly worth celebrating.
“You have planted much but harvested little”. [1v6]
1.4) The shortages of resources.
The last cause for dispondency was the shortage of materials and manpower. King Solomon had spent vasts amounts of money on the original Temple. Also the population was larger and he had used some conscripted labour. These were not available to Zerubabbel.
Limited manpower – many of the skilled craftsmen would have been taken into exile and not may would have returned – limited materials
We as a church face the same problems. “If we have more money we could …..!!”
It isn’t the money , is it? See v.8
‘The silver is mine and the Gold is mine”
God made the earth and all that is in it. He will provide all that is necessary for his work.
ILLUST: OM – Logos I – prayed 5 weeks to get the money to buy te ship and 5 years for the crew to man the ship.
So here they are suffering an attack of Builders Blues when God speaks to them again through Haggai.
- GOD’S PROMISED PRESENCE.
“Be strong … and work for I am with you declares”
the Lord Almighty.
This is what I covenanted with you
when you came out of Egypt.
God encourages them – this is not a harsh message like in ch.1 – he reminds them of the covenant. That blessing and obedience go hand in hand.
You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt,
and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.
Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant,
then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.
Although the whole earth is mine,
you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
So often we want God’s blessing without the obedience but that is backwards. God promises blessing but he also requires obedience.
In response to their dispondency God encourages the Jews to be strong and to work, but he doesn’t just leave it there but he goes on to promise his presence and to remind then that his Spirit remains with them .
It is not without significance that Haggai’s message is delivered on the 21st day of the 7th month. It was the last day of the Fesival of Booths. It was a solemn Holy day when they would be listening for the Voice of God. And the message to these disspirited, discouraged builders is “Be strong … work. I am with you. My Spirit remains with you”
Years later Jesus Christ gave a message on the same day at the same feast.
“On the last and greatest day of the feast,
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,
‘If anyone is thirsty let him come to me and drink.
Whoever believes in me, as the scripture says,
streams of living water shall flow from within him.'”
Jesus spoke those words in the same temple that Zerubabbel was building. Jesus spoke of living water – the Spirit of God that quenches the needy soul. NOT just a stream, Not a trickle NOT even a river BUT RIVERS. Unresticted spiritual supply. That is what we have in Christ.
God says “I am with you. My Spirit is in you. What greater encouragement do you need”
They were to work despite their discouragements. They were to leave God to deal with the dangers and difficulties. Their task was to get on and rebuild the temple.
God encouraged Joshua in the same way.
“Be strong and courageous.
Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged,
for the Lord your God will be with you
wherever you go” [Joshua 1v9]
When God requires us to do something, he never expects us to do it alone. He is always with his people. Jesus promised “I WILL BE WITH YOU ALWAYS”
The God who helped Solomon build the first temple would help this generation of Jews rebuild it. The task may be harder but the same God will supply.
The task that God calls us to in the building up of his temple – the church- is also in the strength and power that he provides.
The enormity of the task that God has set us sometimes seems overwhelming. The enemy seems so powerful, and the advancement of the gospel slow. BUT listen to Pauls encouragement.
Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up. [Gal.6v9]
What this little group of Jews were trying to do in a backwater of the Persian Empire must have seemed so insignificant. In V6 God reminds them that he is in contol of the nations and he can shake them like a dog shakes an old shoe. The nations think they are so powerful but they are insignificant in comparison to God’s power.
In the next 5 centuries the Persian Empire, the Syrian Empire, Babylon and Egypt fell before the might of the Greeks under Alexander the Great. The Greeks inturm fell to the Romans.
Greek became the universal language by which the Gospel spread. The Roman built roads that went all over the Empire making travel easy and the spread of the gospel was advanced.
Govt. and the UN think that they are in power and run the world. How deluded can you be!! God is in control and can shake the nations and he does to advance his kingdom. But God is moving history to a climax. To a time went Jesus Christ will return.
ILLUST: Soviet Christian Soldiers in Afganistan. Allied Christian soldiers in Saudi. Strange to us but the God’s wats are not our ways.
Why is God doing all this. For his greater Glory!!
- GOD’S GREATER GLORY.
The Jews were concerned that this temple would be insignificant
‘I will fill this house with glory ….
The glory of this present house will be greater
than the glory of of the former house”. vv7&9
The glory of the temple was not the gold and silver.The glory of the temple was the presence of the Lord almighty. What could be more glorious than the King of Glory in his temple.
However ‘The Desired of all nations will come’ does not refer priamrily to Jesus but rather to Christ’s kingdom. “desired” is in the plural refering to God’s chosen people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. These will come to make up the kingdom of priests to serve the Lord.
In the final analysis this temple would not be the symbol of God’s glory. Rather it pointed to a temple not made with perishable things like silver and gold and wood and stone BUT to a temple make up of living stone from every nation bought with the precious blood of Christ.
Once the Lord of the Temple had come this physical temple became redundant. The Lord himself is the temple – Jesus referred to his body as the temple- When we come into Christ we become part of te Temple of God and share his glory.
Look at the end of verse 9 “And in this place [ the new temple] I will grant peace”, declares the Lord Almighty.
The OT looked forward to the Prince of Peace coming. We look back to Christ’s reconciling work on the cross that makes peace possible.
Haggai’s message to us then is DON’T become weary in well doing. Building can be hard work. But God is with us power is unlimited and his resources know no bounds.
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s spirit lives in you? [1Co.3v16]
For we are the temple of the living God. As God had said,”I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God and they will be my people [2Co.6v19]
The house of the Lord – the church, the people of God – is the place where God is pleased to dwell and he will give peace to his people.
JESUS SAID “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be trouble and do not be afraid” [John 14v27]
Be strong and work … I am with you !!!