Summary: Be encouraged. The work we do for God is dependent not on our personal resources, but on God’s abundance and glory.
A Promise of Glory
It is the truth that our minds soften the past by helping us not to dwell on that which troubles us. Our forgetfulness deceives us into thinking that times were better.
Here is the timetable to date:
• Aug 29 Haggai brings a word of encouragement to recommence work on the Temple
• Sept 21 The work begins
• Oct 17 Some become discouraged and Haggai brings a second message
Less than a month into the project, some have become discouraged and, apparently, the work was slowing down. The leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the High Priest shouldered the task of keeping everyone motivated.
The problem is laid out for us near the beginning of this message. The people becoming discouraged were those who had seen Solomon’s Temple in all its glory. We are reminded of Ezra:
But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:12-13 TNIV)
Notice who the people are who are so sad. They are older, yes, but they are also leaders:
• Heads of clans (elder grandparents)
God addresses these people specifically. He first acknowledges that the state of things is not, in itself, encouraging. In their memory is the glory of the proudest building in the whole land of Israel, South and North. Standing before them is an altar, a foundation pavement, and, perhaps, a few dressed stones and timbers.
So Haggai reminds them of God’s promise to the obedient:
You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new. I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. (Lev 26:10-13 TNIV)
When God promised to be with those who obeyed Him, it was in the context of a comprehensive promise of blessing:
• Good crops
• Success in battle
• The dwelling place of God among them
• The presence of God and a relationship with Him
• Dignity in their national identity
Remember, they had experienced crop failures and economic hardship. The promise of God’s presence was not just in the Temple, it was in their complete prosperity. God was saying that following through on the Temple construction had much further reaching implications. He was saying,
there is a powerful, unbreakable connection between you and the people of the past who followed Moses out of Egypt. The same blood runs through your veins and the same promise applies to you, because the same God stands by it.
The leadership they provided in this one act of obedience would have implications on the well-being of the group in every aspect of their lives.
Two powerful statements accompany the reminder:
• I am with you
• Do not fear
One is the repeated promise of Haggai’s earlier message, "I will be with you". The other is the most repeated command of the Scriptures, "do not fear". God’s presence means His people have nothing to fear in any situation.
So the basic command is
Their work was flagging. Procrastination was becoming a temptation. Abandoning the vision was the danger. Their strength for the work was fed not by their physical, but by their emotional power. And their emotional power was waning. Interesting, that he does not say, "think positively." Instead He acknowledges the difficulty of the task and says, "exert yourself."
Then He gives them the reason they should exert themselves
Remember the power of the one you serve
God’s influence does not rest merely on that small patch of ground they called the Temple. His power would be evident in the heavens, the earth, the seas, and the dry land.
We are not talking about mere earthquakes and storms. Gregory, the 4th Century Bishop of Constantinople described these "shakings of the Earth" as:
The first being the transition from idols to the Law
The second, from the Law to the Gospel
And the third shaking, the change from this present stage of things to what lies beyond
The ancient Church Fathers saw this coming of the "Desire of nations" as being the second coming of Jesus, a fulfillment of Jesus’ own words: