Summary: The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former … and in this place will I give peace.
GOD’S GLORY RETURNS TO THE TEMPLE
The rebuilding of the Temple of God at Jerusalem about 537 BC met with early discouragements and setbacks. It is in this context that we first hear the prophet Haggai (Ezra 5:1). The whole of Haggai's short canonical book is designed to lift up the drooping hands of the workmen.
However, people are sometimes more interested in adorning their own houses than in the house of God, and allow the house of God to lie waste (Haggai 1:4). This is reflected in our contemporary age when people put their own interests first, leaving the cause of Christ with the loose change! Whatever happened to “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33) as a motto for life and for living? Or to the apostolic exhortation to stir up grateful and cheerful giving: “Let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Corinthians 16:2). The rebuke echoes through the centuries when Church buildings lie in ruins; or when we fail to support the true building of God, even the church, the people and the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Is it time for you all to dwell in your paneled houses, and this house lie waste?” Is it time for us, brothers and sisters, to be squandering the Lord’s gifts while the Church withers in our land?
Then, having begun the work, the builders began to lose heart as they compared the old Temple of Solomon with this new Temple (Haggai 2:3). What they failed to realise was that God was thereby weaning them from the temporal to the spiritual. As we grow in the knowledge of God we too must realise that what we need is not more outward form, more ceremony - but less: Jesus Himself carried the lesson to its conclusion when he said to the Samaritan woman, “The hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21). The day must come for every one of us when the shadows give way to the inner reality, when the letter gives way to the Spirit.
We should be strong in doing the work of the Lord - building God’s house - because God is with us (Haggai 2:4) How often we need to be reminded of the One who has promised “I will never, never, never leave you nor forsake you.” Daniel reminds us: “The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).
We should remember that that our God is a covenant God (Haggai 2:5). The same God who “visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Exodus 20:5) “shows mercy to thousands (of generations, if we rightly understand the Hebrew of the above) of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:6).
We must not forget the living reality of God’s Holy Spirit in our midst (Haggai 2:5). Was the Lord in His holy Temple as in Habakkuk 2:20, or had He departed? Well, of course, he had departed in Ezekiel’s day when the glory of the Lord departed by way of the threshold, the east door of the Temple, the east gate of the city and into the mountains beyond. But “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” asks Paul of the Church (1 Corinthians 3:16). This fact has enormous inferences for the Church and for the people of God!
To the labouring Jews of Haggai's day, and to the discouraged Church in our age, there is a promise: that there would be, and will yet be, a gathering of the nations under the sound of the Gospel (Haggai 2:6-8). This is one department of Old Testament prophecy which has certainly seen a measure of fulfilment in the coming of Christ - but is there not an aspect of it that remains unfulfilled? Is Christ yet seen to be God’s salvation to the end of the earth (Isaiah 49:6)? Has the full beam of His light yet fallen upon the Gentiles, and His glory yet been revealed to Israel (Luke 2:32)? No doubt the “desire of nations” (Haggai 2:7), i.e. the wealth of nations, came to Him representatively when the wise men came from the east, but Psalm 72:11 tells us “All kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him.” The symbolical gifts are owned by God (Haggai 2:8), but perhaps only as the first fruits of that plentiful harvest when “all nations shall call Him blessed” (Psalm 72:17). “Then shall the earth yield her increase” (Psalm 67:6).