Summary: Far too often we are Kept back and even demoralized by the memories of past successes of other people, afraid that we won’t live up to the expectations placed upon us - take heed from the prophet Haggai!
"THE FIRST AND SECOND TEMPLE"
In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 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, 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? 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: According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 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; 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. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 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.
Friends, due to the nature of tonight’s message it is vitally important that we understand a bit more about the relevant background of our text and of the situation and history of this book and prophet.
The author is known simply as “the prophet Haggai.” Apart from this book he is mentioned only in the book of Ezra. His name is usually associated with that of his better-known and younger contemporary, Zechariah. His message contained in this book was given to the people shortly after their return from Babylonian captivity.
It was at the hands of the Babylonians that Solomon’s temple was destroyed. Solomon’s temple was the pride and joy of the Israelite nation, spectacular and extravagant, it stood at the heart of Jewish worship and was therefore a symbol of great importance to the older Jewish people.
This was during the exile, now we fast-forward a bit past the exile to the present time of this message. The Israelite people were finally given permission to return to their country and rebuild their city with its temple. Soon after the first band of exiles had returned from Babylon to Jerusalem in about 536BC, they began to rebuild the temple. It was not long, however, before various hindrances and waning enthusiasm brought a halt to the project. Haggai’s mission was to rekindle the faith and courage of the people so that they would complete the temple.
Right, now that we have a broad idea of what was going on we can move forward. We are going to look at our passage tonight in two parts. These two parts were, to my knowledge, first indicated by the great devotional commentator Matthew Henry, when he considered and wrestled with this same text. Firstly the "problem", which we find in verses 1-3 and secondly the "encouragement", which we find in verses 4-9.
A. The problem (2:1–3).
Our text contains the message that was brought by Haggai about a month after the work had begun, he encouraged the people, assuring them that their work is not in vain, and that what they are doing is indeed meaningful and pleasing to God.
We encounter the truth of the problem for the first time in verse 3: “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory?” "…this house in it’s former glory…" refers to the temple of Solomon before it was destroyed by the Babylonians. Those who had seen Solomon’s temple belittled the new temple that was now under construction. Ezra 3:10–13 recounts the laying of the foundation of the temple shortly after the return of the exiles. In this account of Ezra we see that there was great rejoicing on this occasion by the younger people, but also loud weeping on the part of the older priests, Levites, and family heads. The reason for this weeping was that they had seen the glory of Solomon’s temple and knew that the present effort would not come close by comparison. The builders began to wonder whether all their effort wasn’t maybe in vain since the temple will be so poor by comparison to Solomon’s. Their new temple seemed to them to be “like nothing” (v. 3).
This poor attitude weakened the hands of the builders. For, though God is pleased with us if we do in sincerity as well as we can in his service, our own proud hearts will never let us be satisfied with ourselves unless we do as well as others, whose abilities far exceed ours. This may sometimes, as in the case of our text, be the fault of older people who discourage the sincere efforts of the present age by crying up too much the performances and attainments of the former age. "Ah the good old days!"