Haggai 2: Strength in Discouragement
When the Lord lifts us out of discouraging times, we may be tempted to look around for our recourse. Now that God has humbled us, we may think, it’s time to be put in our rightful place. Yet what if time goes on and the expected results still haven’t panned out? The Jews rebuilding the temple had relapsed into discouragement. They had been discouraged, and Haggai encouraged them to tend to the Lord’s house. The building project was in full swing. But now discouragement clawed back as a less-glorious version of the temple went up. Memories of past glory caused negativity to spread among the people. Graciously, God would meet them with another message to strengthen them to simply be obedient to Him. He will do the same for us.
V1-5 – Encouragement for the Work
It was October 17, 520 BC. The 21st day of the seventh month in the Jewish calendar was supposed to be a day of feasts and rejoicing. It was the end of the Feast of Tabernacles, the great harvest festival. Instead, despondency ruled the day. The LORD’s promise of His presence in chapter 1:13, nearly two months prior, had faded in their minds. The great discouragement was because of the past.
Some of the individuals who were building had seen the glory of the first temple. They knew that the Ark of the Covenant was within. Gold was so abundant that it would have caused the temple to glow brilliantly with the lamps lit for the Feast of Tabernacles. Precious provisions were scarce, and the glorious past made their hearts heavy even as it did when they laid the initial foundation (Ezra 3:12-13). Too often the older ones among us grumble at the state of affairs among God’s people. There is the declaration that the glory of the local church is not what it used to be. Expressions made insinuate that the future is hopeless. Take up the encouragement from Haggai instead to build the house into what it ought to be through the Scripturallyprescribed method of mentoring younger ones. Paul worked with Timothy and encouraged him to do the same with other younger men (2 Tim 2:1-2). Older women are encouraged to teach one on one with younger women (Ti 2:3-4). If we despair at the state of the younger generation, we must get back to the Scriptures and be obedient to the command for mentorship. We who are younger need to listen to and respect mature Christian advisors whose thoughts have been formulated through many years of experience.
The LORD meets their needs first by encouraging them to be strong. He addresses the leaders, Zechariah and Joshua, to be strong. He addresses the people of the land to “be strong… and work.” First, the guides were addressed because we all need strong leadership. As Peter said, the oversight of the local church is not done “as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:3).
Why could they be strong? The LORD had promised His presence. He first reminds them of His steadfast promise from chapter 1. He then has them look back, reminding them of when they lived in tabernacles. He promised His presence with them then and will be with them again (Exodus 29:45-46, 33:12-14). Remember the promise of the Lord to each who takes up the work of making disciples, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 ESV). There’s no need to fear where the presence of His Spirit is.
V6-9 – Promised Future Glory
The message of Haggai had the people look back, and now he wants them to look ahead. When the law was given at Mt. Sinai, the LORD shook the earth. There will be a future day where the heavens, the earth, the seas and dry land will be shaken. The Gentile nations will be shaken, and the wealth of the world will reside in the nation of Israel. Greater still, the LORD promises that the house will be filled with glory. What an encouragement to know that their work was in view of future glory. The LORD said not to worry about the gold and silver, for it was His. We in the flesh are attracted to gold and silver, the size and grandeur of a building, but these things are fleshly attractions. What makes God’s house beautiful to Him are people with willing, obedient hearts (1 Tim 3:14, 2 Cor 10:4-7).
The writer to the Hebrews selects part of verses 6 and 7 to encourage us as well. The Hebrew Christians were to be encouraged that earthly and sensory things would pass away. The kingdom we are receiving will never be shaken. Things that are attractive to the natural eye are not the things that will endure.
Discouragement looms around the corner as we forget the promises of God. When His Word no longer becomes fresh to us, we become downcast. Take heart and lay hold of the promises of God, putting your hand to His work. Look back and see what God has done in the past, and look ahead in anticipation and excitement to see what the Lord will do through His power. As we wait for His coming let us “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”