ERC Monthly Newsletter
From the Pastor’s Corner
One of the things human beings like to do is reminisce. We remember days gone by and reflect nostalgically on our youth. Just like the Bruce Springsteen song, Glory Days, we spend way too much time remembering the “glory days” of our youth. The same thing happened in the days of Haggai during the latter half of the 6th century BC.
By way of reminder from Haggai chapter one, Haggai is a post-exilic prophet. That means he prophesied to the people who returned from Babylon after the 70 years of captivity. They had returned so that they could rebuild Jerusalem and rebuild the temple—both of which had been destroyed when the Babylonians conquered the southern kingdom of Judah back in 586 BC. It’s now late fall of 520 BC, the people have been back in the land for 18 years and have little to show for it. Along comes Haggai to shake them out of their complacency and stir them up to re-engage in the building of the temple.
It’s now a month after the events in chapter one—“the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month”—and the people are sad. They’re sad because the temple they’re rebuilding looks nothing like the temple from the “glory days” of the past—i.e., Solomon’s temple. So God sends another oracle through the prophet Haggai to encourage the people in their task of rebuilding the temple:
Haggai 2:3–5 (NKJV): Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
Notice those three commands the Lord gives the people through Haggai—Be Strong, Work, and Do Not Fear. It’s easy to despair when we don’t see immediate fruit from our work for the Lord. This is particularly true for pastors who labor week in and week out in the local church and don’t see a return for all their efforts. Yet, we need to Remember that the Christian life is a walk by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).
We are to work because the Lord is with us. These are the same words the Lord said to the people back in Haggai 1:13—“I am with you.” What a glorious promise of encouragement! One of my favorite verses in this regard are Paul’s words at the end of 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:58 (NKJV): Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
What a great promise this is! Our work is never in vain if we’re working for the Lord. Our job is to be “steadfast, immovable, and always abounding.” The Lord’s part is to bless our labors and make them fruitful. Also, this promise encourages us even when it seems that our labor Isn’t amounting to much. Speaking for myself, I can take hope in this promise. As a small town pastor in the middle of Nebraska, it’s very tempting to think that my labors are in vain. But the promise from God is that as long as we’re faithful to do our part, our labor will never be in vain!
This passage closes with a phenomenal statement in Haggai 2:9–“The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of Hosts.” Now I’m sure that to the people in Haggai’s day, there was no way that the glory of this “latter temple” would ever eclipse the glory of Solomon’s temple. However, the prophet is not speaking of the temple that the people were working on in that day, but of Jesus Christ, who is the fulfillment of the OT temple imagery.
The old “brick & mortar” temple of Solomon, as glorious as it was, will pale in comparison to Jesus Christ, the One in whom the fullness of God dwells bodily. It’s interesting because just as the people of Haggai’s day looked at the temple they were rebuilding and were mourning its distinct lack of glory, so too, I imagine, the people of Jesus’ day looked at Him and thought “how could this be the Messiah?” Yet it was Peter, James, and John who were able to catch a glimpse of the glory of the Only Son of God, full of grace and truth!
The lesson from Haggai 2:1-9 is that the glory of God’s work is not always manifest—at least initially. But we know that when Christ returns at the end of the age, He will return in full glory!