I Will Fill This House With Glory - Haggai 2
††††††††††† In Haggai 1, we've seen the importance of giving careful thought to our worship of God. Though the people had been commanded by Cyrus to return and rebuild the temple, the Hebrews folded under the pressure from the surrounding inhabitants, and the Temple remained a ruin for 16 years. Yet, the people had no trouble in rebuilding their own houses. Remember the rebuke about building their paneled houses?
††††††††††† God was upset, but the people repented, and God showed His wonderful mercy. The 'I called for a drought' in Hag. 1:11 became the 'I am with you' in Hag. 1:13. In fact, the people were so eager to resume work on the Temple, they started in without consulting the Persian authorities that controlled the land! Ezra 5 tells this story.
††††††††††† Before we get to Haggai 2, I want to pause and discuss two matters. First, let's look at what kind of person Haggai was. The people were beaten down and discouraged, and they had taken their eyes off God. A tiny nation, under the complete control of a powerful foreign land, harassed by hostile people who rejected them, the Hebrews needed a message from God. What kind of person do you think was needed in this situation?
††††††††††† Haggai has been called the Model Worker for these reasons. First, he was humble. His book contains no personal details about himself. He simply allowed himself to be God's messenger, and let God speak through him. Notice that of the 38 verses in the book, 25 either imply or explicitly refer to the authority of the Word of God. Haggai practiced what he preached. His message was 'Rebuild the temple!', and Ezra 5:1-2 tells us that Haggai and Zechariah were helping in the construction. Finally, Haggai not only rebuked but he encouraged. The Hebrews needed to be uplifted. They need a message spoken in love, not in harsh anger. Haggai was just the man God needed.
††††††††††† Next, I want to give you some things to look for in studying the Old Testament. When I first studied these three books, I came up with 4 keys to understanding the Old Testament. First, pay attention to dates. Dates help us put things in context. If you don't know when Lamentations was written, you would recognize itís a depressing book, but it might not mean much to you. If you know the book is a description of the terrible things the Hebrews suffered as their country was destroyed and they were taken into exile, the book suddenly takes on a whole new meaning. In Haggai and Zechariah, dates are often mentioned in terms of the reign of Persian kings. If your bible has footnotes, often those footnotes will translate these dates into years. I mentioned a couple of dates last time, and in this column we will pay even closer attention to these dates mentioned here in Haggai.
††††††††††† The second key is to pay attention to the names of God used in the Old Testament. The name used for God in a certain passage can tell us a lot about what that passage means. We will look at this more when we get to Zechariah. This is one of my favorite tools for studying the Old Testament.
††††††††††† The third key is to recognize that prophecy can sometimes be interpreted on three levels. Fulfillment may be in the immediate future, at Christ's first coming, or at Christ's second coming. We'll touch on this in this column, and again when we get to Zechariah.
††††††††††† The fourth key is to look for circular patterns. Sometimes a passage will start out at one point, move on, and come back to the initial point. We'll see this in Zechariah.
††††††††††† OK, now on to Haggai 2. In chapter 1, God's message about rebuilding the temple came on the first day of the month, according to verse 1. Under the Law, the first day of the month was a day of worship. An appropriate day for a message on renewing one's commitment to God, wouldn't you say? Here in chapter 2, Haggai has three more messages, and the first comes on the 21st day of the 7th month, according to verse 1. This is about a month after the end of chapter 1.
††††††††††† What is the significance of this day? To understand that, we need to look at Leviticus 23:34,39-40,43. This message comes on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast began 5 days after the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27), which was the day the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and made confession for all the sins of the people. The Feast of Tabernacles marked the completion of the harvest, and also commemorated the wanderings in the wilderness after the Hebrews left Egypt.
††††††††††† So, there are two things going on here. First, again, 11 days previous was the Day of Atonement when the priest entered the Holy of Holies. Well, at this point, there was no Holy of Holies! This was another reminder that the temple needed to be rebuilt. Second, this feast was supposed to be a time of joy, celebrating the bountiful harvest. Remember chapter 1? Had the harvests been bountiful? No! God is reminding them again of why they had not been receiving God's blessing.
††††††††††† But God is not here to rub it in. He wants to encourage them. Read verses 3-5. God recognizes the people might be discouraged. Notice verse 3, and also read Ezra 3:12. As the temple took shape, those who were old enough to remember the glory of Solomon's temple wept. Read II Chronicles 2-7 for a description of Solomon's temple. Here, it must have been hard for those people to see such a frail imitation of the once glorious temple. I'll come back to verses 6-9, as this Messianic prophecy is similar to verses 20-23. God says 'Be strong, for I am with you.' Even though the people are subject to a foreign ruler, even though they are not powerful enough to build a temple as majestic as Solomon's, God is still beside them.
††††††††††† The message of verses 10-19 comes two months after the previous one. Here, Haggai is interpreting cause and effect from the standpoint of the Law, just as he had done in chapter 1 when talking about the drought. Note the parallels. Israel is again referred to as 'this nation' and 'this people'. In verses 12-13, the principle is that moral cleanliness cannot be transmitted, but moral impurity can. A man cannot transmit health to a sick child, but a sick child can transmit his disease to a man.
††††††††††† Verse 14 says 'so it is with these people'. They were offering sacrifices (remember they had built an altar when they returned to Israel) but because of their disobedience, they were still unclean. The altar cannot impart righteousness! Verses 15-19 are a reminder to consider their condition before their obedience and after. Verse 19 is a good example of the encouragement God knows the people need to hear.
††††††††††† Finally, let's quickly look at verses 6-9 and 20-23. These two passages are Messianic prophecies. They are also meant to be an encouragement. Think of how these two passages can be interpreted on three levels. Verses 6 and 20-21 refer to the shaking of the earth, and foreign thrones being toppled. Verse 7 says the desired of all nations will come, and the temple would be greater than the glory of Solomon's temple.
††††††††††† First, the immediate future. The Persian Empire would be toppled by Alexander the Great. How about Christ's first coming? The desired of all nations is Christ, and this could be a reference to his birth in Bethlehem. But what about Christ's second coming? There's not time to examine it here, but the end times will bring great tribulation and natural disasters. The earth will shake, and the desired of all nations will come again. Note how the temple is described in Revelation 21:22.
It can be confusing. What does it all mean? Which time period do these prophecies refer to? Why didn't God spell it out clearly? I don't know the answers to those questions, but read II Peter 1:20-21. Prophecy comes from God. If God wanted us to know the future with absolute clarity, He would have told us. Since He didn't, we must have faith that the future is in God's hands.
I'll close by returning to verse 7. The people felt the temple they were building was inadequate and inferior. Yet God said this temple would be greater the glory of Solomon's Temple? Think of how this must have encouraged the Hebrews! But did they realize what God really meant?
This temple would be greatly expanded by King Herod just before the birth of Christ, but it wouldn't quite be the same of Solomon's beautiful temple. However, God was not referring to wealth and architecture. Christ himself would walk in this temple. God as man would walk in this temple, a privilege Solomon's Temple never enjoyed. That is what verses 7-9 mean.
Note the phrases 'I will fill', 'I will bless', and 'I will make' which occur in Haggai. The people needed to reorder their priorities, so called Haggai was called to speak. He brought a stern message because it was needed, but Haggai also brought encouragement to a beaten people, and brought them hope for the future.† Next time, we'll start to look at how Zechariah's message to these same people complemented Haggai's ministry.