KEEP BUILDING (Hag 2:1-9)
After only 6 weeks of rebuilding the temple, the people become discouraged and want to give up. But God sends a message of encouragement to His people:
I am with you
I will finish the work
It will be more glorious than you think.
Doing God's work requires faith in God and His word.
What we have covered
● 586 BC Jews exiled from the land and city and temple destroyed by Babylonians
● 539 BC band of 20-50 000 Jews returned from exile in Babylon.
● Returned to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Temple under the order of the Perisan king Cyrus.
● Faced great opposition from Samaritans, difficulties in getting re-established, drought, economic hardship.
● 520 BC Haggai and Zecharia come on the scene about 18 years later and the temple is still not rebuilt and the people have given up even trying – instead they are pre-occupied with their own affairs.
● Haggai calls the people to put God first and to get back to the work of rebuilding the Temple.
● It is in the act of putting God's glory and God's work first – ahead of all other priorities – that God is most glorified and we are most satisfied.
● The people repent and a month later begin the work again.
They are only working for about 6 weeks – when discouragement sets in. Read Hag 2:1-3
DISCOURAGEMENT SETS IN (1-3)
Ezra 3:10-13 - READ
When foundations laid, the people who were old enough to have seen and worshipped in the Old Temple were grieved rather than rejoicing that the glory of God's house had been reduced to such rubble.
The glory of Solomon's Temple
● To undersand something of their discouragment must understand something of the glory of Solomon's Temple.
● David, the greatest king of Israel began making plans and preparations for the Temple while he was still alive
● Solomon – wealthiest and wisest commissioned the building.
● Was time of greatest national properity in the history of Israel and solomon used all the national and international resources at His disposal and took 7 years to build
● Some have estimated that Solomon used over $20 mill just to overlay the holy of holies with Gold (Feinburg, Minor prophets, 244) – that's besides all the other furnishings.
● Here is this little group of returning exiles, with hardly any resources, trying to put broken stones back on top of one another.
The 7th month feast of weeks
● You also have to understand something of the timing here.
● 7th month = September
● According to Lev 23:33-41 this was the last day of the feast of tabernacles.
● 7 day feast which was celebrated at the Temple site.
● During feast, no work could be done.
● So here all the Jews are gathered around for 7 days to stare at the bare foundations of the Temple and they quite possible began to consider what it will take to finish such a massive project.
● Feast where they all moved out of their houses and lived in booths made of branches and palm leaves to remind them of God's faithfulness and protection and provision during the wilderness wanderings.
● So here they are – having literally moved out of their own houses and they are all camped around this ruin – some of the wonder and the excitement undoubtedly began to fade as they started to experience the reality and hardship involved in putting God first.
● Also to thank the Lord for His provision in the last year and to rejoice in the harvest He had provided in the preceding year.
● What had they just been experiencing? Drought and hardship and famine- not abundance. The feast probably highlighted the hardship of their situation.
● To add insult to injury – when had the first Temple been dedicated? 1 Kings 8 – feast of Tabernacles.
● This was the anniversary of the dedication of Solomon's Temple in all its glory.
So the people look at all this, and the task that lies ahead and their own indadequacy and they say – what's the use, what's the point.
● We can never do this and even if we could – what is this temple going to look like?
● We don't have resources, we don't have manpower and skilled labour – we might as well give up now.
● This is never going to work – and we are going to sacrifice ourselves and our time and our money and it is all going to amount to nothing.
Application: doing God's work
If you have tried to do God's work and to put God's first – then you know something of this despondency.
● It is not easy
● The sacrifices are real and painful
● The work is slow and the fruit is hard to find
● The daily grind doesn't seem that significant, doesn't seem like it is accomplishing anything.
● You begin to say – is all this struggle and sacrifice and hardship, is it really wortwhile
● God's work is always beyond our resources and abilities.
Examples: It might be parenting, or adoption, or vocational ministry, or leading some ministry in the church that you’ve put all your time and effort into – your Sunday school class…or counseling another couple you’ve really tried to help and it looks like they are still going to get divorced, or a very generous gift you sacrificed to give and it has not come to anything.
So the struggle to persevere becomes a struggle of faith. Because you can't see the reality, can't see the results, can't see how it is possible, can't see the ultimate significance of the present labour.
So God sets about to encourage their faith.
Is it as nothing in your eyes? Do you see this work as insignificant, as not worth persevering in, as unimportant – don't you dare!... BE STRONG, BE COURAGOUS, STAND FIRM – PERSEVERE – DO THE WORK.
● 3 times repeated.
● Specifically to each grouping, to each one as they had a role to play in the work from the greatest to the least of them
● Command – persevere, don't you dare give up or slack off until the task is finished....
This is why
1. I AM WITH YOU (2:4-5)
FOR: I will be with you
● I have ordained this work – it cannot be insignificant
● If the CEO of a company gets personally involved in a certain activity in a company, then you know its an important activity to the purpose and direction of the company. Here God says, I myself am participating with you in this work– it is significant!
● I, the lord of hosts, the Lord of the armies of heaven am with you – the mighty, powerful God of the universe. How can you wonder if you will have the necessary resources for this work. You have the infinite resources of the Almighty available
according to my word (5)
Not only am I with you, but I am continually with you – I have been with you, am with you and will continue to be with you because that is what I covenanted myself to when I first covenanted to be your God and to make you my people.
● God has never abandoned them, He has never gone back on His word – even the exile was exactly what God said He would do if His people didn't follow Him.
● In all Israel had experienced from that first day until now had been exactly according to God's Word
● The surety of God's covenanted word secures His presence with them rather than their performance or worthiness or ability.
Which has not changed
God's Words of encouragement here are very specifically chosen...
In 1 Chron 28:20, just before David dies, he encourages Solomon in this great task which lay before him of building the Temple:
1 Chronicles 28:20 (ESV)
20 Then David said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.
● Here we have the same words – be strong, be courageous, do the work, fear not, I am with you. The same promise God gives Solomon as he sets about building the Temple is the same promise He gives these Jews as they set about rebuilding it.
● This work is according to God's purpose and will be accomplished by God's power working in you and through you.
2. I WILL FINISH THE WORK (2:6-7)
FOR – second reason. - do the work, for...
Heaven and earth; sea and dry land. Opposite extremes – indicating all of creation – will be shaken by God
And all of the nations will experience upheaval at His hand.
What is he talking about? - this is a constant theme throughout the prophets – the day of the Lord. The day when the Lord will come with power and manifest His glory and and exercise His authority over all of creation.
Isaiah 13:13 (ESV)
13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger.
Joel 3:15-16 (ESV)
15 The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. 16 The Lord roars from Zion, and utters his voice from Jerusalem, and the heavens and the earth quake. But the Lord is a refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.
Also Ps 18:7, 68:9; ; Is 24:19; Ezek 38:20; Hab 3:6 – to mention but a few.
Why will God come in authority and power and glory over all the nations? - so that = for the purpose, with the result that:
Interpretation of “Desired of nations”
here is a difficult interpretive issue.
The Hebrew here refers to what is precious or valuable to the nations.
Many interpreters have understood this to be reference to the messiah. That the messiah, who is ultimately the one who is most precious to the nations and whom they are seeking – that He will come or they will come to Him.
NIV: “the desired of all the nations may come and I may fill this house with glory.” (this leans toward the interpretation that God will shake the heavens that the messiah may come to the Temple)
NKJ: “they may come to the Desired of all nations” - this also leans toward interpeting the Desired of nations as the messiah – but this has all nations coming to the Messiah who is in the Temple.
NASB – says “may come with the wealth of all the nations
ESV – that the riches of the nations may come – takes the precious things to be a reference to their wealth, their riches.
I lean toward this last interpretation for the following reasons:
● The shaking of the earth undoubtedly refers to the final coming of the Lord to judge and subdue the earth. So His coming is already in view – the so that must then refer to what is the result, not the coming itself.
● In context, God is addressing their concern – how will this Temple ever see its former glory under Solomon – His answer is – I will see to it. Everything in this context relates to the physical splendour of the Temple.
● Vs 8 -The silver and the gold is mine – makes better sense if God is speaking of the riches of the nations coming in and makes little sense if He is speaking of the messiah coming into the Temple.
● Must take this prophesy in conjunction with Zecharaiah was saying because these 2 prophets were prophesying together to these returning exiles. Zecharaiah 2 says very much the same thing.
● Zechariah 2:9-13 (ESV)
9 “Behold, I will shake my hand over them (those who plundered Israel), and they shall become plunder for those who served them. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me. 10 Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.” 13 Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.
So, in response to their feelings of inadequacy, that what they are busy with will never amount to much – God says
It will.... It will, because I will see to it. I will come in power and subdue the nations and the spoils of my victory will be used to decorate the house with such splendour, that it will make Solomon's Temple pale into insignificance. And my glory will once again fill this Temple as it did in the former days and even more so.
Like all prophesies of Scripture, I believe this will be fulfilled literally but progressively. God always fulfills His word, but with most prophesies there are initial partial fulfilments and then a full and final climactic fulfilment.
(The coming of Christ – first and final coming.)
Example in their lives - Cyrus
God gave them a practical foretaste of this in their own lives.
How did these struggling Jews ever get the necessary resources to rebuild the Temple in only 4 years?...
● Ezra 5 – started rebuilding, Tattenai, the govenor of the province and some others came said, hey, what do you think you aredoing, who gave you the right to do this? - they say the God of heaven.
● The governor is not completely happy with that answer, so sends a letter off to Darius the king of the Persians.
● He check the archives and then writes this reply to the governor
● Ezra 6:6-12
● God moves this pagan king so that all the resources of the Persian empire are made available to the Jews to do this work!
God's work will never lack God's resources!
What is the final fulfilment?
There is one more thing I must point out about this text.
NIV has “the glory of this latter house will be greater than the former.”
Hebrew is not structured that way – the grammar is not contrasting 2 houses – but the former and the latter glory of this one house.
That is an important point – in God's mind this is one and the same Temple they are working on. There are different phases in the existence of the temple, but not different Temples.
God is assuring them that they are working on something that not only has significance for the present, but also for the future. This Temple, which is the place where God chose to put His name and manifest His glory – this Temple has a significant place in the culmination of God's plans for Israel and the nations.
God has plans to make much of the little they are presently working on... and in this place I will grant peace
Is God really going to do this?
The prophets all paint the same picture – of a time when God will make a new covenant with Israel – one which will bring together His purposes in all the other covenants. In this text you have the Abrahamic, Davidic and the Mosaic covenants all brought to their goal in Christ who is God's shepherd and king.
Illustration: building into people’s lives
You don’t know what God will do with your service for Him. Counseling a couple after a year – divorced! We can’t always see what God will do.
Some of you are teaching Sunday school and you don’t know that you are preparing the next generations of misisonaries. Some of you might be raising children whose grandchildren might be significant leaders – it looks like your labours are amounting to nothing now, but you don’t know what God will yet do with them. You might share the gospel with someone only to have them reject it and you don’t know how the Lord might use that 10 years from now to draw them to faith….
….Illustration: Jono – it looked like I was wasting my time, was getting nowhere. Today I can look back and see what God was doing and rejoice that I could be play my part. There have been many other Jono’s that have amounted to nothing as far as I know.
How do we apply this?
Could apply it literally and start planning a mission trip to Israel to start building the Temple. But this Scripture was not written directly to us and we cannot apply it directly.
Could generalize it and say, as I have just said – God's work will never lack God's resources. If we are doing God's work then we can trust Him to bless the work.
Fine, but I think we will be missing something important if we generalize the application that much.
These words of encouragement, these promises that God will be with them, and that God will finish the work and that this work has great signficance in the culmination of God's redemptive purposes – they apply to this specific work that God has given them – to rebuild the Temple.
The Temple is the manifestation of God's glory and the catalyst for worship
● What is it in our day and age that God wants build? What is He busy building and commissioned us to build?
● What is the manifestation of His glory and the catalyst for worship in this age?
Matt 16:18 “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Often we think of the great commission as an evangelistic commission – that is part of it, but not all of it.It is a commission to build the church which is the body and bride of Christ.
We are to make disciples, followers of Christ – how...
by teaching them to obey, to follow Christ
by baptizing them – thus identifying them with Christ and with His church.
That is how the disciples set about obeying Christ's commission by teaching, by baptizing and by gathering believers into the church. You need to play your part in evangelizing the lost and building up believers in the church. Whose life are you impacted for Christ? Whose life are you impacting for Christ? Whose lives are you impacting for Christ?
● This is the great work for which we must set aside our own desires and ambitions and selfish pursuits.
● This is the great work on which we must be expending all our time and energy and talents and treasures.
● This is the great work for which Christ has promised His power and provision and presence.
This is the great work which has an eternal signficance as it culminates in a great throng of people from every tribe language people and nation gathered before the throne of God to worship Him for eternity.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest works of art ever produced is the paintings by Michael Angello on the Cisteen Chapel which 500 years later continues to inspire and astound people
● It was a job that Michael Angello didn't want to even do.
○ He had a very bad relationship with pope Julius and the pope had to basically threaten his life to get him to do the job.
○ He preferred sculpting and had very little experience at doing fresco's, so he was not even sure he could do the job.
● It was a mammoth task –
○ It was over 5800 sq feet.
○ It would take 4 years to finish
○ He would have to do all the work standing on a scaffold with his arms held up and neck craned backgwards
○ This how describes “I live here in great toil and great weariness of body, and have no friends of any kind and don't want any, and haven't the time to eat what I need.”
○ He faced great opposition and criticism concerning the painting and was hardly paid enough to cover his costs.
Do you know what is depicted on the ceiling of the cisteen chapel? The unfolding of God's plan of redemption from creation to the final judgment.
God has called us to paint a square in an eternal monument which is far more significant than the cisteen chapel. For eternity, we will be marvelling at what God has done in His plan of salvation. We have been invited to paint with Christ. What part are you painting at the moment?
May you and I dedicate ourselves with the same singleminded devotion to the task to which Christ has commisioned us so that we can stand back one day 500 or 5000 years from now and marvel at this great plan of redemption that God has worked out to manifest His glory.