Haggai 2:1 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’”
Good morning, we are continuing in the book of Haggai. If you missed last week’s sermon, I am spending three weeks working through this book. It’s a small book written during the post-exillic time. The time when the remnant of Israel has returned to Jerusalem from captivity.
If you heard last week’s sermon, Haggai confronted Israel on their mixed-up priorities. He called them to consider their ways and order their lives around Yahweh’s priorities. God’s priority was calling the people to resume building the temple so that they could offer right worship and dwell in the presence of God. So we looked at how this relates to our priorities and ensuring that we line up with what God sees as best. And maybe if the sermon landed, you were fired up Sunday afternoon. You were motivated to put things right, create new habits and goals and take dominion of all areas of life. And Monday you crushed it. It was glorious.
But then by Wednesday, maybe things got harder. It was more of a grind and harder to see the glory of it all. Your checklist didn’t get crossed off as swiftly, you missed Family worship. And you already broke your resolution to wake up daily at 5am.
Maybe you did get everything crossed off your list, but it didn’t bring immediate and glorious results. You were present more with the kids, but they still disobeyed! You talked to your relative about Jesus and it still ended in conflict. Remember last chapter, God sent a drought on the people. It takes awhile for new fruit to grow. Turning a large ship around is a slow process. Just like putting our priorities right in our own lives can be a slow, arduous process.
How do we keep that momentum? How do we continue even when the results aren’t immediate?
Is anyone noticing whether I discipline my child or not? Is the laundry folding truly reaping cosmic rewards? Does it have any earthly affects, let alone heavenly? That person you are discipling just isn’t bearing fruit.
This is where Israel found themselves in chapter 2 of Haggai. As Israel began to rebuild, they run into discouragement. The glory of the former temple had not returned. It wasn’t as spectacular inside or outside. And they saw how unimpressive it was. And yet the Lord spoke to the people and reminded him that he was still with them. And then he gave them several commands to continue the hard and inglorious work of rebuild. And on top of that, the LORD of Hosts also made several glorious promises about future glory of the temple, the nations, and a place of peace, which all find their fulfillment in the coming Lord Jesus Christ. Even in the things that seem mundane or insignificant, the places where we don’t see immediate results, they are still related to greater and glorious work of God. We will be in chapter 2, verses 1-9 this morning. I’ve titled the sermon ‘Man’s mundane work and God’s glorious promises.’
Before we pray, I wanted to give a word of warning to help you hang with me. If you’ve heard me preach over the years, I tend to have lots of references to other places in the Bible or chase down various themes. I do it because I love seeing how the Bible provides the background for itself. We don’t need to understand archaeology or ancient Persian history to understand the Bible. But I believe it’s important and necessary. We just need to be good students of redemptive history. Our own history. We have the Holy text of scripture to understand everything we need.
Now because we aren’t as familiar with lots of biblical passages, it takes a little more work to see all the connections clearly. As I studied this week, there were lots of themes and background work that went in to this passage.
Have you seen the meme picture of the guy with whiteboard full of strings and thumb tacks. Everything is connected in one big conspiracy theory. And that is overwhelming. How do you keep everything straight? But that is what the story of redemption is. It’s God’s big conspiracy, where all the dots get connected in exactly the right ways. Except it’s true, it’s not a theory. But that can still feel overwhelming. and I don’t want to overwhelm you all with lots of dots to connect and throw lots of verses at you. So I am going to try and provide enough background that you can appreciate all that Haggai is pointing to, without overwhelming. So I am going to say some things without citing every passage just so we can keep moving. Instead, I will note everything in my manuscript for those who either want to chase more down or want to see my proof. I never want to imply that I’m just pulling things out of thin air, but again I don’t want to overwhelm anyone in an avalanche of cross references.
If anything, I hope that it stirs your desire to know your Bible better. Because the better you understand Genesis and Leviticus or Haggai, the better you understand everything else in scripture.
Psa. 119:57 The LORD is my portion;
I promise to keep your words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways,
I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay
to keep your commandments.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,
I do not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you,
of those who keep your precepts.
64 The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love;
teach me your statutes!
Father, we want this for ourselves. Help us to love your Word more. Help us to know your word more. May we be satisfied with you as our portion and hasten to keep your commandments. Even when the wicked surround us, may your Word be the deep anchor that keeps us in place. May we fear you this morning and offer your right worship. We thank you that not only can we dwell in your presence, but you delight in us. And we confess that we can’t do any of these things without your Holy Spirit. So please help us to hear what you have to say this morning, May I speak truth and be faithful to your Word, and please apply these truths to our hearts. Help us to see how your glory is tied to our mundane acts of obedience today and this week. Amen.
One part we didn’t talk about last week is how Haggai organizes the book. You’ve probably noticed that Haggai organizes the book around several dates. And the dates all have significance to them that relate to what Haggai is speaking about. Chapter 1 is the sixth month on the first day of the month. This would have marked the new moon. And this is essentially what the people experience as they shake off the cobwebs, reorient to the LORD, and begin working on the temple in obedience and blessing.
In our passage, we see it is now the seventh month on the twenty first day of the month. There are two events that occurred in the seventh month in Israel. First, Solomon’s temple was dedicated in the seventh month. In a book with a great focus on houses of various kinds, that’s an interesting detail. Haggai’s people are in the process of building the temple.
Secondly, the seventh month is when the feast of booths or feast of tabernacles occurred. this might seem irrelevant to our text; I’m going to give some background that might not immediately make sense but will help us as we move through the passage.
When the LORD brought the people out of Egypt, he instructed them to observe three annual feasts: Passover, Pentecost and the feast of booths or tabernacles. Booth is another word for tent. There are several places in scripture that describe various details of the feast and there were several details of the feast that lend insight to our passage. (Lev. 23:33-44, Num. 29:12-38, Deut. 16:13:17, Neh. 8:13-18). It took place in the seventh month beginning on the 15th day. Leviticus 23 gives us some detail:
Lev. 23:39 “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the produce of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD seven days. On the first day shall be a solemn rest, and on the eighth day shall be a solemn rest. 40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. 41 You shall celebrate it as a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It is a statute forever throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. 42 You shall dwell in booths for seven days. All native Israelites shall dwell in booths, 43 that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
To remember their wandering in the wilderness, the people would collect branches, build very temporary houses and dwell in them for 8 days. They would remember how God brought them out of Egypt. The branches also were a reminder of the Garden of Eden. This was a kind of tabernacle where God dwelled with Adam.
Day one of the feast was the 15th day of the month, and so day 7 would have been the 21st day of the month. Each day they were to bring offerings of food, grain, burnt sacrifices and drink offerings. This reminds us of the futility the people of Haggai’s time because of their misplaced priorities. God brought drought on their produce.
In addition to these offerings, the people were also called to sacrifice bulls on each day. Day 1 was 13 bulls, 12 on day 2, etc. Over the seven days they would offer 70 bulls (Num. 29:12-38). If you remember when John preached on Exodus, 70 is a significant number in the Bible and it represents the nations. Anytime you see the number 70, that should be your first thought. So beyond the offerings on behalf of Israel, the feast also made offerings on behalf of the nations. And the bull was the animal for offering atonement. Israel was meant to be a light to the nations and the whole world would recognize the God of Israel as unique.
After day seven of the feast, they would have a solemn assembly on the eighth day. The end of the feasting culminated in a worship service.
So there are several purposes from the feast of tabernacles: to remember their sojourning in the wilderness, to give offerings to the LORD both for themselves and for the nations, and to have a solemn assembly, or worship service.
One last note on the feast of tabernacles. Until this post-exilic period, the people had not observed the feast since the time of Joshua son of Nun (Neh. 8). It’s another sign of the sick spiritual state of God’s people. But things are slowly getting put back in place.
Remnant people with a Remnant Temple
Verses 2 and 3 find the people, led by Zerubbabel and Joshua, continuing the work they began in verse 14. It was an encouraging scene where we left off. God had stirred them up to work and rebuild the temple. But now things aren’t going as well.
The people are called the remnant. These are the people who returned from 70 years in exile. The book of Ezra notes that there were 42,360 people who returned to Judah. Compare that to other censuses before exile. There were usually millions of people living in Israel. Now there are 40 thousand returning to build the temple.
Haggai asks three questions of the people all related to sight.
3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?
Apparently, there were some who were old enough to have seen Solomon’s original temple. They would have been in their 70’s or 80’s. they had lived through exile, and could recall the days of Israel’s glory. When the Bible talks about glory, there are two meanings related to the temple. There is the outward beauty that would be seen by all who came to Jerusalem. It was a spectacular site. It was covered in gold inside and out. But there was also the actual presence of the LORD who would dwell inside the holy of holies. The glory of God dwelt in the midst of the people.
To the older generation who had seen the former glory, this new temple project was not impressive. Last week I read a section of Ezra that described the celebration when the foundation of the temple was read. But I left part of it out on purpose because it describes the reaction of the older generation. So let me read Ezra 3 again:
Ezra 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,
“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
The people are a remnant and so is the house of the LORD. The people are working, but they are not really seeing the payoff. There wasn’t the outward glory of an impressive temple, and there wasn’t the inward glory of God’s dwelling in their midst. Ezekiel chapter 10 describes That this glory left the temple before exile. This was because the people had rebelled and broken covenant. It might have been natural for the people who are now back in the land to wonder about the presence of God. Is he really with us? What are we doing? Why are we rebuilding and not seeing glory as a result? We are not seeing the results.
But Haggai continues in verse 4:
Be Strong, Work, Fear Not
4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
While the remnant was struggling with what they physically saw, the LORD gives commands based on faith. ‘Be strong,’ he says three times. There is a connection between what we see and fear and the call to be strong, based on faith.
One of the people addressed is a high priest named Joshua son of Jehozadak. This brings us back to the conquest of the promised land, led by Joshua son of Nun. Joshua was part of the first generation of Israel who spied out the land. Ten of the spies saw the giants of the land and their hearts melted. They reported back to Moses that there was no way they could take the land. The first generation was weak, fearful and sloth.
But Joshua and Caleb saw with eyes of faith. They were strong, because they trusted that the LORD would be with them. And He had promised them the land.
Moses commissioned Joshua with these words. Listen to how similar they are to the people in Haggai:
7 Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land that the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall put them in possession of it. 8 It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deut 31:7-8)
Be strong. Don’t fear. The LORD is with you. So Joshua led the people into the land, vanquishing their foes as they went. The remnant probably didn’t feel as triumphant about their work as the Israelites taking the promised land, but the call was the same. God had promised he was with them, not because they had a glorious temple. But because God is faithful to his covenant people and he doesn’t need a physical building to dwell in. He doesn’t need a human standing army, he brings his own.
Have you ever wondered why it says Lord of Hosts so many times? In the latter prophets, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi the phrase is used a lot. Is it just a poetic flourish?
Remember that Israel is an occupied nation? Darius, King of Persia, is the ruling authority. Israel has no army. They are a small group of people who have no means to muster an army. But God has an army. And in his promise to be with them, that means he is bringing the whole angelic army with him too.
It’s the same for us: be strong, work, don’t fear. This isn’t simply a nice mantra. This isn’t macho talk. This is what the LORD commands us to do.
And why? Because the LORD of Hosts is with us. When you are fighting complacency, or an addiction, be strong, the LORD of Hosts is with you. When you are considering leaving your job to recalibrate priorities, the LORD of Hosts is with you. When you have to confront someone’s sin, be strong, the LORD of Hosts is with you. When we as a church need to confront unrepentant sin or go into a world who hates the gospel, be strong, the LORD of Hosts is with us. When all we see are pagan giants surrounding us, be strong, the LORD of Hosts is with us.
God is with them. And the reason God is with them, is because he made a covenant with them. He rescued them and brought them into the wilderness to dwell within their midst. Feast of Tabernacles.
Then he spoke at Mt. Sinai. The mountain was filled with thunder, and lightning, and fire (Ex. 19, Ps 68:7). And the people trembled. They had the law. They had the stipulations and conditions for blessings and curses. They had instructions for building the tabernacle, where God would truly dwell in their midst. Feast of Booths again. God had promised to dwell with them, and God is faithful to his promises. And then he gives another related commandment: Fear Not.
Fear is often a cause of us getting hung up in our priorities. Why did you procrastinate? Why did you say yes to that decision at work, despite it being against your beliefs? Why did you spend so much time waffling about what to say to your friend? Senior saints, what keeps you from speaking truth and wisdom into us who are younger? It is often fear.
But again, we told not to fear. That’s not a suggestion or reasonable advice, as if we know we shouldn’t fear. God commands us to fear not. And that begins with being strong and taking steps of obedience, even if the results aren’t flashy.
Covenantal faithfulness isn’t always flashy. But here’s a few ways it might look for you this week:
- It looks like doing things without grumbling
- It means living with intention and considering your ways. Evaluate how you spend your time, money and attention.
- Doing things that no one else but the LORD might notice
- Keeping your home is honoring the LORD of Hosts.
- Standing up for truth even if it doesn’t reap the tangible rewards you hoped for.
- Kids, it means doing what you’ve been told to do, even if your brother or sister isn’t doing it. Or doing it even if they will get credit for it too.
- It means lots of small, faithful steps of obedience.
While our work is often mundane, deep down there is great glory that supports our work. While we don’t always experience the signs and wonders of the Exodus, we can still utilize the promises of future glory to encourage and strengthen our faith for the work in front of us. If the seeming futility of our mundane tasks were all there were to life, that would be depressing. If we fall into comparing our current circumstances to the glory days of our youth, we will be chasing the past.
But we have a glorious future to look towards. And when we have a glorious future to look towards, it can change our current approach to our current challenges and work God has tasked us with.
The glorious future is seen in the promises that the LORD makes in the second half of this passage. He gives four great promises that he says will happen in a little while. He will shake the world, he will shake the nations, the future temple will be even more glorious, and he will give peace.
God’s Glorious promises
6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.
Haggai uses this phrase, “I will shake” three times in his book. Twice in our passage and once again at the end of the book.
When you hear the phrase I will shake the heavens and earth, do you think end times? It sounds like destruction and judgment at the end of the world, right? Before we jump ahead, let’s look closely at the text and see what Haggai might be driving at. In verses 6 and 7 the LORD will shake two things: the cosmos, and the nations.
First, the LORD will shake the cosmos. This is shorthand for creation language. In Genesis 1, the heavens and earth, sea and dry land are days 2 and 3 of creation. And now the LORD will shake, the whole of creation. Some will want to say this is a literal shaking and therefore it must be the end of the earth as we know it. But it says, ‘in a little while’. It could have been a literal, physical shaking like an earthquake, but Hebrews 12 gives us more insight into this verse.
It quotes Haggai and connects the shaking to Mt Sinai. While there was a literal trembling when the law was given, the significance was greater because God was giving a covenant to the old world. And now the LORD is about to shake the cosmos because he is bringing an end to that world and replacing it with something newer, and better. It is a better Mountain, Mt Zion, representing the New covenant.
7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.
Next, the LORD Of Hosts will shake the nations. Again, is this a literal or figurative shaking? Persia, and the land of Judah, will be shortly overthrown and conquered by the Greeks and in turn the Romans. But is this the shaking the text has in mind? This is where I think the Feast of Tabernacles can again be helpful.
Remember the reasons for the feast? They gathered in temporary houses that resembled the leafy garden tent of Eden. The offered sacrifices on behalf of the nations. And now, the LORD is promising that the nations will be shaken and the treasures brought in.
This idea of the nations bringing treasures into God’s house is not new with Haggai. It was the case when the Israelites plundered the Egyptians which in turn became the materials for the tabernacle. It was true when King Hiram of Tyre brought all kinds of riches to King Solomon for the first temple (1 Kings 5). And it was true with Cyrus and Darius for this rebuilding effort.
In the case of these kings, they did it understanding that they would be blessed through the building of the temple as well (Ezra 1, 6).
But this promised shaking will be more than that. It looks ahead to the day when the people of these nations, themselves will be the treasures. They will come into the house of God.
This is the earth-shaking good news of the New Covenant. While it wasn’t a literal worldwide, universal earthquake, the significance disrupts and affects the entire cosmos. It would be an end to the Old Covenant and the New Covenant would be here. And it would be for all the nations.
So what kind of house will this be? What should the people be looking for?
9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’”
Finally the LORD promises that the future glory of this house will surpass the former glory. The current rebuild contains a remnant of glory. Haggai is promising something even greater than Solomon’s temple will come. Will it mean that this house will be rebuilt with glory? Is it Ezekiel’s temple? Is that what they should look for?
Compared with the tabernacle, a large, mobile tent, the temple was a permanent structure. Everyone in Israel had to come to Jerusalem to be at the temple. But it was still temporary. The Babylonians destroyed the first temple. And now the rebuild reminds the people just how insignificant an actual building can be. Again we should think about the Feast. It was a tangible reminder of the temporary nature of things. The promise of future glory looks towards a more permanent house of God. The sacrificial system was going to be replaced by a permanent sacrifice.
This house in Haggai will be rebuilt. And over time, it will even be improved by King Herod. It did become more spectacular, but that wasn’t what this promise has in mind.
It’s not Ezekiel’s vision either. While that vision is a more glorious temple than Solomon’s, it’s symbolic. It was never meant to be built because it doesn’t improve on the Old Covenant. It was still a central building that could be destroyed, and there were sacrifices offered in his vision. The house of God that the people longed for has come. It began with an infant.
To see how these themes tie together, turn to Luke chapter 2. It’s the story of Simeon, a God-fearing Jew who was stirred by the Holy Spirit and promised to see Jesus.
Luke 2:27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
In the glorious economy of the kingdom, God sent an infant to the temple. And for the first time since the LORD of Hosts left before exile, the glory returned to the temple. It was a hint of what was to come. He would bring salvation. He would bring the presence of God. And he would bring in the nations. It was a glimpse of the greater temple, the greater covenant and the greater people of God.
This is the world-shaking good news promised in Haggai. The shaking would continue. Jesus died on the cross and the world turned dark. He shook the ground and rose three days later. Then Jesus sent his Spirit at Pentecost. Then in 70AD, this temple from Haggai was destroyed. This was the final blow to the Old World.
This new world is far more glorious than the former. Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, people are brought into the New Covenant. And those who are become part of the temple. The glory of God resides in us through the Holy Spirit. We are living stones, being built into a spiritual house. This is the glory of the church.
Here’s a few reasons why Jesus ushering in a new temple composed of the saints is more glorious than a physical building.
- Indestructible through resurrection (1 Cor 15, 1 Pet 1:4)
- Better sacrifices (Heb. 9:12-14)
- Made of living stones (1 Pet. 2)
- Better promises (Heb. 8:6)
- More inclusive-all nations will stream in
The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. This house far surpasses a building, even one built with silver and gold.
Finally, we come to the last promise: Peace in this place. The final promised blessing is one of peace. The text says the LORD will bring peace to this place. The place being Jerusalem. Jerusalem means foundation of peace. As one commentator (James Boyce) wrote, “if this promise concerns peace from physical fighting it has not been fulfilled yet, because Jerusalem has been anything but the city of peace.”
It has to mean a different kind of peace. And that’s the peace which Christ brings between the God and man. The LORD of Hosts is not at war with his covenant people, because Jesus has atoned for them not through the blood of bulls, but through his own blood shed outside Jerusalem.
And ultimately this peace will spread and turn into visible peace. The gospel will prevail. All nations will come in. The glory of God will fill the whole earth and man will dwell in the presence of God forever. Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Rev. 21:3-4).
Grace Church. Be strong, see things with the eyes of faith and get to work. Fear not, because the LORD of Hosts is with you. What is it God has called you to work at? What specific ways can you take dominion? Be strong and get to work. See how your mundane actions bring glory to the LORD and play a role in the ultimate plan of God. Even if it means changing diapers, crunching numbers on a computer, or simply reorganizing our calendars to make the LORD’s priorities ours. Our privilege and job is to continue building his kingdom until the all nations will come in and dwell in his presence forever.
Father in heaven, your name is holy. May it be kept holy in all the earth. I pray that we would be church who is driven by your glory and the magnificent promises you have made to your people. I pray for those who have priorities out of order. Help them to put them right. Through your Holy Spirit, help them to be strong and work. Help them to get unstuck, help us as a church to stir one another up in this way. I pray for those who are working in obedience but don’t see the fruit. Give them a glimpse of your glorious plan for the world. May they apply the truths of this passage to their lives. Thank you for your mercy to bring peace where wrath once stood. Thank you for sending Jesus to atone in a way that the blood of bulls never could. Help us to sing of his great glory now. Amen.