Lesson 3: A Remedy for Discouragement Haggai 2:1-9
The Covenant Nation of God returned to the land after a long captivity. They laid a foundation for rebuilding the Temple of God at Jerusalem. Due to issues created by other nations and their own apathy, the re-building of the Temple had been stopped for 16 years.
The people had turned their attention to making their own homes beautiful with expensive wood interiors, and had given their time to improving their income by working more on their fields and businesses. They neglected the house of God leaving it only a foundation with a make-do altar and some temporary structures that barely got the job done. They settled into a mediocrity toward the work of the One they called their Lord.
Haggai delivered a rebuke from God which was both a warning and an encouragement.
The rebuke was for their misordered values. They put their own homes and jobs above the work of the Lord God which was no longer first in their lives. Promoting His Kingdom and worship had become second place. Soon these things fell far into the background. What should have been first, had become almost forgotten.
The warning was because of their breaking God’s moral order. They worked hard but brought in little. What they did bring in did not satisfy them. God revealed that this is what they must expect when they rebel.
They were encouraged to put God back into first place in their lives. They were to admit their sins, and turn from their selfish hypocrisy. They were to immediately begin rebuilding the Temple so that it would again declare to the world the glory of God and His importance in their lives.
However, this renewed obedience and enthusiasm didn’t last long. Soon they became plagued with discouragement.
The people had become discouraged.
Haggai 2:1-3, In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: ‘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?'”
The new temple would not be equal in form to the former.
It had been about 67 years since the temple of Solomon was destroyed. Those who had seen it would have been quite old. Infants or toddlers in 586 would not have remembered much about it. Solomon’s Temple was a magnificent structure made with dedicated hands and the finest of materials. What was before them did not measure up to it in appearance. There was more work to be done.
When the foundation was laid out 16 years earlier some who remembered the previous Temple could see that what they were building was not going to equal it in appearance. Ezra 3:12 described the reaction of the people at that time, “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy,”
The initial enthusiasm of those who had not seen the old structure started to fade. Just a matter of weeks after construction was resumed there was discouragement and temptations to get back to their personal concerns.
Though tragic, this attitude is not unusual. Our fallen human nature easily loses sight of spiritual goals. We expect quick immediate results. The things that made us apathetic to begin with are missed. When things seem to take a lot of effort, take a long time, or become difficult we tend to give up. Satan loves to see God’s people get discouraged. Our material desires easily take advantage of our weaknesses.
They were celebrating a Biblical feast day
It was the 21st of the 7th month called Tishri. From the 15th to the 21st is the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34-44). During that time people stayed in booths made of branches and leaves to remember the wilderness wandering, and the blessing of the LORD during discouraging times. It was a time of special gatherings for worship and for sacrifices. It was to be a time of rejoicing and gratitude to God.
This was the last day of that festival. Yet for them in the time of Haggai, this was a time of poverty, the curse remained for their apathy. The land, cattle, and work of their hands were not yielding much. Their disregard for God and His worship had taken its toll. The season intended to offer thanksgiving would bring this message before them most uncomfortably.
Hope and strength can be found
in God’s covenant promises.
Haggai 2:4-5, 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!’
They were to take courage and get to work. Galatians 6:9 encourages us, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
The reason for this hope is God’s promised presence with them.
Jehovah reminded them of the covenant He made with Israel when He brought them out of Egypt. He said, “for I am with you.” The motivation for getting back to work courageously has no other source than a full confidence in the covenant promise of God. The central covenant promise is the Immanuel Principle, “God-with-us.”
Grammatically verse five tells us that both God’s word and Spirit abide in their midst. The Holy Spirit working by means of the written word of God encourages and directs us.
Do not fear!
Because of His presence, His promise, His word, and Spirit, there is no need for fear. in Haggai 1:12 the people were told to fear, then in Haggai 2:5 they are told not to fear. In each case the object of their fear is different. They were to fear God in the sense of standing in awe of him reverently. They were not to be afraid that He would fail to keep His promises. If they put Him first He will cause them to prosper and make their Temple glorious, though the physical structure may not be as grand as the one torn down by invaders many generations ago.
What seems insurmountable should not discourage us if it is something God has called us to do. The fear of God, reverencing Him for all that he is, eliminates fears of failure and defeat. How can we fear created things when we know the Creator? It is particularly a foolish fear when we are doing the work our Creator made us and called us to do.
The Lord was about to accomplish a great work.
Haggai 2:6-9, “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
There was going to be another great shaking.
The former shaking took place at Sinai where God openly established his covenant nation under the leadership of Moses. The giving of the Law at Sinai shook the world! God the Creator lovingly revealed Himself to those he called out of Egypt to make them a great nation. At Sinai God’s plans for the tabernacle were given. That design was used for Solomon’s Temple some generatons later. The worship structure was prescribed by God to depict in advance the sacrifice of the Savior which he would make on that Cross on Calvary. He would bear the horrors of the guilt of his people paying the penalty of sin in their place.
The first Temple was glorious in that its architect was God himself. Solomon, the Wisest and richest king, built it. It was gloriously furnished and decorated. Its worship was initiated by fire from heaven given for the altar. It represented the presence of God among His people.
But there was a yet to come shaking which will be even more revolutionary! Soon, in the coming age of Messiah, many in the Gentile Nations will also worship the true God. The covenant of God’s grace will be enlarged beyond just Israel. Nations that then opposed the work of the Kingdom will be part of it.
This is the verses referred to in Hebrews 12:26 “whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ ”
What a shaking that was to be! As Jerry Lee Lewis said, “A whole lot o’ shakin’ goin on.”
All opposition will be shaken by God. He will shake the most formidable of our enemies. He will shake away the most insurmountable obstacles. The very heavens, earth, seas, dry land, and the nations will be moved significantly by God’s powerful hand.
The Desire of the Nations will come, and the Temple will be filled with glory.
The “Desire of the Nations” will come to the temple filling it with glory by way of the shaking of the nations. The nations are not going to bring literal earthly valuables to fill the temple with glory. The nations never brought riches to the temple. History shows that the gentile nations plundered the Temple of Jehovah again and again. The glory that fills this place will be greater then the material glory of silver and gold. Our Creator is already Lord over all the sliver and gold.
The “Desire of the Nations” that comes to the Temple is the Promised Messiah. The glory of the First Temple of Solomon was the symbolic presence of Jehovah. It was the visible seat of His earthly kingdom. The glory of the New Temple is the personal presence of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The material glory of this new Temple will no where near approach the glory of the former one. It’s the spiritual glory that will be so much greater. The new Temple will represent the restoration of the Kingdom of God. A Kingdom that was to surpass the old in glory.
The temple they were about to build would be the very one Jesus Himself would enter and bless by his presence. They were to be the builders of that structure. The Kingdom of God was going to become more visible in the world because of the labor they were about to do.
In the coming gospel age the Desire of the Nations will be the Promised Messiah. In the past the nations had no desire toward Him. In the age to come they will come desiring Him because of their adoption by God.
This shaking does not end with the dawn of the new era of the Kingdom. The shaking will continue until all things are brought under His feet at the time of final judgment. In the meanwhile, His covenant people rejoice in a greater presence and glory of their covenant God in their midst, in the living person of the resurrected Jesus the Messiah.
Even Rabbi Akiba in the Talmud applies this portion to Messiah, “A little glory will I give unto Israel, and then Messiah shall come”
In this place God will bring Peace.
The Fallen nations will be brought back to peace with God. Even the pagan Gentile nations will find hope in the glory God Himself will bring to the Temple in the person of our Savior. Consider the Apostle Paul’s encouraging words in Ephesians 2:11-16, “Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh — who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands — that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.”
This is the greater glory which was still many generations away from those who built upon that new foundation. They could see that what they made did not measure up outwardly to the glory of the Temple of Solomon. Yet the presence of the Redeemer, and the work He would fulfill in bringing the sacrifices and rituals to their intended purpose, would make this new Temple even more glorious.
Today the boundary between Jews and Gentiles is torn down in Christ. Those who live in the Kingdom of God on earth know a peace the world cannot understand. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27).
Hebrews 12:26-29 expands upon this promise made long ago through Haggai God’s Prophet, “whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.; Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.”
The people had been discouraged. Their new found enthusiasm and rededication was struggling. They needed to turn their eyes to the LORD and His word of promise. We do too when we get discouraged. It is His Spirit working by the word that dispels such fears of the obstacles we face.
Do we get discouraged when we determine to get things right with God?
Do our plans and callings seem impossible?
Do the problems we face seem insurmountable?
Do we find it hard to support God’s worship on Sundays?
Do we struggle to train and encourage our children as we should?
Do we see that we still fall far short of what God deserves?
This is why the Messiah came!
We are called to humble, faithful service in the Kingdom of Christ. We are to bring what God has given us, our time, our energies, our talents though simple, and our offerings though at times they may be meager. We prayerfully put them to work for God’s glory and for the edifying of His people. We confess our sins and trust in the now finished work of our Savior to clothe us and our efforts in His righteousness.
When we get discouraged in doing what God has given us to do, when things seem too difficult, and the goal seems out of our reach, we need to remember that our hope is not in our own resources. It should rest in the promises of God. If we faithfully serve Him as He deserves, place God first in our lives, His covenant blessings will be ours in abundance. He will bless our humble obedience when it is performed by faith in His hand which holds and enables us. He will bless what seems to us to be inferior work, because even the imperfect work of His people will be blessed by His amazing grace.
(Bible quotations are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)