Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Haggai: Glorious Temple

Hag 2:1–9

It’s Now or Never (Hag 1:1–15, August 520 BC)

The people were back in the land after seventy years of exile, but the desert was not bursting into flower like they might have expected from reading Isaiah. Instead, the desert was creeping up on their farmland, as one drought year pulled into line behind another. Amos had diagnosed the sinful cause of this three centuries earlier, but no one had listened then. Now Haggai saw the same pattern and made the same diagnosis that Amos had made: It was divine rebuke (Hag 1:1–11). And Haggai’s audience listenedd and began to set things right (1:12–15).

Take Heart and Get to Work (Hag 2:1–9, October 520 BC)

Haggai acknowledged that the temple they were working on was a humble affair compared with the lavish temple of Solomon (2:3). But he assured them of God’s promise that the rebuilt temple would experienced unequaled glory and peace (2:6–9). So the people needed to get to work on it (2:4–5).

God promised, “I will shake all the nations, and the treasures of all the nations will be brought to this Temple” (2:7a). Egyptian plunder had financed the Hebrew wilderness trip and helped them build their wilderness tabernacle. The wealth of the nations was flowing through Solomon’s imperial coffers when he built the former temple. This community of returned exiles was poor, but their temple would be financed by international money, because it ultimately belonged to God. Indeed, shortly after Haggai’s prophecy, the Persians order the temple opponents to pay the full cost of rebuilding Israel’s temple (Ezra 6:8–12). And later on, the half-breed king Herod the Great and his successors would lavish wealth on the temple of Jesus’ time.

God promised, “The future of this Temple will be greater than its past glory” (Hag 2:9). Under the Herods this became true even as an architectural matter. But most importantly, it was to a rebuilt temple that the Lord of the temple eventually came (Matt 12:6). Indeed, he came an superseded the temple built by human hands, the temple built of merely stone. In other words, Haggai’s prophecy resonated with the same kind of great end-time hopes that Isaiah expressed (Isa 2:2–5).

Promise and Prediction (Hag 2:10–23, August 520 BC)

Haggai had warned how rapidly sin spread (2:10–14), and told them the poor harvests were the result of disobedience (2:15–17). But Haggai said, blessings would come as the people obeyed God and rebuilt the temple (2:18–19).

Finally, he gave a strong message of assurance for “Zerubbabel the governor of Judah” (2:20–23). God would shake heaven and earth, judging the nations and eliminating hostility to his people, his temple, and his kingdom on earth (2:20–22). Zerubbabel was Jehoichin’s grandson, so people were looking in his direction to see what God would do by way of restoring the Davidic dynasty that he represented. But Zerubbabel was only serving as a Persian appointee to rule a small backwater community within a larger district within the vast Persian empire. God told him “I will make you like a signet ring on my finger,… for I have chosen you” (2:23). Zerubbabel disappeared in a few years without notice of his fate, but in him the Davidic line had been renewed in Jerusalem. Even today, a Hanukkah hymn contains these words:
Well night had I perished,
when Babylon’s end drew near;
through Zerubbabel I was saved
after seventy years.

The fulfillment of all the promised of the renewed Davidic line would occur in Jesus Christ, but Zerubbabel was a signal that the dynasty still had a future to be realized in God’s good time.

Questions, Reflections, and Commitments

  • Do you ever get discouraged at the small things on which you’re working, even though you keep hearing about the great kingdom of God? Commit yourself to “get to work” on your assignment in the kingdom of God, and let God take care of filling it with glory in his own time and way.

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