The Glorious New Temple
1-2On the twenty-first day of the next month, the Lord told Haggai the prophet to speak this message to Governor Zerubbabel, High Priest Joshua, and everyone else:
3 Does anyone remember how glorious this temple used to be? Now it looks like nothing. 4But cheer up! Because I, the Lord All-Powerful, will be here to help you with the work, 5 just as I promised your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt. Don't worry. My Spirit is right here with you.
6 Soon I will again shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7I will shake the nations, and their treasures will be brought here. Then the brightness of my glory will fill this temple. 8All silver and gold belong to me, 9and I promise that this new temple will be more glorious than the first one. I will also bless this city with peace.
Even in moments of eagerness, the spectre of discouragement still dogs the people of God. “Does anyone remember how glorious this Temple used to be? Now it looks like nothing,” the old timers said. One can imagine their commentary. “It’s not nearly as big.” “The old one was full of gold; this is looking rather plain.” “Yes, and do you remember the number of priests and Levites? There’s hardly enough now to take one shift!” “This was a foolish venture. It will never work, and they’ll be worse off than if they had never started.” “And why did they start in the first place? We were getting along alright before, and now they’re just stirring things up.”
There is a danger in longing for the past. In the first place, our recollections are often selective. For all of its glories, the Solomon’s Temple of recent memory was a defiled institution. The vision granted to one prophet before Babylon’s destruction of the Temple in 586 depicts an establishment rife with idolatry and prostitution, serving a corrupt people given to violence and injustice (Ezekiel 8). Nostalgia can deceive, and it is rarely a reliable guide to the future. Secondly, yearning for the past can prevent us from appreciating God’s grace in the present. “My Spirit is right here with you,” says the Lord (v.5). Can the people of God recognize the hand of God in their circumstances? Will they be able to see that this God who brought them out of exile is the same God who rescued their ancestors from slavery in Egypt? His covenant purposes are still being worked out, despite appearances to the contrary. Thirdly, and finally, preoccupation with the past can hold us back from stepping into the future God has planned for us, a future that has shalom as its destination: “I will also bless this city with peace” (v.9).
God of glory and promise, rule over our doubts and disappointments, that our pining for the past might be transformed into a hunger for the peace that lies in store for those who place their trust in Him who is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). Amen.