by Rev. Ian Arnold
The promise of something lost being renewed and rediscovered
When you think about it what a range of human states and emotions are focused on in the Word! Sometimes we are being challenged. Sometimes we are being soothed and reassured. Sometimes it’s our times of loneliness and despair that are being touched on. Wonderfully the Lord speaks to us, in His Word, when we are doing it tough. Sometimes it holds out for us a message of hope and encouragement.
This is precisely what Haggai is all about – hope and encouragement. It’s one of the shortest books in the Bible, just two chapters, and yet it is chock full of relevance and easy-to-see teaching. It’s about a time when people had lost their sense of connectedness with God and were struggling to re-discover it. Haggai (whose name means ‘festive’) tells them to hang in there. Even though they have their memories of what once was, what can yet come about holds all the potential of being even better. “‘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.’”
What Haggai was dealing with, at the time, was people’s disillusionment and discouragement over slow progress re-building the temple after their return from exile in Babylon. The year was 520 B.C and they had been back 16 years. For all their initial enthusiasm they hadn’t, however, got very far, and what they had built up to this point looked pretty ordinary compared to how they remembered Solomon’s temple. “Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory?” Haggai asked. “And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?” (Chapter 2:3)
Haggai was unequivocal that the people had only themselves to blame. They had easily become distracted, looking out for their own comfort and interests. Money didn’t go far enough (does it ever?). There was so much else that needed seeing to. “He who earns wages, earns wages to put it into a bag with holes.” (Chapter 1:6) Don’t you just love it? And isn’t this as true of us today as it was of people then?
Why was the Temple so important for the people of ancient Israel? It was because it symbolized God’s presence with them. With the destruction of the first Temple, built by Solomon, they had lost it. Now they were trying to rebuild and recover it.
There are times when we lose our sense of the presence of God. Negative, self-seeking, hellish, forces sweep in (Babylon) and destroy the Temple and take us captive. But the Lord calls us to rebuilding and recovering what has been lost. This is all about new beginnings. The Lord is the God of new beginnings. In the midst of our worst moments He is already focusing on a new start being made.
But that new start, and our recovery of our sense of the Lord, will not be the same as previously. We’ve learnt much. It won’t be as outwardly showy, or on the surface. Yet, because of inner content and depth it will be more glorious than that we had experienced before. I think of the innocent and beautiful faith of children, invariably brought down as they become teenagers and young adults and yet capable of being restored to a greater glory. “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.’”
There is as well a bigger picture here. Yes, this is about the presence of the Lord in our lives. It’s also about the presence of the Lord in the world. It’s about our very own sense of connectedness with Him. It’s also about humankind’s sense of connectedness with him. Brought down and shattered at one point but then renewed and restored to new glory.
It is as things were prior to the Lord’s Coming into the world and then, afterwards, once the work of glorification was completed. Humankind’s connectedness with the Lord, all very elaborate and maintained as it had been through rich ritual and representations was brought down and shattered. But post-Incarnation and post-glorification the Lord established a new and more glorious connectedness between Himself and the human race. “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.”
“These things are said concerning the Lord’s Advent.” (Apocalypse Explained 242:19)
So, here, in this little prophecy, we have held up to us the great change the Lord would bring about by His Coming into the world and successfully glorifying, or making Divine, His Human. He was the Word made flesh. “He became Divine truth, or the Word, in ultimates also.” (Doctrine of the Sacred Scriptures, 98). He infilled Divine Truth, even at the level we comprehend it and relate to it with new light and life and power. This is the Lord now present with us more gloriously than ever before.
Do you remember what the name Haggai means? It means ‘festival’. It can also mean ‘feast of the Lord’ or ‘joy to the Lord’. In Haggai we have the promise of this new communing with the Lord; a feast or festival of good things. It is upbeat. Joyousness is foreshadowed.
As part of your walk with the Lord, looking to Christmas, find this little prophecy in your Bible and read it. Ten minutes is enough. And let yourself be caught up in the spiritual festivities it so beautifully, encouragingly, and reassuringly, talks about.