About four weeks later there came another message from the Lord
through the prophet Haggai, and this time it was a word of
encouragement. It was specially addressed to the very old people, who
might have some recollection of the magnificance of Solomon's temple,
and consequently realize how inferior was any temple that they could
hope to raise. The encouragement ministered was twofold. It had first a
present aspect and then a future one.
But first let us note how this record bears upon ourselves today.
There has been, in the history of the professing church some recovery
of truth and some reversion to the simplicity of things, as ordered of
God by His Spirit at the beginning, analogous to this return of a
remnant to the place where God had placed His name, and had His house
long before. The devoted saints of God, who had some part in this
recovery, must surely have been conscious that anything of an outward
nature into which they came, was far below the greatness of that which
was established visibly on the Day of Pentecost, when three thousand
were converted, and 'continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine,
and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers' (Acts 2: 42).
It would indeed be good if we today were fully conscious of the
smallness and feebleness of all that is in our hands, if compared with
the greatness of that which originally was instituted of God.
And if we are duly impressed with this fact, and therefore liable to
be somewhat depressed by the contrast we observe, we may be cheered as
we discover how the word of encouragement ministered through Haggai,
has a remarkable application to ourselves.
The encouragement in its present aspect we find in verses 4 and 5.
Not only did God pledge His presence with them, but He added, 'The word
that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, and My Spirit,
remain among you: fear ye not' (New Trans.). He cast them back upon the
integrity of the word to direct their ways, which He gave at the
beginning of His dealings with them, and the guidance and power of His
Spirit, who was still among them. If we were asked what are the
resources still available for saints today, we should have to answer
that we still have the authentic word of God, dating, 'from the
beginning', as the Apostle John so frequently reminds us in his
epistles; and then that the Holy Spirit, who was shed forth on the Day
of Pentecost, still indwells the saints, and therefore, if ungrieved,
His power is still available for us. So we too need not fear, though
opponents are many and difficulties persist.
As to the future there was also a word of encouragement though a
time of judgment was to come. The very earth on which man lives,
together with the heavens that envelop it, are to be shaken, as well as
all the nations that inhabit it. The instability of themselves, and of
all that surrounded them, had to be feared by the Jews of that day. And
we have to face it also for as we reach the end of Hebrews 12, we find
these words of Haggai quoted as applying to the end of the age. His
words, 'Yet once', are quoted as, 'Yet once more', and therefore as
applying to such a final removing of every shakeable thing, that it
never needs to be repeated.
And when that great shaking takes place, 'the desire of all nations'
will come and the house of God be filled with glory. Now Christ
personally can hardly be spoken of as the 'desire' of all nations,
since when He shall appear in glory, so that every eye sees Him, 'all
kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him' (Rev. 1: 7). But
though this is so, the nations have ever desired such peace and
fruitful. ness, such prosperity, and quietness and assurance for ever,
as is predicted in Isaiah 32: 15-18. These very desirable things will
only come to pass and be enjoyed when the Lord Jesus comes aBain; and
hence, we judge, this prophetic word does look on to the advent of
Christ. When He comes, He will bring these blessings to men, and glory
to the house of God.
The better translation of verse 9 appears to be, 'The latter glory
of this house shall be greater than the former'. The house of God in
Jerusalem is considered as one, though broken down and rebuilt on
several occasions, and the glory of its final form will outshine even
its first glory as built by Solomon, when visible glory filled the
building; so much so that the priests could not enter. That final glory
was seen in vision by Ezekiel, as he records at the beginning of
Ezekiel 43. We can thank God that the same thing will be true in regard
to the church. Its latter end, when invested with the glory of Christ,
will exceed all that marked it at the beginning.
One further item of encouragement was presented through Haggai-'in
this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts'. Now we think it
would be true to say that no city has had a more tempestuous history,
and endured more sieges, than Jerusalem; indeed even today we hear
Palestine spoken of as 'the cockpit of the nations'; and so indeed it
is going to be, as Zechariah 14: 2 declares; yet the place of peace it
will ultimately prove to be.
Now let us carefully note that all this blessing, glory and peace,
to be reached after the predicted mighty shaking, is not going to be
reached as the result of human effort or the fruit of human
faithfulness, for it is God declaring what He will bring to pass as the
fruit of His sovereign mercy. The returned remnant had now responded to
the word of rebuke and set their faces in the right direction, and what
greater encouragement than for God to tell them, while still in felt
weakness, what He proposed ultimately to bring to pass.
It is even so with us today. We are in weakness-and happy are we if
it is felt weakness-but if our hearts are set in the right direction,
seeking the furtherance of God's present work in grace, we may find
great encouragement and joy as we consider the New Testament
predictions as to the future glory of the church in association with
Christ, reached according to God's sovereign purpose. We look, as Jude
tells us in his epistle, for 'mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto
eternal life'. We shall reach glory, not as the fruit of our merit, but
of His mercy.
A little more than two months passed and then the Lord saw that the
people, now busy in His work, needed another message and this time a
word of warning. It was addressed more particularly to the priests
though it concerned the work of all the people. Two questions were
raised with them concerning their work: one recorded in verse 12, and
the reverse question in verse 13. The priests had to admit that what is
unclean and unholy is infectious and therefore defiling, what is holy
and clean is not transmitted in the same way. Here is a matter of much
importance from a spiritual standpoint.
The principle is illustrated even in natural things. Everyone knows
that if a rotten apple is placed in a box of good ones, the rottenness
will soon spread; whereas no one imagines that rotten apples will be
made good by placing a few sound ones among them. In the temple service
this matter had to be observed, and like all these outward observances
under the law, the point has an inward and spiritual instruction for
us. Let us heed it, since we have the defiling 'flesh' within as well
as the defiling 'world' without.
The application that Haggai had to make of these questions was
calculated to have a searching and sobering effect upon the people.
Stirred up, as they had been, to put their hands to the work of
building the house, there would have been a tendency towards self
complacency as though all was as it should be. They were plainly told
it was not so, but that what was imperfect and unclean marked their
best work. A humbling lesson for them-and for us also. If some little
reviving is granted to us today in the mercy of God, how easily the
defilements of the flesh creep in: how quickly we may become like the
early Christians in Galatia, who though beginning 'in the Spirit',
proceeded as though they might be 'made perfect by the flesh' (Gal. 3:
But having warned them as to the imperfection that marked their
work, the prophet proceeded to assure them that in spite of it the
blessing of God rested upon them. In contrast to the times of scarcity
and blasting and mildew, that they had experienced while they neglected
the house of God and set themselves to embellish their own houses, they
now saw the hand of God working in their favour, giving them plenty of
earth's good things. Thus it is today. There are elements of failure
and uncleanness in all our service, but in spite of that, if the heart
be right, we may expect spiritual blessing from God.
The frequent occurrence of the word, 'Consider', in this short
prophecy is worthy of note. Twice in the first section did the prophet
have to say to the people, 'Consider your ways'. And now in this later
section the word occurs thrice-verses 15 and 18-and we find the prophet
saying in effect, 'Consider God's ways'. He delights to own any measure
of energy and faithfulness in His service, even though there is a
measure of uncleanness and failure connected with it, and to respond to
it in blessing. In our present feebleness, conscious of failure,
proceeding both from the flesh within and the world without, we may
take much comfort from this.
The last section begins with verse 20. We have had, what we have
ventured to call, the word of rebuke, followed by the word of
encouragement, and then the word of warning. We now have what we may
call the word of exaltation, addressed personally to Zerubbabel, who
was a prince of David's line, as stated in Matthew 1: 12. The last
verse of the chapter doubtless had some application to the man himself.
Kingdoms would be overthrown, as predicted in Daniel 11, but he would
be as a signet-ring, by which God would establish His decrees. How this
worked out for Zerubbabel we know not, but we believe the Spirit of God
had in view, not so much some temporary exaltation of this man, but the
permanent exaltation of One whom he typified; even our Lord Jesus
Viewing it thus, we seem to have here an Old Testament forecast of
what is more definitely stated when we read of our Lord that, 'All the
promises of God in Him are Yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God
by us' (2 Cor. 1: 20). Only here of course the thought is greatly
amplified. Christ is He who will not only set forth and establish, as
under the stamp of a signet-ring, all God's purposes, expressed in His
promises, but also carry them to their fulness and completion so that
at last the great 'Amen' can be said. The Apostle Paul added the words
'by us', because he was dealing there with what God had promised for
the saints today, such as ourselves.
So Haggai finishes with a prediction that points to the coming
exaltation of the One whom we worship as our Saviour and our Lord. He
does so in a typical and symbolic way, some centuries before His first
advent in lowly humiliation. We wait for their fulfilment in a far more
glorious way than Haggai can have known, when at His second advent He
appears in great glory.