2004-08-24 - Encouragement
Haggai, Part 13 - Haggai 2:1-3
Haggai 2:3-5: God asks his people questions. The first is "Has anyone see the temple in its glory?" This means, was there anyone who was, at minimum, 70 years old? They could have seen it in their childhood. In some ways, the current state of the Temple, even though work had been done, would have been nothing like the earlier one. Also, keeping in mind they would have seen it as children, the difference may have been even more exaggerated.
The second question is: "How does this Temple look?" Sometimes God has to walk us through the things we are struggling with, because it we think isnt "godly" to express doubts. But if God gives us "permission" to face the questions, then we can deal with them. I can just see the senior citizens telling the people about the "good ol days" and then pointing out the Temple and being totally negative.
The third question is: "It really isnt much, is it?" Clearly, this is what the people where thinking. God is forcing them to articulate what they had already been struggling with. God knows our thoughts, so it is better to face them, giving Him the opportunity to help us deal with them, rather than ignoring them as if they didnt exist.What is the background of these questions? What was happening here?
We dont actually need to speculate. The answer is found in Ezra 3:8-13.
"In the second month of the second year, after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak and the rest of their brothers (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work, appointing Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the house of the LORD. Jeshua and his sons and brothers and Kadmiel and his sons (descendants of Hodaviah) and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothersall Levitesjoined together in supervising those working on the house of God. When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the LORD, as prescribed by David king of Israel.
No wonder the people were discouraged. Here they were celebrating, but a whole group of people were acting like it was a funeral. And usually, misery is transferred easier than joy. But the real basis for joy is not tied to circumstances. It is dependent on a relationship with God. And God reminds them of this. He is saying to each and every person, "dont get discouraged, for I am with you." Actually, He tells the people His Spirit is present among them.
God also reminds the people that because He kept His word in the past, they can be reassured in the present. He is specifically referring to the Sinai Covenant. It is for this same reason, that we can be confident. God kept his word to Israel. God sent His Son. Israel will be restored again in the future, when His Son comes again. And so we can trust God for our lives, now and in the future. Feinberg notes:
"The covenant at Sinai is refered to here. (See Ex 6:7; 19:5; and especially 33:12-14.) If the Lord kept His promise in this regard through all the intervening centuries, He can be depended upon now to maintain His promise. Yea, and His Spirit was still abiding (the participle is used signifying "abideth") with them at that very moment. Surely they have nothing to fear. God is for them; who can successfully be against them?" "I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians." "Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations, you will be my treasured possession." "Moses said to the LORD, "You have been telling me, Lead these people, but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, I know you by name and you have found favor with me. If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people."
The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."" (Exodus 6:7; 19:5; 33:12-14).And so God encouraged the people in the midst of their discouragement. Alden notes:" Haggai next offered the divine antidote: "Be strong ... be strong ... be strong ... and work. For I am with you" (v.4). Notice the same imperative thrice repeatedto Zerubbabel, to Joshua, and to all the people. Notice also the threefold repetition of the formula "declares the LORD." The problem was essentially one of attitude.
So the primary command was to take courage. When the people did that, the command to "work" would be fulfilled quite naturally. For the Lord to have only said "work," without giving assurances, would have been inadequate motivation These people did not need to be whipped, but encouraged - not cudgeled, but made optimistic. The most uplifting thing they or anyone could hear was that God was with them.