Haggai 2, God’s Cure for Discouragement

Intro: Ezra informs us that the rebuilding of the Temple began in 2nd Month of the 2nd year of Darius (Ezra 3:8 (corresponding to our springtime). As indicated in their words of praise emanating from the people, these events were clear evidence of God’s goodness and mercy towards His people, Israel (v. 11). Things were looking up. But Satan is not idle in such times. He is constantly looking for ways to disrupt the work of God’s people. Ezra 4:1-5 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the Lord God of Israel, 2 they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers’ houses, and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers’ houses of Israel said to them, “You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” 4 Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, 5 and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

  • Some translation render discourage in vs. 4 as “weaken the hands of“. Even when all else is in place, discouragement in the hearts of those who are called to do the work can bring everything to a screeching halt. Ezra 4:24Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. For fifteen years no work was done on God’s house. What would get the people back to work?
  • This is where God’s voice was absolutely essential. God had two prophets who were ready for the task. Ezra 5:1-2 – Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.
  • In our first look into the prophecy of Haggai we studied the first message God gave him. In a nutshell, God told Israel it was time for them to get back to work on His house. They had attended to their own homes. They were called to “consider their ways” (v. 3-5) and recognize that their unfulfilled lives (both physically and spiritually) were due to their idleness.
  • Their message “stirred up” the people, and they “feared the presence of the Lord“. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, they began to work again on the Temple (v. 12-15)
  • Problem solved, right? Despite the fact that they picked up their hammers and chisels, the Lord had more to say to His people.

I. The Cause of Discouragement: Less than a month after delivering the call for Israel to return to work on the Temple, on the last day of the feast of the Tabernacles, he receives a second message intended to look deeper into the problem that existed. Why had they stopped working? As we read previously, there was opposition from their neighbors. But there was another source of their discouragement. Haggai 2:1-3 – In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?

A. Remembering the Wrong Things: Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Haggai was delivering this message in 520 B.C. Can you recall what was happening 66 years ago? Haggai himself may have been a young boy when the temple was destroyed in 586 B.C. Certainly there must have been many people over 75 who remembered the splendor of Solomon’s temple before it was destroyed, and mourned for what they had lost. No doubt, they recalled the glory of the old days and remarked that this new Temple was nothing in comparison. Where was the gold and silver that had marked Solomon’s temple? From the outside it appeared to these older folks (and maybe others who they had influenced) that the new Temple could never be as glorious. Someone has remarked that it was like they were “building a shanty on the ruins of the Taj Mahal.” Perhaps it just wasn’t worth the effort. (Ezra 3:12 records this sentiment when the foundation of the Temple was first laid years before -” old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes.“)

    • The returning exiles did not have the resources of Solomon
    • There were significant pieces of furniture that were missing (Ark of the Covenant).
    • Could an inferior temple secure the protection and blessing of God?

1. There seemed to be problem with their memory (sometimes that is true with older people!). It was not that they could not remember, but that their memory was selective. They remembered the outward beauty of the former Temple, and had forgotten why that Temple was destroyed. God had abandoned the former Temple because their ancestors were idolaters. In the end there was no glory in the former building. The security and glory of God’s Temple was contingent upon His presence, not the gold or silver of the building.

Note: God makes no distinction between the temple of Solomon and the Temple of Zerubbabel. He calls the Temple they are remembering as “this temple”, signifying that He had only one. This language points to the spiritual character of the temple as expressed in the subsequent promises of its coming glory (2:7, 9)

II. The Cure for Discouragement: Haggai’s message reveals God’s antidote to the discouraging sentiments being voiced among the people. Haggai 2:4 – 4 Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the Lord; ‘and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,’ says the Lord, ‘and work…

 A. Three times he repeats it; To Zerubbabel- Be strong. To Joshua – Be strong. To the people – Be strong and work. This is not a call for physical strength. They had the manpower and tools to finish. They needed spiritual or inward strength of mind to not allow negative thinking to “weaken their hands“. Satan is very successful here. But God’s call is not just to think positively, but realistically.

    • David – 1 Sam 17:32-37 Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” 33 And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, 35 I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” 37 Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” David saw things as they really were, and therefore was strong.

The same perspective was needed among the workers in Jerusalem. God was behind their efforts, and no present difficulty or longing for the past should weaken their resolve to do the work. Be strong.

B. Look Up – Much of their discouragement came from their memory of the past (former glory of the former Temple). So God calls them to remember what really mattered – Haggai 2:4-5 – …for I am with you,’ says the Lord of hosts. According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’ Could they remember the words of the covenant God made with them when He brought them out of Egypt?

1. “My Spirit remains among you” – The covenant of Sinai, made 1000 years earlier, was based upon God’s promise that He would be with His people inasmuch as they served Him. The Tabernacle in the wilderness was a standing testimony to the promise. Ex 29:43-46 – And there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory. 44 So I will consecrate the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. I will also consecrate both Aaron and his sons to minister to Me as priests. 45 I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. 46 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God. What more encouraging word could God provide? If God’s Spirit was among them what did they need to fear?

C. Look Ahead – The third element of Haggai’s message, and God’s cure for their discouragement is a prophetic look forward.Haggai 2:6-9 – For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. 8 ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. 9 ‘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,’ says the Lord of hosts.” The words of verse 9 were contrary to all their negative expectations and gave all their work meaning. Greater glory than the former.

1. But when would this happen? The language is similar to previous prophecies concerning the upheaval and removal of nations as pointing to the time when God would establish His Kingdom. Haggai mentions this time again in 2:21-23. His words are both symbolic and Messianic. The applications points to the shaking and fall of subsequent nations from then to the time of the Messiah (Medo-Persian, Greek, Syria, Egypt, and even Rome).

a. “Desire of all nations“. – some see this phrase as a reference to Christ Himself (as the One the nations will desire), but the better interpretation is that it refers to all that is desirable among the nations being brought into God’s temple.(ASV) As such it points to a time when the people of other nations will come into God’s temple, thus increasing the glory of the Temple itself.

b. This Messianic view is bolstered by the use of Haggai’s words in Hebrews 12. Heb 12:25-29 25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. In a depiction of the coming of a new covenant he applies the words of Haggai to the removal of the Law of Moses (removal of things being shaken) so that those things that cannot be shaken (new covenant, Kingdom of Christ) will remain.

c. “the silver is mine, the gold is mine” In a response to their discouraging outlook, God points out that if He wanted a Temple like the former one (filled with gold and silver) He could certainly provide it. God is sufficient. The supply of material things is a part of God’s work, but the glory rests elsewhere. God’s glory is found in His holiness and transcendence. In the salvation and grace He provides for His people.

d. “in this place I will give peace” – the former Temple was not a place of lasting peace. 2 Chron 36:15-16 – And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. 16 But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. The former temple was destroyed and there was no peace provided for God’s people in it. Even later, in the physical temples of Zerubbabel and Herod, God brought His discipline (“you have made my house a den of thieves“)

        • But the days were coming for Haggai, and all those who would be the faithful remnant, when God’s Temple would be a place of real lasting peace. God’s people would truly be a holy kingdom of priests, offering up spiritual sacrifices. 1 Peter 2:5 – You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul also saw a coming Peace when all nations would come together in worship to God. Eph 2:14-17 – 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Conclusion: Haggai’s message was plain. God’s answer to Discouragement is

Be Strong &Keep Working.

Look Up – God is with Us

Look Ahead – The Best is Yet to Come.

  • Are you discouraged? Listen to God’s word carefully. There is every reason to be confident.
  • Are you in the Temple of God? Not a building, but a relationship through Christ.