I am a Thanksgiving purist. That’s right, I do not want to move on to all things peppermint flavored before I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my pumpkin pie. Now, don’t mishear me! I’m not a Christmas hater, I love a good Christmas carol with the best of them! But I definitely don’t have my tree decorated before the Pilgrims come to town. I just like to enjoy each season in its respectful place. I think there’s a certain slowness that actually makes the Christmas season linger when it isn’t rushed into. It’s like the anticipation of December 25th is allowed to gradually build that way!
The Advent season is actually all about the building anticipation of what we look forward to but what isn’t here quite yet. And Haggai 2:1-9 captures this thrill by teaching that the current presence of the Lord merits our trust in His plans for the days ahead. “Wait, Haggai? I thought Advent was all about Christmas and the birth of baby Jesus?” Exactly! You’ll see!
This text contains a message from God delivered to the people of Israel by the Lord’s prophet, Haggai, on October 17, 520 BC. This is 18 years after King Cyrus of Babylon reinstated religious freedom and allowed the Israelite people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild after its capture and destruction. During the exile, King Solomon’s temple to the Lord had been demolished. With time, the initial excitement the people had for coming home to rebuild the temple where they worshiped had waned, and they were completely distracted by their personal responsibilities. And so Haggai delivers
A Reminder of the Past
Construction of the new temple was at a halt and left in a pretty unimpressive state. Solomon’s temple had been destroyed 66 years prior (Ezra 3:12), and anyone who would even remember the beauty of the temple would be in their 70s or older. Hardly anyone truly knew what worship of the LORD once involved. So Haggai reminds them of the temple’s “former glory” (details in 1 Kings 6-8) and equates what they had presently attempted to “nothing”. They were thinking, “There’s no way our war-torn remnant of a nation could build something similar, let alone worthy of our God. Why try?” And so Haggai gives another reminder. He urges them, “be strong” three times the same way God told Joshua after Moses’ death (Joshua 1:9) when the task of leading the Israelites seemed near impossible in comparison and like David did for Solomon at the original construction of the temple (1 Chronicles 28:20). The encouragement for moving forward with construction was not in their ability, but in the trust of the covenant the LORD made with His people. Haggai continues his message with
A Hint to the Future
God draws attention to His faithfulness in the past as a foundation to His promise for this new temple. He promises divine intervention in the cosmos and financial assistance from the nations in order to make it physically great. And then God asserts that they have to trust that He will make the temple great in reputation as well. “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts” (verse 9). What the Israelites did not realize in their self-pity was that the hideous ruins would become the very steps the Messiah Himself would climb. 46 years later with eyes set on this promised glory, the temple was completed. The glory of Solomon’s temple was out-shined the very moment Jesus was presented to the LORD at the temple as according to the Levitical law after He was born, because no greater, more righteous man had ever visited, worshiped, or taught in the original structure. Luke 2:22-40 recounts this fulfillment of God’s promise 515 years later.
But God not only promised glory for the temple, He promised to gift peace from its shelter. For centuries the people wondered with each sacrifice, “Is this the kind of peace He meant?” But the One who would bring ultimate peace by restoring the broken relationship between man and the Father permanently had finally graced the steps of that temple that seemed hopeless. At a time when the temple had become quite the opposite of peaceful because of money-changers, Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). “The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (John 2:20-21). The anticipated peace of the temple would come when its pillars no longer stood for shelter to the sinner, but when the broken body of Christ on the cross tore it down and replaced brick and mortar.
After the Israelites heard the prophecy of Haggai, they remembered God’s constant character, they worked to build the temple, and they waited for the promised Christmas morning. And so we do likewise. We remember all the fulfilled promises of the Lord, especially those concerning the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We work to expand and build His kingdom with excited anticipation until we see the fulfillment of His promise to return for us.
In the season of Advent, leverage your uncontrollable excitement for 6 AM on Christmas morning to finally get here by reminding yourself of the feelings that accompanied the Israelite people while they waited to understand the Lord’s promise to all people. Are you impatient, skipping through some of the work in order just to get the holidays over with? Are you doubtful that Christmas will ever actually get here like a kid with a countdown? Are you frantic like a last minute shopper who put off responsibility because she believed she still had plenty of time? Or do you get a little more excited with every ornament you hang and every gift you wrap? Our hearts should be joyfully confident this season in the Word of the LORD as we remember the birth of our Savior who brought with Him promised peace.
Father You are constant, trustworthy, unchanging, and true. We praise You because we can depend on Your Words and Your direction when we’re doubtful, uncertain, and insecure. We ask that You would grow our belief in Your promises and make ways for us to accomplish Your work by Your divine power until we do not have to anticipate Your return anymore.
“Prepare Him Room” song by Sovereign Grace Music
“Who Would Have Dreamed” song by Sovereign Grace Music