“Preparing To Receive Peace”
Nothing in the present can dim the peace God gives through His Spirit.
Glory Days Coming
Be Strong Waiting
Expect God to Move
Glory Days Coming
Haggai 2:1-3, NKJV
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying: 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: ‘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?
There are many specific dates given in Scripture that are confusing in our twenty-first century thought because of the uniformity of the calendar and designation of time. This was not found in the ancient world where many calendars were in use at the same time among the different nations. This makes it difficult to discover exact times and dates that are equivalent to the modern calendar used around the world.
The seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month indicated here by the Prophet Haggai would fall somewhere in the time of September/October of our present calendar year. The reason why this date is important was the people would have been celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths (Leviticus 23:33-44). It was a celebration that was designed to remind the Israelites that God made their ancestors dwell in temporary shelters upon leaving Egypt. It was during this specific celebration that God spoke this word to Haggai to give to the leaders of the exiles who had returned from captivity.
The timing of God’s word to His people is always significant for what the people are experiencing at the time. The captives were instructed to go back and rebuild the Temple of God (Ezra 1:1-2:1). During the construction focus and enthusiasm over the mission the returning exiles were called to complete was lost because their priority was given to personal needs over the calling of God (Haggai 1:3-15). Governor Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua along with the people lost sight of their original calling to rebuild the Temple and insisted on tending to their personal needs which has happened throughout the centuries in the church as well.
This is because present and future things seem to lack the same glory and greatness of things that were done in the past. There were many who viewed the rebuilding of the Temple as insufficient compared to the first Temple build by King Solomon. Those who remembered what the Temple was like previously wept while those who never saw the former Temple rejoiced and celebrated the new construction. The glory days had past and the present and future simply did not come close to matching what had been known.
People have a tendency to aspire to things whenever they know and believe they are building or doing something that is greater than themselves. Those who lack the confidence that what they are involved in will make any real difference in their lives or in the world will lack the determination to set personal priorities and preferences aside to accomplish the work that is before them. This is generally true of all people whether inside or outside of the body of Christ. It is part of the sinful nature to give up or refrain from doing anything that is not personally gratifying or seen to have value to them personally. This is why there seems to always be conflict between generations which makes multi-generational activities so difficult. Neither sees value in what the other generation remembers or envisions.
God delivered this specific word to His prophet to remind the people that what is experienced in the present is nothing compared to what is waiting for them when they wait upon Him. Living in temporary shelters once a year for a week to remind them of the hardships their forefathers went through helped them to appreciate where God had brought them to over the years. It also was to encourage them by helping them to see that God had something much better in store for His people than what they were currently satisfied with and enjoying. Every generation needs to be reminded that the past was bringing them to where they are presently, but the present is still not the best of what life is all about when they place their faith in the Lord.
The early Christians turned to faith in Jesus as the Messiah God had promised and the Jews waited for Him to arrive. The Jewish leaders saw those who followed Jesus as a new sect that was distorting the teachings of Moses and destroying the very core of their society by proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. These leaders and traditionalists who stirred up trouble for the apostles remembered the glory days of the past. Those who accepted that Jesus was the Messiah of God could not fathom how the Jews could hold onto the legalism of the Mosaic Law and forfeit the grace of God through faith in Jesus the Christ.
Paul continually tried to reason and explain to his fellow Jews that the reality of what they had hoped for had come true in their lifetime. Paul ministered to the Gentiles as well as the Jews since God in Christ fulfilled the prophesy given to Abraham that he would be a blessing to all nations. In Christ there is no longer Jew and Gentile, but all are one in Christ Jesus as He is one with the Father (Genesis 12:1-3; Romans 5:1-5; 1 Corinthians 8:6). The law was designed to help the people understand their sinfulness and prepare them to accept the Messiah’s sacrifice on their behalf as an atonement for sin (Isaiah 53:1-12).
The Jews like most people do today expect the Lord to make things better but still desire that everything stay the same. These things cannot exist together at the same time. If things change, it is impossible for them to remain the same. It is also frustrating for many people because the things God is changing are not the things they wanted to change. No one wants their comfort and preferences to be challenged or revealed as less than the great thing they imagined it to be. Many will be completely satisfied with where they are currently because changing is simply too hard and frightening to go through.
It must be remembered that this fallen, sinful world is less than God created it to be since mankind has willingly rebelled against God. The perfection of creation has been tainted, but the shadow of its former glory can be seen in many ways. The beauty of the sunrise and sunset, the natural wonders of creation, and glimpses of God’s image in people make some believe that these things are the greatest they can be. The truth is the most beautiful of things that can be seen now on earth are dim and so much less than what is prepared for those who are in Christ.
Scripture makes it clear that no eye has seen or ear has heard what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9). The descriptions of the new heavens and the new earth in Isaiah 65:17-25 and Revelation 21:1-22:5 are so far beyond what can be comprehended by the human mind most think that it cannot be real. This is because great things are described to people now and there is always something that causes them to be less than what they are proclaimed to be.
There are famous streets in major cities and states that show the glamour in advertising, but close by is found people who have less than adequate housing, buildings in ill repair, and crime. The same is true with medicines that are promoted in advertisements of how well they work and take care of pains. There are always side effects, disclaimers, warranty limitations, and restrictions that allow companies to be released from accountability when their products do not live up to the reality of their claims. This is true with everything that people do, but it is not so with God.
What God promises He follows through with and it is better than what people can imagine. The word pictures of heaven and the description of eternal life with Christ as well as the perfection described in Genesis of the creation and the Garden of Eden He placed Adam and Eve are certainly wonderful to imagine. However, it was and will be better than what mankind’s imaginations can dream about. The most glorious thing about submitting to Almighty God is that He and all His promises surpasses anything people can expect and He guarantees to deliver without fail. Therefore, as good as the past might seem or no matter how great the future is imagined to be, the glory days are still yet to come for those who are in Christ Jesus. That means while what God has promised is waited upon His people wait in expectation and anticipation of what is to come.
Be Strong Waiting
Haggai 2:4-5, NKJV
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; 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!’
There are many things in life that God’s people will encounter and endure which cause them to long all the more to physically be in His kingdom. The pain and heartache of this life can steal away the realization of the peace Christ has given to His people just as quickly as it does the joy of the Lord in their lives. The only defense against the theft of peace which holds the children of God firm in the most frustrating of times is understanding the brevity of life in this world, and the seriousness of the calling they have been given to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Zerubbabel and Joshua are told to be strong. This has the idea of being courageous and to overpower whatever is opposing them. This is where the promises of God are more than future realities that will be experienced. God’s promises are also present realities that give support to God’s people to move forward in confidence and assurance of His Spirit’s power over the obstacles and opposition against what God has called His people to do. The strength God is giving is for all the people as well as their leaders. They too are encouraged to set aside their fear and doubts which often prevent people from stepping out in faith and trusting in the Lord to follow His commands and instructions.
God supplies the reason for the strength they are to have when He says, “I am with you...” God is explaining to the people that He is near them, closer than they can truly comprehend in their logic. The Lord’s closeness to His people is something that has many benefits for those who He is with, and devastating consequences for those who are opposed to His people. The presence of God has the power to cause demonic powers to flee and release those they hold in bondage (Mark 1:32-34; Acts 19:11-20). God’s presence can move the hearts of heathen kings to willingly do His will (Exodus 14:1-5; Ezra 1:1; Nehemiah 6:1-16). It is easy to forget that He that is within the people of God is greater than he that is in the world when the physical is so tangible (1 John 4:4).
God is telling the leaders and people that their work is accomplished through His power and protection. God’s people all too often believe they do the work of God for Him in their own strength and with their personal resources. The truth is no one can do anything for God except what He gives them the strength, resources, and ability to do (John 15:5-8). The work of God is accomplished only by God. He invites His people to be part of what He is doing by allowing them to be used of Him in the process. The results are God’s responsibility as well. God’s people are simply called to obey.
Obedience is much easier when the pressure to produce a specific outcome is removed and when someone else is providing all they need to accomplish the task assigned. God knows that it is impossible for people to do what they cannot do in their sinfulness. The Spirit of God was among the people in Ezra’s time, but He is within His people today in the Church. This means there is an even closer presence God has with His people than the returning exiles enjoyed. They were able to successfully do things that their enemies thought was impossible and were helpless to prevent them from completing what God had commanded them to do. Therefore, the Church is able to do greater things because they are indwelt by the fullness of Christ’s Spirit. Who can really be against God’s people if He is in them? No one, not even the gates of Hell can stand against us (Matthew 16:18; Romans 8:31-39).
God is faithful to His Word at all times. The reason why the people could take God at His word was due to the faithfulness to His covenant with His people that is eternal. God is referring to the covenant He made with His people while they were coming out to Egypt (Exodus 29:45-46). Centuries had passed since the time of the Exodus, but God was remaining faithful to His word to be with them and care for them as He was to discipline them when they disobeyed Him (Deuteronomy 30:11-20). The Lord is faithful to the blessings of His people as well as the correction of His people. Correction from God is as loving as the blessing since both bring His people closer to Him and are used to transform them into the image of His Son, Christ Jesus.
The people of God can stand firm in these spiritually dark days where immorality appears to be increasing to ever greater lows revealing the depravity of humanity. It will be difficult to stand firm in Christ if the focus of life is set on the things that are going wrong and the disobedience of those inside and outside of the church. The reality of the present age must be acknowledged and not ignored or overlooked. Recognizing how bad things are will provide us with knowing how to engage the culture of today with peace of mind knowing that God has already overcome and defeated the sin that is destroying the lives of people without faith in Christ Jesus. The peace of Christ shines brightest and is most evident when the child of God is surrounded and bombarded by the depravity of the world and remains faithful to the calling of God.
As God’s people wait upon the physical reality of the fullness of God’s promise of the new heavens and the new earth it is of the highest priority for everything to be done in an attitude of peace. There should be nothing that takes place or is rumored to be coming that sets the people of God to hiding in homes and seeking to escape the world around them. Times will call for the church to avoid the attention of authorities in order to be able to worship and share Jesus with others. Those living under these conditions socially and politically are standing firm and ministering in the name of Jesus faithfully with boldness since what they are doing can cause them great physical pain, social disgrace, imprisonment, and even death. It must never be said that God’s people refused to stop telling others about the hope, joy, and peace they have in Christ simply because mankind told them to stop doing it.
The apostles were told not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus the Christ, the risen Savior (Acts 4:13-21). They suffered physically with beatings, being thrown in jail, and executed, but they continued to proclaim the name of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit living within them as all of God’s people must still do today and as long as the Lord tarries in His return. Being strong in waiting for the Lord to bring about the fulfillment of His promises means to continue to allow the Spirit of God to bring sanctification into our lives through personal and collective study of the Bible, continuing to do all the Lord has set before the church in making disciples of all nations, and surrendering daily personal preferences and desires to do the work of the Lord.
Expect God to Move
Haggai 2:6-9, NKJV
“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; 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. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘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.”
There were two specific occasions that God has impacted the entirety of creation. Bringing about all that exists from nothing would be the first time God shook all heaven and earth (Genesis 1:1-2:3). The great flood through which Noah and his family only survived would be the other occasion (Genesis 7:1-24). In both of these situations what took place was something that everything was certainly aware of happening. Everything came into being on the first occasion and everything died or was displaced on the second instance. God is promising to affect the entirety of creation which will leave everyone and everything changed forever.
The title “Desire of All Nations” is a person rather than a geographical location or object. This is a title that is used of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. There are others who believe God is proclaiming that the nations will bring all their treasures to the newly constructed Temple based on the Hebrew wording used. The reason for being confident for believing this is a reference to the Messiah is based on the fact that the Temple being referred to by God in this passage was destroyed by the Romans centuries later. If God’s Word is true and binding, the building itself could not be the focus, but it was speaking of Christ instead who is the Desire of All Nations.
There is no longer a sacred physical geographical location where God has placed His name upon as He once did with the Tabernacle and then the Temples built by human hands. God’s name and Spirit rests now in the hearts of all those who turn to Him in faith and surrender their lives to Him. Christ is the desire in heaven and ought to also be the desire of everyone on the earth as well. Sin blinds the hearts and minds of people by causing other desires to seem greater than Christ. The temporary pleasure, joy, and peace distracts them from the permanent joy and peace that can be only found in the Lord. It is among Christ’s body, the Church, where people in the world are to sense His presence and see the transformation He brings into a person’s life. People once encountered God in physical places, but today He is to be encountered through His people.
The pleasure of following the Lord and submitting to His authority in this life is delayed. Following the Lord in this fallen world brings suffering, sacrifice, and pain which people do anything to avoid. Yet the momentary discomfort of obedience to God in a world rebelling against Him is little price to pay for an eternity of living with God in perfect harmony as He has always intended for His people to live. If those who claim faith in Christ do not expect God to be involved with them in real time throughout their day, those who are in the world can never experience the reality of faith in Christ as a relationship with the living God. They will be confused into assuming that faith in Christ Jesus is just like faith in one of the false deities in the world worshiped by the religions of this world that leave people empty and hurting.
God is always doing something and interceding for His people no matter the circumstances they are enduring. He is moving them to where He has designed them to be by preparing them for that place through the circumstances and situations He is currently bringing them through. God uses the moments of blissful blessing on the spiritual mountain top just as powerfully as the deepest darkest valley He leads His child through to groom them for what He is calling them to do now and where He intends them to serve Him in His kingdom.
God’s children must not fight against the things He is using currently to draw them closer to Him. The Lord is moving continually on behalf of His people for their good (Romans 8:28-30). There is always going to be times that discomfort will be greater than what is going to be liked. These times of great stress and trial teach God’s children to rely on His strength instead of their own. The good times experienced by the people of God are the appetizers of the joys that are greater in heaven then anything that could ever be enjoyed here in this sinful world. Every moment in between is where the lessons learned in the extremes must be used in ministering to those without salvation from God’s wrath through faith in Christ Jesus so they will know the truth about their sin, God’s judgment, and redemption through Christ’s sacrifice.
There is no reason for panic and worry to overtake the child of God. The Prince of Peace has given us eternal peace in reconciling all who will believe upon the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Therefore, no matter the difficulties of the present circumstances or the future worries of impending doom, God gives His people peace by helping them to understand that He is still on the throne of eternity and nothing and no one can usurp His authority. Let God’s people testify to the truth of God by calmly, peacefully enduring all things in the assurance of God’s salvation.