After 70-years of exile in Babylon, the Persian King Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. But the project crawls: the foundation alone takes two years to complete, enthusiasm flags, construction further slows, the work grinds to a halt. The focus of the people shifts to their own homes and farms; funds that are to be used for the temple are spent in a futile effort to make the community self-sufficient; and there is opposition from the surrounding populations who don’t want to see a Jewish state re-established.
Enter Haggai. In our reading today, this obscure prophet urges the people to finish the temple project. This new temple will not replicate the temple that Solomon built, a magnificent structure remembered by a few of the oldest citizens (Haggai 2:3; see also Ezra 3:12). Nevertheless, the glory of this second temple will be greater than the first. And the reason for this greater glory is that “what is desired by all nations will come” (Haggai 2:7). The fourth verse of the Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing picks up this line from Haggai’s prophecy: “Come, Desire of Nations, come; fix in us Thy humble home.” The interpretation of the ancient rabbis agrees with the carol: Haggai, with this language, is referring to the coming of the Messiah.
When you come to Haggai 2:9 read it thoughtfully:
The glory of the present house [or temple] will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty.
And in this place I will grant peace, declares the Lord Almighty.
The temple project will be completed. And it is to this temple, five-hundred years later, that Jesus—God in the flesh, Glory personified—comes to preach his good news of salvation and peace.
Whatever project God has put in front of you—teaching three and four-year-olds in a Sunday school class, serving as a Stephen Minister, hosting a Connection Group, sharing in the work of a missionary through financial and emotional support—press on. Allow God to do that which matters, that which is eternal, through you.
Let him touch your work with his presence. His glory.
Question of the day: What ministry or service area has God put in front of you that you need to act on?
Father, please use my gifts for your Son’s kingdom, and demonstrate your glory in my work—and in me. In Jesus’ name.