• Rev. Mark Tews

God’s Provision, Promise, and Peace

In Haggai 2:1–9, we take a look at the people of Israel during the ministry of Haggai the prophet. Seventy years earlier, the Babylonians invaded the Southern Kingdom, destroyed Solomon's beautiful temple in Jerusalem, and took the Israelites away to Babylon. After 50 years, some of the people were allowed to return to Israel. When they arrived, they began the process of rebuilding the temple, but the work stopped after a short time because of opposition from the Samaritans. For 16 years the temple remained unfinished. Then, God raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to call the people back to their task of rebuilding the temple. It only took a month for them to become discouraged. They were disappointed by the temple they were building and they were discouraged in their work. God told Haggai to encourage them to carry on by reminding them (and us) of God’s provision, what God had done for them in the past, and God’s promise for the future.

God’s provision comes in many forms. Sometimes, His plan for His people starts centuries in advance! Haggai told the people, “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt.” (Haggai 2:4–5). How specifically did He provide for the rebuilding of the temple? “Then Darius the king made a decree, and search was made in Babylonia, in the house of the archives where the documents were stored. And in Ecbatana, the citadel that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found on which this was written: ‘A record. In the first year of Cyrus the king, Cyrus the king issued a decree: Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices were offered, and let its foundations be retained. Its height shall be sixty cubits and its breadth sixty cubits, with three layers of great stones and one layer of timber. Let the cost be paid from the royal treasury. And also let the gold and silver vessels of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took out of the temple that is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and brought back to the temple that is in Jerusalem, each to its place. You shall put them in the house of God.’” (Ezra 6:1–5). God had a pagan king provide the funding for the temple from his own treasury! Do you see the significance here? Many years before the temple was to be rebuilt, God had spoken to King Cyrus about funding the project, and then He reminded King Darius to provide the financial resources that the Jews needed in reconstructing it. Trust that God has a plan and that He will provide!

God had an important message for His people as they reflected on the past. God told Haggai to ask, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory?” It had been 66 years since Solomon's temple had been destroyed. Certainly, there were some people among the Jews who remembered the gold-covered walls, the splendor, the size, and the breathtaking beauty of the old temple. They recalled the days when the glory of God filled the temple and it reverberated with His praises. This new temple seemed like an embarrassment in comparison; small, simple, and basic. But God’s message through Haggai was that “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former ... And in this place I will give peace.” God was not referring to the building, instead He spoke of Jesus in the temple that would happen many centuries later.

Far too often, we look at how things used to be, forgetting that the God of yesterday is the same as the God of today. If we are not careful, we can get caught comparing the way things are with the way they used to be. We tend to remember the past as being better than it was making the present seem worse than it is. When we live in the past and downgrade the present, the result is disappointment and discouragement. If we are not careful, we may fail to see that the greatest days of our lives, the greatest days of our church, and the greatest days of our ministry, are sitting in front of us, not behind us! Learn from the past, don’t live there.

God tells us to be strong and work. When we get discouraged and disappointed, there is a tendency for us to want to quit. But God says, get up and get to work. We all find ourselves discouraged or disappointed from time to time, but we should never allow that to distract us from the work God has given us to do. When we hold onto the past and refuse to serve God in the present, we are not honoring Him.

So, what about the future? God promises that one day, this world will be shaken to pieces and will fall at the feet of the Messiah. The world is in turmoil; with war, all its false teachers, dead works, and increasing iniquity. Nothing has changed. This world has been this way since the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Assyria conquered Israel, Babylonians captured Judah, Persians toppled the Babylonians, Greeks defeated the Persians, Romans conquered the Greeks – and so on. The nations of this world are in a constant state of agitation and conflict. FEAR NOT! The day will come when our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ will return and will topple every earthly king and kingdom, ushering in His eternal Kingdom.

What will be left after God has shaken the earth? The things that cannot be shaken! Hebrews 12:28–29 tells us that God is an all-consuming fire, but that His Kingdom cannot be shaken and will stand in the last day. God promised that there would be a Temple of Glory that is greater than any earthly temple. God knew that 500 years after the Israelites rebuilt the temple, He would send His only Son, Jesus Christ, the very Glory of Heaven itself, to save us all. The Israelites didn’t know it at the time, but they were building the temple where Jesus would one day walk.

The Apostle Paul asked the Corinthians a question that we should also answer: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) and “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Through the Holy Spirit, God’s temple is in us all. If you aren’t feeling very holy or deserving of His presence, remember that God is the one who fills His temple with His glory, not us! Our sins have been washed away with the blood of Jesus Christ. Our small, simple, basic works are made beautiful, glorious, and sufficient through Him! Do not be afraid, discouraged, or in despair! “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18). Place your trust in Jesus Christ today and He will make you His temple and fill you with His peace!