Identity Theft

John Calvin on, “Blessed are the merciful.” (Matthew 5:7)

“We must patiently bear our own afflictions-a point we have already noted-but we must also bear the afflictions of our neighbour. We must assume their identity, as it were, so as to be deeply touched by their suffering and moved by love to mourn with them.”

Haggai Part III, 2:1-9

Here is a brief commentary on Haggai’s second sermon. The phrase “Take Heart and Work” is taken from Joyce Baldwins commentary on Haggai in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series.

Haggai 2:1-9 Take Heart and Work

So Israel heard Haggai and began working on the Temple again around September 17th, 520 B.C. Haggai then comes a month later and preaches another sermon. However, there would not have been much work done during this month. Why? Because the seventh month in Israel’s calendar was a month filled with festivals. The seventh month stretched from the middle of September to the middle of October. The first day of this month was the Feast of Trumpets. The tenth day of this month was the Day of Atonement. The fifteenth day of this began the Feast of Booths, which ran for an entire week. Haggai’s second sermon came on the last day of the Feast of Booths. By this time the people were six weeks away from Haggai’s first sermon. Much of these six weeks they would have been forbidden by law to work because of the festivals. Their zeal was probably dampened by the time delay and the amount of work that lay before them. Also they had begun to realize that there was no way their temple would come close to Solomon’s Temple. (2:3) The glory of Solomon’s temple was nothing but a memory now and that is the way it would stay.

The Lord sends Haggai with a message of hope to encourage Israel to keep building. God says two things. First, he tells Israel that He is with them. Despite the smallness of their operation, the lack of outward glory of their work, God was among them. (2:4) When Israel returned to the land under Zerubbabel there was only thirty to forty thousand people who made the trip. (Ezra 2) Compared with the number coming out Egypt and the population of Israel under David and Solomon this must have seemed awfully small. But God’s power is not held back by lack of numbers. He reminds Israel that they have His Spirit and therefore they should not fear. (2:5)
Second, God tells them that He shall come and fill the temple with glory and the glory of this latter temple will exceed the glory of Solomon’s temple. These words must have stunned that ragged group of men standing around staring at a half-built temple that was only a shadow of its former glory.

What is interesting is that in the Old Testament there is no description of God’s glory filling the temple after the exile. When was this prophecy fulfilled? There is no doubt that this is ultimately fulfilled when Christ came into the temple. He is the Desire of the nations. (2:7) Christ came to the temple numerous times in his life, but two are worth noting. First, when he was presented by his parents Simeon knew this was the Savior of the world (Luke 2:21-32) and second, when he came with a whip to cleanse the Temple of the money changers. Both of these are probably fulfillments of Haggai 2:7. The writer of Hebrews notes that the preaching of the Gospel and the Kingdom of Christ are signs of this shaking of heaven and earth that Haggai mentions. (Hebrews 12:25-29)

• The presence of God should be our great aim and our great glory. Haggai reminds Israel that God is in their midst despite their size. Too often we are content with outward glory without the presence of God. Too often we are discontent with God’s presence if it does not come with outward glory. Let us rejoice in God’s presence. For when he is in our midst all is well.

• We must not despise the small works God does among us. Human hearts are easily tricked into believing that if God is going to work then the work will be dramatic, big, consisting of thousands upon thousands of people. Sometimes God does this, but usually his eye drifts towards the small people, like Abraham, David and Mary. Size is rarely an indicator of God’s hand. All around us God is working in the most surprising ways and among the most surprising people. Children are great example of this. We often look at them as a nuisance, a sideshow in God’s Kingdom. The elderly are often treated this way as well. But God dwells among his people, no matter what age they are or what size the congregation is. And where God is, He is working.