“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.
This short book of the Bible (that I pronounce “Hag-Eye”) is like an unexpected note in your lunchbox.
Have you ever received a short note of encouragement from someone that was tucked away in an unexpected place? You opened your luncbox and found it, or you found a post-it stuck to a book or on your desk? Haggai gives me something of that feeling.
It is one of the short books of the Old Testament. The prophet is writing to the people who have returned from exile in Babylon. They come back to find the ruins of the old temple. It is depressing. They begin to rebuild their lives by rebuilding their own houses – looking out for themselves, separated from one another in community.
The prophet Haggai brings a message from God that encourages them not to get lost in their individual needs, but to see that their individual needs are met by God who still dwells among all of them. For that reason they need to rebuild the symbol of His presence – the temple of his glory.
God isn’t a megalomaniac who needs his people to live in the cold while they create a worship space that will make him happy. If we are unfamiliar with the long history of God’s people we might be tempted to read this on a surface level. No. God is reminding them that he is at the center of meeting all their needs. He always has been.
Before the exile, the nation of Israel was threatened all the time by other invading nations. The kingdom of Israel was a small strip of land between larger land masses and greater geo-political entities. These large countries had interest in taking over the small land bridge that stood between them and their enemies.
Too often, Israel sought their protection in alliances with other countries rather than trusting God to defeat their enemies the way he had defeated Pharaoh when Israel crossed the Red Sea out of Egypt (Exodus 14). They didn’t believe God was at the center of meeting their individual needs and protecting the needs of their community even though the temple, the symbol of his presence with them, stood in the middle of their capital city.
Now, after the exile, after God himself had moved their enemies to set them free the community of Israel was about to make the same mistake as before.
Through Haggai, God sends a note of encouragement into the lunchbox of his people. Build the temple! Don’t neglect my presence that is with you. It has been with you. It will be with you now, and there is a future glory coming that will outshine everything up to this point!
Jesus is ultimately the latter glory of the temple and the one who brings the final peace. He meets our greatest individual need by taking our sin on himself on the cross and dresses us in his righteousness through his resurrection. In Him, we become the true people of God. In Him, we find our peace individually and as a community.
In the season where we celebrate the incarnation, we recognize that the latter glory has come, and in Christ we have God’s peace.