The prophet Haggai wrote to the people of Judah after they returned from their exile. Over 70 years had passed since Nebuchadnezzar defeated their city, destroyed Solomon’s beautiful temple, and burned the gates of the city with fire. Most of the people living during the days of Haggai were born in Babylon. They had heard stories from their parents about Jerusalem and the temple but only a few of the oldest people had ever seen it.
Now they returned to Jerusalem and were busy building houses for themselves and rebuilding the temple. The temple of the Lord, however, had been neglected. Haggai pointed out the people’s failure to rebuild the temple and the price they were paying for that failure. “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build My house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” said the LORD. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declared the LORD Almighty. “Because of My house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
Some time had passed. The people had taken to heart the Word of the Lord through Haggai, so they began work on the new temple. Unfortunately, the older people who had seen Solomon’s temple were sad; this new temple seemed pathetic by comparison. The LORD asked, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?”
Solomon’s temple was a treasure, an architectural sight to behold. The poverty of the people at this point in Israel’s history prevented them from building anything like what Solomon had made. They did the best they could with what they had, but their best wasn’t even close to Solomon’s best work.
God sent the prophet Haggai with this message to encourage the people to keep working. It was true that the new temple would seem like a joke compared to the one it replaced but that was not important. The important thing is that God was with them: “‘For I am with you,’ declared the LORD Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And My Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’”
Then He made promises to them. “I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” said the LORD Almighty. God made the most important promise which was that He would be there; His glory would inhabit the new temple just as it had the old one. He would provide the money for it, too: “‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declared the LORD Almighty.”
Finally, God said that this temple would someday be greater, more glorious than Solomon’s temple had been: “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ said the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declared the LORD Almighty.’” That glory might not have been architectural but it would be better–God would work there making peace.
There are times when God’s work seems to take a step (or more than that) backward. What was once exciting, powerful, growing, and wonderful becomes something much less than any of those adjectives. It is naturally discouraging to God’s people when that happens. God, however, wants us to know that He uses small things. When things are weak, God can show His strength.
Are you discouraged about anything in your life because it just isn’t anywhere near what it used to be or could be? This is your opportunity, then, to believe in God and ask Him to work. God can take even the most meager things and make them great, so ask Him to glorify Himself that way. (BRIAN JONES)