But now take courage, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work! For I am with you, declares the LORD of Hosts.
I. THE GLORIOUS FACT OF THE REAL PRESENCE OF THE LORD WITH HIS CHURCH.
1. This truth is constantly declared in the oracles of God.
2. It was brought home to the Israelites in the olden times by means of symbolical representations.
3. It was impressed upon these returned captives by the raising up of faithful men to declare the Divine wilt, and to stimulate them to renewed devotion.
4. It is made manifest to us in the Incarnation of God in Christ. Not only will God in very deed dwell with man upon the earth, but he has even taken man's nature into union with his own. He has come to us, affecting us not only with the glory of his majesty, but revealing to his very heart, and unveiling to us the intensity of his infinite love.
II. THE INFLUENCE WHICH THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF THIS GREAT TRUTH SHOULD EXERT UPON HIS SERVANTS.
1. It should be to them in times of depression the source of strong consolation. "Be strong" (ver. 4); i.e. Be comforted.
2. It should take from them all craven fear, inspiring them with holy courage: "Fear ye not" (ver. 5).
3. It should impel them to renewed consecrated endeavour: "and work" (ver. 4). - S.D.H.
Work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts.Milton calls "the upright heart and pure." Religion has been shifted from the outward to the inward realm. "The kingdom of God is within you." That is the true shrine, from which influence may reach out to wider realms. And since the sphere has changed, the work of rearing the temple has also changed. Then the work was hard, but it only tired the hand. Now the heart, rather than the hand, needs to be engaged. The tax is on the spirit rather than on the limbs. To labour in the invisible is far more trying than in the visible realm. The highest things cannot be weighed in scales and set down in columns. What is true of the work within is also true of the spiritual work we attempt in the world. It is invisible — wrought in the hidden chambers of the heart. It is true that the fruit sometimes becomes Visible in the life. But the spiritual temple we are seeking to rear may be growing in strength and beauty, and we see it not, or only catch momentary glimpses of the growing building. Now and then we are permitted to see that our work is not in vain in the Lord. The higher the realm, the less visible or tangible are the results. Manual work is more visible than intellectual. Intellectual work is more visible than spiritual. But the thinker accomplishes more than the artisan; and the spiritual more than the intellectual teacher. This is the true incentive to work — "the Lord is on our side." The conviction that God is with us will make us work.
(W. Garrett Horder.)
Sermons by Monday Club.The people had grown indifferent and neglectful of God, as is the case with all who are not earnestly engaged in religious activities, giving their attention to fitting up and adorning their own dwellings, while the house of the Lord was left unbuilt. Haggai was sent to reprove them for their neglect, to call their attention to the blighting curse upon them because of this neglect, and encourage them to resume the work on the temple of God. The new temple was to be of the same dimensions as the old. But it was not to be overlaid with gold, or to have such imposing accessories for worship. It seems that the ark had been lost, and the tables, and the mercy-seat. There was no visible glory, and no Urim and Thummim. Hence the lamentations of the ancient men, who could make contrasts. We have narrated here sadness and rejoicing over the same thing. But such is life all round the world. Age made unfavourable comparisons, while youth, whatever the comparisons, delighted in the new and promiseful. The aged naturally, and almost inevitably, live in things behind them; the young in things around them, and before them. The danger is, that echoes of the past will mar the music of the present, and that the music of the present will mar the echoes of the past. Haggai's encouraging reference to God as with their fathers, and pledge of the same God as with them, was to the people a revelation and inspiration. It, however, seemed to this people that the times had changed. The prophet, therefore, is sent to encourage them with assurances that God is with them in their work, as truly as He was with their fathers. They may miss something of the grandeur and glory of the former temple; but what of this if God is still their God? The Divine presence would be in the new temple more manifestly than in the old. Therefore they should resume their work in confidence and rest in peace. We fall into the same false ways of judging. When present possessions and conditions seem to compare unfavourably with past possessions and conditions, we grieve and murmur and lose heart. Human lives do not always run in the same channels. Change after change is the lot of universal man. Where is rest? Where is inspiration? In the assurance that God is with us as He was with our fathers, and as He was with us in former times. At that very moment when the Jews were repining God had in mind a temple whose glory should far outshine the old, and He had all power to bring in this glory. He was to accomplish convulsions in the earth, and bring in the "Desire of all nations." Five stages in human history were then passed, from Adam to Noah; thence to Abraham; thence to Moses; thence to Solomon's temple, and thence to the Captivity. Only one stage remained — thence to the kingdom of the Messiah. These halting, hesitating Jews saw not that kingdom, and hence they were heavy-hearted. We are often blind, hence heavy-hearted. What we need to remember is that we have a present personal God, whatever the age of the world, or whatever the wants of our lives. Memories of blessing should make us glad instead of sad, even though present conditions may seem less favourable than former ones. Everything in heaven and earth is under the control of God for the perfection of human character, and for the world-wide end of righteousness and peace. Christian workers ought never to be discouraged. Whatever the present seeming, this world is not going from bad to worse, but from better to better; and best of all, the best things await every true child of God. We set you in the midst of memories, and let you enlarge upon them.
1. Think of self.
2. Think of associated lives and labours.God never failed those loved ones who are now at rest and out of sight. Beacon fires have blazed on all the mountain-tops. They shall burn on until far lands have been lighted up, and the new temple of peace and truth shall have completion; when He who was the glory of Israel's temple shall come again for crowning.
(Sermons by Monday Club.)
1. The enthusiasm of the people was but a transient fervour. Steadfastness is a cardinal virtue. The reward is to him that over cometh.
2. Then they began to question and calculate. Might it not be that the project was premature? The altar was restored, why could not the temple wait? Some said, "The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built."
3. Meanwhile there was the natural concern as to temporal affairs. One by one the workmen left the temple walls, and turned their energy to affairs of more personal moment. Perhaps if they had continued to devote themselves to God's sanctuary, He might have devised some plan for providing for their wants.
4. There were other things that conspired to arrest the work. The adjacent tribes had set themselves against it Not until Darius came to the throne did the Jews pluck up courage to resume the work. Haggai's prophecies are brief and fragmentary, consisting of three addresses all delivered within a period of three months. In the first he admonished them that self-seeking at the expense of the Lord's work is a losing venture. Their own prosperity had suffered. It may seem that Haggai appealed to a low motive, but the Jews were always sensitive at this point. They had ever an eye to the main chance, and they have to this day. The Lord knew how to move their sluggish natures. When Darius issued an order endorsing the original permission to build, Haggai delivered his second address. The resources seemed inadequate to a great enterprise, and it seemed hardly worth while to build what must be an inferior house. Haggai is to assure them that God was with them, and the glory of the latter house should surpass that of the earlier one. How could that be?(1) God would here manifest Himself in the outpouring of His power. Sublime messages of truth, announcements of Divine faithfulness in the fulfilment of old-time shadows, flaming prophecies of ultimate glory were to be heard amid these rising walls.(2) But, better still, Messiah Himself was to worship at the altar, and walk among these porches. If the light of the golden candlesticks was quenched, what mattered it? The Light of the World was here to shine forth.(3) If God were so minded He might adorn the second temple with wealth incomputable. "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine."(4) Still further, the latter house was to be beautified with salvation. "For in this place will I give peace." With such considerations as these did the prophet encourage the builders. Then came Haggai's third message. He began by admonishing them that sin disqualifies for holy service. Then he touches upon their sordidness and want of faith. Let them turn and trust God. Still it holds true that godliness, obedience, simple trust, is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). On the same day when this address was made to the people a special word of encouragement was sent through the prophet to Zerubbabel. Haggai's work was soon ended. His work was to encourage the builders, and he did it. What more could be asked of any man? God has a commission for every one. To heed and endeavour is to make an assured success of life. This is the very best that can be written of any mortal man, that he had something to do, and did it for God.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
I. THE PROMISE OF GOD'S ABIDING PRESENCE. "Be strong, for I am with you." Their history had taught them by many illustrious interpositions and widespread calamities that in God was their hope. When they continued in His ordinances with willing hearts He crowned them with mercies. Blessings of the field and blessings of the flock were theirs, because He ordered all things for them, and protected them from their enemies round about. But when they forsook the Lord, and turned aside to idolatry, He visited them with His judgments. The mildew and cankerworm, hail and earthquake, devastated their land, while their foes rejoiced on every side. The exile from which they had just returned had fixed deep in their souls the truth that if God withheld His favour they were helpless and exposed to oppression and disaster. So that this promise, "I am with you," was better fitted than any other to make them strong and brave. And the prophet supports the promise by an appeal to God's past faithfulness, and to His covenant which could not be broken. "According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt."
II. THE PROMISE OF MIRACULOUS INTERPOSITION. "I will shake the heavens." "I will shake all nations." The Jews had already encountered opposition, and they were likely to meet with more. But God, who possessed all resources, who had displayed His energies at Sinai, would again rise and put forth His power on their behalf. God would not leave them to the operation of ordinary forces and the vicissitudes of hurrying events. He would Himself be the chief Actor, as in the days of old, when He brought them out of Egypt with a high hand and an outstretched arm.
III. THE PROMISE THAT, NOTWITHSTANDING APPEARANCES TO THE CONTRARY, THE LATTER GLORY OF THE TEMPLE SHOULD BE GREATER THAN THE FORMER. The old men had wept when the foundations of the temple were laid, because of its inferiority to the temple of their memory. They were deceived partly by the illusion of fancy which surrounds what is past with a halo, which it never had at the time, and partly by that disposition, common enough to man, which sees nothing in that which is passing, and which is before their eyes. But God's message to them and to us is one of hope. The golden age, which pagan and heathen nations put in the far-off past, God puts into the future. "God goes forward and not back, and is never so baffled as to be compelled to suspend progress. Let us not despise our own work nor our own generation. It also has a place in the history of God's work in the world."
(T. Vincent Tymms.)1. Men are always prone to be deluded by externals, and to suppose that the absence of outward splendour is indicative of the absence of God's blessing, forgetting that God often chooses the weak things of the earth to confound the mighty, that no flesh may glory in His presence (ver. 3).
2. The presence of God with His people is sufficient ground for encouragement to work in His service, whatever be the external difficulties, and sufficient comfort in distress how great soever be the calamity (ver. 4).
3. The covenant of God, and the Spirit of God, are the great grounds of hope to His people, in engaging in His service, and the promises made to the fathers may be pleaded by the children (ver. 5).
4. The kingdoms of the world are but the scaffolding for God's spiritual temple, to be thrown down when their purpose is accomplished (ver. 6).
5. The uncertainty and transitoriness of all that is earthly should lead men to seek repose in the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (ver. 7).
6. The various changes of life in both individuals and nations are designed to lead them to bring their choicest offerings, and dedicate them to God.
7. The New Testament in all its outward lowliness has a glory in its possession of a completed salvation, through the atoning work of a crucified Saviour, far above all the outward magnificence of the Mosaic dispensation (ver. 9).
8. The kingdom of Christ makes peace between God and man, and in its ultimate results will make peace between man and man, and destroy all that produces discord and confusion, war and bloodshed on the earth (ver. 9).
(T. V. Moore, D. D.)
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