Haggai the Honorable: “How the Future Holds”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Holy God, You spoke the world into being. And we have sinned against You in countless ways. Pour Your Spirit to the ends of the earth, that Your children may return from exile as citizens of Your true commonwealth, and our divisions may be healed by Your Word of love and righteousness through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Last week I played one of those Facebook Games that determines things about your life – when/how you’ll die, what your genetic makeup is, what nationalities you are a part of, etc. This one told me about my retirement. Well, I’m 56 years old, so I’m not really thinking about retirement too much, but the thought does linger just over the horizon…. Are you prepared to hear what I learned from FB, and thus will totally depend on being true? I was told that I will retire at age 61, with $82 million, in 110% health, and live in a country villa with 8 dogs!
According to FB, that’s what my future holds, when it holds it, and where it brings me. It does not tell me why, or how that’s who I end up as.
Today we read from chapter 2 of the Old Testament prophet Haggai – a man who lived about 520 years before Jesus, during a time when the Jewish people were starting to return to their motherland after being in Exile in Babylon and Persia for several generations.
In this chapter Haggai talks about the HOW and the WHO our future holds, and it hints at WHY this is true.
This book contains four prophecies, and they all take place between the months of August and December of 520bc.
With that as our jump-off place, let’s turn to Haggai 2, and hear the Word of God. Haggai 2:1-9…. —-
1 On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 2 “Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, 3 ‘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? 4 But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
5 ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’
6 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. 7 I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. 8 ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty. 9 ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
These verses tell us that very few of those returning would have had any memory of what the Temple looked like before it had been destroyed, and the memories they did have were the memories from their childhoods – you know how everything gets bigger and grander in our memories; but most of the returning refugees only have the stories told by their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents.
Who here has ever heard someone say something like, “Remember the good old days”? And who has heard those words come spewing forth from your own nostalgic and happy-memory-filled lips?
Does anyone here remember back when we didn’t read about another school shooting every few months? Who remembers sitting on your front porch and chatting with neighbors on a daily basis? Does anyone remember when we only had three TV channels to choose from, and that was too many?
Good old days! Right?
That’s what the seniors were thinking as the Jews were coming back to Jerusalem after their exile. Most of the returnees had never been “home” before. They were born and grew up in captivity, in Persia or Babylon. But the 85-year olds were born in Judea, and they remember going to the Temple for holidays when they were mere youngsters. And this Jerusalem that they were returning to was not their old familiar haunts. These were no longer the same streets they used to play kick-the-can on. And, while they were no longer living under the control of a foreign king, they were wondering if this was really worth it.
Can you relate to any of that?
Last week we read Haggai’s first prophetic word of the Lord to “these people” who had mis-placed their priorities, and “the prophet” become the “angelic messenger of God’s Word” to the “remnant of the whole people” as they re–prioritized their lives back to a rightful place of knowing God as their heavenly Father who loves them.
In today’s reading, the second prophetic word of the Lord to “these people”, we are being challenged to gain a more godly, more divine perspective.
Yes, things are not like they used to be. Some of that is sad, and some of that is really pretty darn good (having refrigeration in our kitchens saves us a ton of trouble and sickness, and having mobile communication devices that allow us to check on every factoid and curiosity of life gives us access to a universe of information at our fingertips) – have you ever watched an old movie/TV show and thought the characters could easily move through their conflict if they just used their cell phones?! And then you remember that cell phones weren’t invented for another 20 or 50 or 100 years!
We all know that sometimes, it seems, life simply sucks! Health diagnoses that knock the wind out of our lungs. Wealth circumstances that knock us flat on our backs. Relationships that hurt. Failures that outnumber successes. Losses that outweigh victories.
Do any of you know what I’m talking about?
Last Sunday, while we were still gathering for worship here there was a church in TX that was being torn apart by a madman. I can’t help but imagine the trauma for that congregation and that pastor and that community.
And in the midst of all of this, chapter 2, verse 4, says, “But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares 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.’
Whatever you find yourself in today, hear our loving Sovereign Savior tell you, “Be strong. I am with you. My Spirit remains with you. Do not be afraid!”
Turn to your neighbor and remind each other, “Be strong.” … “God is with you.” … “Don’t be afraid.”
But Haggai’s prophetic Word of the Lord does not end with the simple assurance of Immanuel, God with us. He goes on and in verse 9 gives us a promise: “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
Many of you have seen the bumper-sticker theology that says, “We may not know what the future holds, but we know Who holds the future.”
That’s what our Sermon Title tries to convey. Not what the future holds – for none of us can predict how this afternoon with unfold, let alone the next week. Not where our future may lead us. Not why this is what our future has in store (while there certainly is some form of consequence-based results, not all our life-conditions are control-able like that).
But HOW our future holds! Is directly connected to our relationship with WHO holds our future!
My next five years will have to experience a boatload of miracles for my FB Retirement predictions to be accurate. But if I learn to trust the Lord of Haggai I can rest assured that this present time will have greater glory than any former time, and that God will grant His perfect peace which surpasses our understanding.
Do you trust God this way? This particular prophecy of Haggai is filled with eschatology and messianic understanding – it’s promising a Savior and an End-Times filled with blessing.
Jesus comes at Christmas and becomes that messianic prophecy fulfilled. Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? Do you trust Him with all your concerns?
If you want to, this peace is offered to you, too. Let’s cling to His peace – today. Amen.
Smith, Ralph L.; Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 32: Micah-Malachi; Word Books; Waco, TX; 1984; Pp. 146-153.