You Are Building More Than You Think

Dec 8

You Are Building More Than You Think

Haggai 2:1-9

Preached at Main Street Church on December 8th, 2019

Our Problem: We underestimate the significance of our work

Proposition: Since God is with us we must build His Kingdom

This is our fourth message in our series through Haggai which we’ve entitled ‘Building the Kingdom.’  And that is because the prophet Haggai’s message to God’s people in about 520 BC was a call for them to shift their focus from building their own houses and to start building the house of the Lord—the Temple—which ultimately represented the center point of the Kingdom of God because it was the place where he would be present with his people. 

The message of Haggai the prophet to the people of God was a call to rebuild the temple in order to mediate the blessing of God’s presence to the world around them, and the message that we are supposed to hear from Haggai 2:1-9 is that we must build God’s kingdom since he is with us.  The title of my sermon this morning is: “You Are Building More Than You Think.”

Haggai 2:1-9 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 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.’”

Have you ever felt like you weren’t making any progress?  Like your best efforts in life weren’t accomplishing anything of lasting value?  Like you were just spinning your wheels but not getting anywhere?  Maybe you feel like the work you do at your job doesn’t have any real value to the kingdom of God.  You don’t see how Monday connects to Sunday.  If that’s you, then God has a word for you through the prophet Haggai, and it’s this: you are building more than you think

The Temple Represented God’s Mission in the World

In the OT God commanded his people to build a temple because it represented his mission in the world.  The temple was the central place of God’s special presence, and the mission of God’s people was to mediate the blessing of God’s presence to the nations around them.  You see this in mission in the very architecture and structure of the Temple itself which worked like something of concentric circles expanding outward:

  • The Most Holy Place – At the very center was the Most Holy Place, a cubic shaped room completely lined with gold, and it was the place where only a high priest could meet with God, and God’s glory would fill it.  And one of the demarkations of the high priest is that he would have God’s name written on his forehead. 
  • The Holy Place – Then outside of that you had the Holy place, a place where other priests could minister before the Lord on behalf of the people. 
  • The Courtyard – Outside of that you had the courtyard, that ceremonially pure Jews could enter into and worship the Lord.
  • The Courtyard of Gentiles – Then during Jesus time beyond the courtyard you had another, even larger, courtyard that was known as the Court of Gentiles, and it was the place where anyone could travel to and enter in order to worship Yahweh, the God of the Jews. 
  • The World – Outside of that you simply had the rest of the world.

So you can see that the Temple represented the mission of God to fill the earth with his glory through his people.  The high priest would mediate God’s presence on behalf of all the people in the Most Holy place, the priests would mediate God’s presence for people in the Holy Place, and the Jews were to mediate God’s presence to the surrounding nations, and the hub of all this was the Temple.

The Context of Haggai’s Message

In about 586 BC the majestic Temple that Solomon built was destroyed by the Babylonians, and for roughly seventy years it would lay in ruins until a Persian king named Cyrus conquered Babylon, and gave permission to the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuilt their glorious Temple.  The Jews began work on rebuilding the foundations of the Temple, but they faced opposition from the surrounding nations and the simply stopped work altogether, and were focusing on their own houses, completely neglecting the mission of God.  And this is where the prophet Haggai comes in.  His message of Haggai in chapter 1 was a call for the people to consider their ways, and to return to the work of rebuilding the temple and the mission of God.  And at the end of chapter 1 they obey God’s message from Haggai and picked up the work of rebuilding the Temple.

Haggai’s Encouragement: The Lord Is With You

In chapter 2 Haggai receives another message from God for the people and this is the message: You are building more than you think.  In v. 3 he says “‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?”

Now most of the Jews at this point had no living memory of what the original Temple was like, but the reason Haggai said this is because there were a number of the older people who did have memories of Solomon’s temple, and they could see that in their feeble attempts at rebuilding it with their limited resources it would never even compare the grandeur of the original temple.  Ezra 3:12 tells us about this occasion when it says, “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid,”

They were saying, “There’s no way we’ll be able to do what God is calling us to do! We don’t have the resources.  We don’t have the right leadership.  We don’t have the right tools.  We’re not equipped for the mission God has given us.”  But what does God say in v. 4? “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts.”  Haggai is telling them, “Since God is with you, you are building more than you think.”

And here is what God promises to his people as they make their small attempts at rebuilding a temple that they though would never compare to the glory of the former temple that Solomon built: “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 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.’”

Sometimes God tells us to do things that seem futile or we don’t see the value of doing them.  In fact, most of the time faithfulness in building the kingdom is doing a lot of small, unrecognized things over a long period of time. Let me say that again for you discouraged, but faithful people who need some encouragment: Most of the time faithfulness in building the kingdom of God is not measured by how big, fast, and famous the things we do are, but most of the time faithfulness in building the kingdom is doing a lot of small, unrecognized things over a long period of time.  It is continuing to be kind to that family member or coworker despite their constant criticism.  It’s showing up to work on time day in and day out and then faithfully completing the tasks that need to be done without complaining.  It’s picking up a piece of litter that you didn’t drop.  And when you do those small, unrecognized things over a long period of time, you are building more than you think.

God Equips and Enables His People for The Mission

In v. 6 it says, “For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts.”  The first thing this means is that God would provide the material needs for the Jews to accomplish the building of the temple.  He is giving them assurance that He, as the Sovereign Lord of Hosts, can and will provide for them.  All the silver and gold they need belongs to God, and He will give them what they need.  If God calls you to a task, he will provide the things necessary for you to do it.  It might be different than what you think, but all the resources in the world belong to God, and he knows the best way to use them.  So trust him in those times, because you are building more than you think.

But secondarily, this statement of God’s points to the future coming of Jesus, and the completion of his mission in the world, and we get to that more with the next verse.

Verse 9 is the most mind blowing statement in this passage: “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.’”  When God said this to his people, the glory he was talking about wasn’t based on the adornments or accoutrements of the physical building they were working on, but he was speaking of a future temple.  A temple not made by human hands. 

Jesus Was the Ultimate Expression of God’s Presence

The Temple represented the focal point of God’s presence in the world, the special place of his presence.  But in John 1 we are told that God gave us his presence in a new way.  John 1:14 tells us that God, in the person of Jesus Christ, became flesh—meaning he became a human man—and ‘dwelt among us.’  The literal translation is that he pitched his tent, or ‘tabernacled’ among his people.  And that is because the presence of Jesus is the presence of God.  When Jesus came, the blessing of God’s presence was no longer limited to the physical space of the Most Holy Place inside the Temple, but it was found in the person of Jesus.  Which is why in John 2 Jesus said, ““Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.  When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

Since Jesus has come, the temple was and is no longer the special place of God’s presence, the body of Christ is.  In the Old Testament people knew Yahweh as God in a building, but in the New Testament we know him as God in the flesh.  And the New Testament also tells us that we, God’s people, are the body of Christ, and we are his Temple, he now lives in us, and the blessing of his presence will be mediated to the world through us.  1 Corinthians 3:9 literally says to believers, that now “You are God’s building.”  And in v. 16 Paul clarifies that and says, “Do you not know that you (plural) are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”

So in Haggai 2:9, when God says, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,” He isn’t talking about how great a future building will be, he is talking about Jesus and how he will dwell with his people in the new creation.  We know this because there are echoes of Haggai’s prophecy that come to their fulfillment in Revelation 21. 

Listen to these words from Haggai 2, and then compare them with what is said in Revelation 21, keeping in mind that Jesus, the Lamb of God, is the ultimate presence of God in the New Testament, not the Temple.  In Haggai 2 God says, “I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. 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. Then in Revelation 21 which describes the new heaven and new earth where we will live with Christ in eternity we read this: “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb.  And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.  By its light the nations will walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it… They will bring into the glory and honor of the nations.”

God’s Presence Would Be Mediated Through A People, Not A Place

When God promised his people in Haggai 2 that The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former,” He was talking about the time when his glory would fill the whole earth, and we will live with God in a restored and renewed creation.  And he was encouraging his people to play their role in rebuilding the temple, because in doing that, they were building more than they thought.  Their role in rebuilding the temple was working towards the glorious future in which we will live with God and his glory will fill the whole earth. 

This is why the great commission that Jesus gave in Matthew 28 is reflective of God’s mission that we saw with the temple.  Remember the temple was the special place of God’s presence, and there were the concentric circles of the Most Holy Place, the Holy Place, The Courtyard, the Courtyard of the Gentiles, and then the world outside.  When Jesus came and completed his ministry through his death and resurrection, and the veil in the Temple that separated people from the presence of God was torn in two, he said this, “All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nationsand behold, I am with you always.” And Acts 1:8 says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

The presence of God was no longer limited to a temple, but is found in the midst of God’s people, his church.  And we, as the church, are called to mediate the blessing of God’s presence to the world through building his kingdom, which most often means doing, small, unrecognized things over a long period of time.  1 Peter 2:5 says, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  Every small act of faithfulness that we participate in builds the kingdom that Jesus will ultimately bring to reality when he returns.  That kind word that you say to a discouraged coworker builds the kingdom of God.  A smile to the person behind the cash register builds the kingdom of God.  Speaking tenderly to your kids builds the kingdom of God.  Not cutting corners at work, doing your work with joy and hope builds the kingdom of God.  When you make a cup of tea for your friend—or your enemy! You are building more than you think!  When you let that person change lanes in front of you, you are building more than you think!  When you wash dishes to the glory of God, you are building more than you think. 

Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts…My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” Or as Jesus said, “Behold I am with you always.”  God called the people of Haggai’s day to the work of building the temple—he was calling them to participate in his mission.  And God calls us to the work of building a different kind of temple, participating in his mission to make the whole earth his temple.

Conclusion: The New Heaven and Earth as God’s Temple

Revelation 21:1-22:5 describes the new, redeemed heavens and earth as a temple. We are promised that at the end of time the true temple will descend from heaven and fill the whole creation (Rev. 21:1-3, 10, 22). This special presence of God had been limited to the temple, and now the church, but will one day fill all of creation.

In fact what we see in the description of the redeemed creation in Revelation 21-22 is a striking likeness to the Garden of Eden.  The new creation is described as “pure gold” (Rev. 21:18), pointing us to the Holy of Holies in the Temple which was covered with gold on the walls, floor, and ceiling. And the point is that in the future, the Holy of Holies will not be limited to a confined space with access granted only to a high priest, but will be expanded to cover the whole earth. The Holy of Holies in the Temple was perfectly cubic in it’s shape, and we are told that the whole city of the new creation is “square” (Rev. 21:16), with its length the same as its width. Again, the point is that now, in a new redeemed world, God’s ultimate plan has come to pass, and the entire creation has become the Holy of Holies, the place where God and man commune.

This fact is even more evident in 22:4, which says, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” In the Old Testament only the High Priest would wear God’s name on his forehead and once a year be in God’s presence, but in the future, “all of God’s people will have become high priests with God’s name on their foreheads, and standing not one day a year, but forever in God’s presence.”

When Jesus died on the cross the thick, cherubim-interlaced veil that separated the Holy of Holies was split down the middle (Matt. 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45). This represented a removal of the cherubim who blocked access to the true life found in Eden. Although the way to the Tree of Life had been restricted, in the new creation the Tree of Life is in the middle of the city, bearing fruit for all who dwell there. Not only did the tearing of the temple veil signify the access to God’s presence granted to believers, but it pointed to the future when God’s manifest glory would not be bound to the small space that was the Holy of Holies, but would fill the earth.

That is why the prophet Haggai said, “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” (Haggai 2:9).

So I ask you again, have you ever felt like you weren’t making any progress?  Like your best efforts in life weren’t accomplishing anything of lasting value?  Like you were just spinning your wheels but not getting anywhere?  Maybe you feel like the work you do at your job doesn’t have any real value to the kingdom of God.  You don’t see how Monday connects to Sunday.  If that’s you, then God has spoken a word to you through the prophet Haggai, and it’s this: you are building more than you think