Do you ever feel disappointment by life? You might have had in your mind that things in your life would be different than where they are now. So what do you do with disappointment and discouragement? We can come to different seasons in our lives where we can be filled with disappointment. What we do with this disappointment can directly affect how we look at God and how we look at the work God has given to us to do. The people of God who have come back to Jerusalem to build the temple to the Lord have been dealing with disappointment. We noticed in Haggai 1 that they needed to be encouraged to restart the work. For 16 years the work had stopped after laying the foundation for the temple. As come to Haggai 2 we are told by the dates in verse 1 that the people have been working for about 4 weeks. But God has another message for the people regarding their discouragement as they continue the work on the temple. So let us look at the message of Haggai and consider how this message can help us deal with disappointment and discouragement.
The Lord sends a message to Haggai to deliver to the people. The message begins with a question. Who saw the temple in its former glory? Basically, who is old enough to remember what the temple that Solomon built looked like? In particular, God wants them to think about the glory of that first temple. Then he asks the next question. How does it look to you now? God asks them to compare the original temple’s glory to the glory of the temple they are building now. Then God asks, “Does it not seem to you like nothing?” There is an apparent discouragement and disappointment among the people. As they are doing the work in building the temple for the Lord they are seeing that this temple is not going to be as glorious as the temple that Solomon built.
So here is the problem that is in front of the people. The future does not look as good as the past. As they go about doing the Lord’s work, it does not look like what they are doing go forward is as good as what they had before. I want us to think about this problem because it appears that it is crippling the work. It is hindering the work to such a degree that the Lord needed to send another message to his people through his prophet. I think this is a common problem that keeps us from doing the work that God has for us.
We look at our lives and the future does not seem that is will be as good as what we had in the past. It is a crushing disappointment to think that your future does not remotely look as good as what you have lost in your past. It hurts to be in a place in your life where you feel like your future cannot be as glorious as what God gave you before. This is where these people are.
It is hard to move forward when forward does not look as good as your past. I know so many people who really struggled going forward with God because they had lost so much. When I was younger, I greatly struggled with going forward with God because I had lost so much with my family being ripped apart by sin and divorce. You do not want to go forward when forward does not look very inviting. So God has a message for these people who are dealing with this discouragement.
I Am With You (2:4-5)
The first message God wants to tell his people is that he is still with them. Yes, the future glory does not look as good as the past glory. But this is God’s word. Be strong, all of you, and work because I am with you (2:4). I want us to notice the place of strength during these times. When we are disappointed and discouraged about our lives and the circumstances God has us in, we need to see where God says we can find strength. God says you can be strong because you know that I am with you. I made a covenant with you that I would be with you. Did you notice when God said he made that promise to these people? Look at verse 5. God says that he made that promise when the people came out of Egypt. Friends, the people came out of Egypt about 1000 years ago.
But think about what God is saying. God is saying that he made a promise to his people to be with them 1000 years ago and nothing has changed. Just because so much time has gone by, God will still be faithful to his promise. We sometimes can feel like the promises of God in the scriptures are so old that they cannot be relevant.
When God promises us in Hebrews 13:5 that he would never leave us or forsake us, we must not think that the promise is voided just because 1900 years have gone by. God told you that he is with and it does not matter how much time goes by or what happens to you. It does not matter if your future looks worse than your past, God will never leave you or forsake you. It does not matter if you feel like what you are doing for the Lord seems insignificant, God is with you. Do not be afraid but be strong because God is in your midst.
I Will Do Greater Work (2:6-9)
The second message God wants to tell his people is in verses 6-9. God says that in a little while he is going shake the heavens, the earth, the sea, and land, and the nations so that he will fill this house with glory. Look at verse 9. The final glory of this house will be greater than the first. This is a startling reminder about the character of God. First, God is sovereign over the future, over the nations, and over the wealth of the world. God is in control of these things. Do not think that God cannot do great things in the future. Do not be discouraged by how the future looks. God says he can shake the world so that his will is accomplished. Everything is in his hand. God is providing what they need to go forward.
Second, what the people would have had in mind about what God would do would have been wrong. Taken in a straightforward way, the glory of this temple that these people are building was not going to surpass the glory of Solomon’s temple. God was going to do something so radical in the future that the people could have never guessed what glory God was talking about or what God was going to do. Even if the people were thinking about the glory of God returning to this temple, that also never happened. God filled Solomon’s temple with his glory but never did with this temple.
So here is how I want us to think about this point. Just because the future will be different does not mean that it is less glorious. Just because God is going to do a different work in your future does not mean that it is not as good as what you had in your past. Unfortunately we too often think that since the future is going to be different then the future cannot ever be as good as the past. But God is telling us that is not true. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
What was God thinking about when he said the future glory would be greater than the past glory? The writer of Hebrews helps us understand what God had in mind when he quotes this in Hebrews 12:25-29. The writer of Hebrews begins by reminding them how God shook the earth with his voice at Sinai. Then he says that God has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens” (Hebrews 12:26). What does he mean? Keep reading what the writer of Hebrews says.
This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. (Hebrews 12:27 ESV)
The writer says that the things that have been made will need to be removed so that the things that have not been made, that cannot be shaken, can remain.
Here is how I would sum up what God is doing. This temple needs to be built and it will not have the same glory so that when Jesus comes the world will see the glory of the temple in him. Then God will remove this physical temple and the Mosaic covenant so that the true temple in Jesus and his glorious covenant and kingdom can be clearly seen and remain forever.
Here’s my point: the people in Haggai’s day are looking at the future all wrong and have no idea what kind of glory is coming. This temple which seemed to lack the glory of Solomon’s temple was a symbol of the future glory. Do not worry about what things look like now because God can make the future glory beyond anything anyone can imagine.
This principle can be applied to so many areas of our lives. We can get through our disappointment and discouragement by knowing that God is with us through our darkness and that it is possible for there to be future glory. I believe this is one of the messages of the book of Job. Job 42 shows that there can be future glory to a demolished life. Job lost nearly everything. But there was future glory. God never left Job and God was able to reverse his life. Just because we cannot see how the future could possibly be glorious does not mean that God cannot make it glorious. It is possible to have great things lying ahead of us if we commit ourselves to do the work.
But I also want us to think about how we may not see that future glory. None of these people to whom Haggai is prophesying to saw that future glory. In a way, they were just another step on the path of stepping stones and another brick in the wall for the glory that was yet to come. They did not see it. They will get back to work and complete the temple. But they will not see the glory of God enter the temple. They will not see the fulfillment of these promises. They will see a simple temple that they came back to Jerusalem to build. But their work was not in vain. We cannot do the work only thinking about the present need or the present benefit. We need to think about the future and what God is able to do for those who are the people of God in this area in the future. There have been so many people who have given their lives to the work of this church in this area who did not see the great things that would lie ahead. But that does not mean their work was in vain. The future can be great by God’s power. We can commit ourselves to wanting to see God do great things for us in the future, even if we are not alive to see it.
This is also true for us in our individual lives. How many times can our lives be so dark and it can seem that all the good is behind us? So many will give up on God because we can think that there is no way for God to do great things in the future. We can think that the past was all the good we will ever have. We can think that there is nothing good that lies ahead. We can think there is no way for there to be glory ahead of us. But God is with us. He can do great things in our lives. I would have never looked at my life when I was 17 or 20 years old and thought that there could be great things that God could do in my life. I would have never expected how God could take a life that was in the ashes and place it to where it is today.
Do not give up on God and do not let your discouragement take you from God. God can do great things.
It may be different. But different does not mean inferior. God can lead you in new paths, give you a different life than you planned, and lead you to future glory as he walks with you in your days of disappointment and discouragement. Pray for that future glory and rise up to do the work.