Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Haggai--Rebuilding the Temple

Yesterday, the Wednesday night group went back to Haggai after a Christmas themed break. We were able to make it to one of my favorite passages in the Minor Prophets, found in ch. 2.

To open the chapter, God brings up the despair of the people who remember the greatness of Solomon’s Temple, destroyed roughly 68 years ago—“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?”

David, while not allowed to build the Temple, got things ready to build it—and he spared no expense. Solomon continued the example, drawing upon the resources of a wealthy kingdom to use the best wood, the best stone, lots of gold, silver, bronze and the best craftsmen. From the best of our estimations, it was one of the most beautiful and impressive buildings, especially for the day.

When the Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, most Jews assumed God had abandoned them and they didn’t know how to get Him back. Maybe a new Temple would please Him and His favor would return.

But now, what the people were working on paled in comparison to the previous Temple. Even looking at the foundation told them it wasn’t going to be as big or magnificent. They didn’t have the resources of a great kingdom to finance it or use the best materials or workmen. There’s no way God would come back to something so much less than what was before. After all, He abandoned us when we had that great Temple, why would He come back to a shabby Temple?

Here’s a modern parallel. On September 11th, 2001, the 2 most prominent buildings of the World Trade Center were destroyed. There’s been a lot of arguing and complaining about the proposals for rebuilding on the site. It’s very emotional, the general sentiment is that we’ve got to put something up that will be as memorable and striking as the originals if not surpassing.

But imagine if the NY Port Authority came out and announced a plan that due to a lack of funds and interest would be exact replicas of the towers but only about 1/3rd the scale. The previous towers were 110 stories tall, whereas the new ones would only be 40 stories tall. Everyone who remembered the former would be very disappointed when they saw the new.

For the Israelites, God wanted them to know that He had not abandoned them. That in fact, they should Be Strong because His “Spirit remains among you.” Vs. 5.

It was never David’s gold, silver, stones & cedar that made the Temple great and glorious. It was the presence of God. And since God was with them in this new project—it didn’t depend upon size, splendor or beauty—the only thing that would make it glorious and worthwhile was God’s presence—and He promised to be there.

In fact, God made a great promise—vs. 7-9—He, the heart of all nations and peoples, would come and fill even this new, not as impressive house with Glory!. What’s more, God promises that this lesser house will have even greater glory than the former. Vs. 9—“The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the LORD Almighty.

God’s Presence and desire is what gives something or someone glory. I can preach the best sermon, I can ensure the best and most engaging worship service but without the Spirit of God guiding and directing, without pleasing Him as the goal, then any glory of that service will be eclipsed by the service down the street with a piano player who hits the right note only ½ the time, and the preacher who struggles with reading Scripture our loud. So long as the Spirit of God is there and is moving in His Word and His people—the glory of that service will be greater than any construction I can make.

So Lord, please fill my heart with your glory, fill UBC with your glory and truly grant us the peace that comes from knowing You and making You known. Let us not get distracted by appearances or discouraged by “results” but trust completely that Your Presence makes all the difference.

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