The work of building the long-neglected house of the Lord had been going on less than a month when the word of Jehovah came a second time through the prophet Haggai. On this occasion it was a message, not of rebuke, but of cheer and encouragement to both rulers and people alike (vers. 1,2). It is thus that God delights to comfort and sustain the hearts of those who, however poor and feeble, yet seek to honor Him.
Three questions are asked: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (ver. 3). We know from Ezra 3:12 that there were among the restored remnant “ancient men who had seen the first house,” and who wept bitterly when they contrasted its former glory with the smallness of the present house among the ruins, and that the gladness of the younger ones (who had just been delivered from Babylon, and whose whole past lives had been in the midst of idolatry and oppression) was almost drowned in the noise of the weeping.
Now God assures them that the future has brighter things in store than the past had ever known; and He makes this hope the ground of a word of encouragement. “Yet now be strong,” is His message, “ for I am with you… My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (vers. 4, 5).
Ruin and desolation may have come in; division and scattering may have taken place; but those who are gathered back around Jehovah’s centre have the joy of knowing, on the authority of His own Word, that He is in the midst, and His Spirit remaineth among them. Well may they be strong and fear not.
In like manner is the assurance given to Philadelphia, in the last solemn book of the Bible. The saints may have only “a little strength;” but His Word and His Name abide, and He, the holy and the true, is in their midst. Division and strife cannot alter this; nor can any particular company of believers claim it to the exclusion of others, as though they alone composed “the remnant.” “For where two or three are gathered together in (or unto) My Name, there am I in the midst of them.” By this may every little company of saints be comforted, who morally occupy the ground of the remnant in Haggai’s day.
Not only had they the Lord’s presence, in Spirit, among them, but His coming in person was to be their hope, that thus their hearts might be lifted above their lowly circumstances as they waited for the coming glory. In “a little while” the heavens and earth, the sea and the dry land, together with all the nations, would be shaken by the power of Jehovah, and then “the Desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts” (vers. 6, 7). The long-desired One is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. He came once in grace only to be rejected. He is coming again to bring in the glory long foreseen by the prophets of old. To that house (albeit refurbished and enlarged by the Idumean Herod) He came, only to be unrecognized and cast out. To that house, rebuilt in the last days, He will come again to take the kingdom and reign in righteousness.
The remnant might be too poor to embellish the rebuilt temple, but His are the silver and the gold. Nothing shall hinder the manifestation of the glory when the set time has come. “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” (vers. 8, 9). The rendering of the A. V.-“the glory of this latter house” - is misleading, and has been generally taken by commentators to mean that the rebuilt temple, being hallowed by the personal presence of the Son of God was thus far greater than that of Solomon, despite the grandeur of the one and the paucity of the other. Some have supposed that the architectural beauty of the temple after Herod’s embellishments even surpassed that of the “house, exceeding magnifical,” built by the wise king. But this was by no means the case.
To the first interpretation there could be no real objection. It is beautiful and true in itself, but does not seem to be what is really meant to be conveyed here. “The latter glory of this house” refers undoubtedly to the millennial splendor of the temple depicted prophetically in Ezekiel 40 to 48. Men may speak of temples or houses of God, He speaks but of the temple, or the house. Whether the building erected by Solomon, Zerubbabel, or Herod, be contemplated; or whether that to be rebuilt by unbelieving Judah in the coming tribulation, or the millennial temple succeeding-all are denominated “the house” and “the temple” of God. It is one in His eyes. In that temple of old every whit of it uttered His glory. To that temple He came in grace only to be rejected. In that temple the Man of Sin shall yet sit. Cleansed, that temple shall be the centre of earth’s worship and thanksgiving for the Millennium. At present, in this interval of “the dispensation of the mystery,” God owns no material building as His abode. Believers in the aggregate, through the whole church period, are growing into a holy temple in the Lord. All saints on earth at a given time form the house of God, composed of living stones, who have come to the Living Stone.
Prophecy is not occupied with this spiritual building. It has to do with the earth, and earthly-things.
In verses 10 to 14 another line of truth is brought in. The transition from what we have been considering seems most abrupt, but doubtless the state of the people demanded it. In reply to a question by Haggai, the priests aver that if one “bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch” articles of common food, the latter are not sanctified thereby and rendered holy. On the other hand, they bear testimony to the solemn fact that one who is unclean by the dead defiles everything he touches, making it unclean likewise. Such was the condition of the people. They were all defiled, and all they did was unclean before God. But this only gave occasion for grace to act; and so, despite their uncleanness, the Lord had taken them up in blessing. But He would have them remember that all has come from His own heart, apart from their deserts. Though defiled, yet when they turned to God and bowed in subjection to Him, He could manifest Himself strong on their behalf.
So in verses 15 to 19 He contrasts their condition when apathetic in regard to His house, and now, that they are working in accordance with His word. Before, poverty, blasting and mildew were their portion. Now, He has, “from the day the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid,” given increase and plenty, even as He had declared long before that “they that honor Me, I will honor; and they that despise Me, shall be lightly esteemed.”
We may be sure none will ever be the loser who puts the claims of God first. “From this day will I bless you” is a promise for all who judge what is evil and seek to walk in the truth.
The chapter concludes with another message given the same day. It is addressed alone to Zerubbabel, the uncrowned son of David, who had been appointed governor of Judah. To him the Lord announces the shaking of the heavens and the earth, and the final overthrow of all the kingdoms of the Gentiles, but assures him that he shall abide as a signet before Him, “for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.”
From Zerubbabel’s loins shall spring “the prince,” who would seem to be the earthly representative of “great David’s greater Son” (who likewise came in direct descent from this lowly-minded scion of king David), in the day when all nations acclaim the splendors of “the latter glory of this house.”
29 See “Notes on the Book of Esther” (clo.,75c; pa.,30c).
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Haggai 2". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany