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CHRIST THE DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS
Haggai 2:7. The Desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts.
MANKIND are apt to imagine that God is pleased with what is grand and magnificent in their eyes; hence the many splendid edifices that have been raised to his honour: but a contrite heart is a more acceptable residence for God than even the temple of Solomon itself [Note: Isaiah 66:1-2.]. The Jews, on their return from Babylon, began to rebuild their temple; but they, who remembered the former temple, wept aloud [Note: Ezra 3:11-13.]. To encourage them to complete the structure, the prophet was sent to declare, that, however inferior this should be to the former in point of magnificence, it should exceed that in glory; for that the Messiah himself should adorn it with his own personal appearance.
Let us inquire,
Who is the person here spoken of—
The prophet does not speak of desirable things, as silver and gold [Note: Some, indeed, put that interpretation on the text: but it is not probable that such an event would be so solemnly introduced; or that such a fact ever took place in the degree supposed; or that, if it did, the glory of their temple could by such means be brought to exceed that of the former, considering how many things there were in the former, of which the latter was destitute.]. He refers to Christ’s advent, and appearance in the flesh. Christ is here properly called “the Desire of all nations [Note: All nations indeed do not actually desire him, because they know him not: but they may be said to desire him, just as the whole creation is said to be waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God, &c. Romans 8:19-21. or, as Mount Zion is said to be the joy of the whole earth, Psalms 48:2.]”—
Many in all nations do desire him—
[The Jews, by means of their captivities, or flight, were scattered through the Assyrian, Chaldean, Persian, and other empires, and since the establishment of Christianity there are Christians in every part of the globe. Amongst these, there is indeed found a considerable difference with respect to clearness of knowledge and fervour of affection; but the desire of them all accords with that of the Apostle [Note: Philippians 3:8-10.].]
All nations, if they knew him, would desire him—
[He has in himself all imaginable excellencies, as God, as man, as mediator. Would we desire a mighty Saviour? he is God over all [Note: Romans 9:5.]. Would we desire one in our own nature? he was made flesh [Note: John 1:14.]. Would we desire one that had testified his love? he has died for us [Note: Ephesians 5:2.]. Would we desire one that from his own experience might sympathize with us? he has been tempted like us for this purpose [Note: Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 2:18.]. If any hear of him, and desire him not, the reason is plain [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:4.]—.]
He did in due season honour the temple with his presence—
[The season of his appearance there was foretold [Note: He was to come while the temple was standing; Mal 3:1 and the text. About forty years after his death it was utterly demolished.]. At the appointed time he was brought thither by his parents [Note: Luke 2:27.]: at twelve years old he sat there among the doctors [Note: Luke 2:46.], and afterwards it became the frequent place of his resort.]
The prospect of this event was peculiarly consoling on account of,
The consequences of his advent—
The presence of Christ in the temple “filled it with glory.” It rendered the latter temple far more glorious than the former [Note: Haggai 2:9.].”
He more than supplied all those things which were wanting in this temple—
[Though many of the sacred vessels were restored to the Jews by Cyrus, there was much that was irrecoverably lost. The Shechinah, the bright cloud, the symbol of the Deity, was withdrawn: the ark, with all that it contained, was missing [Note: viz. a copy of the law, the pot of manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded.]: the urim and thummin, or breast-plate, whereby the high-priest discovered the Divine will, was also gone: the fire, that came down from heaven, was extinguished. These defects however were more than supplied to the latter temple by the presence of Jesus. Instead of a shadowy resemblance of the Deity, it had God incarnate: it had the true ark, containing infinitely richer memorials of Divine love [Note: The Jews no longer need the law to instruct them, the rod to confirm their faith, and the manna to shew them how their fathers were sustained: since Jesus himself possessed all that was necessary for their instruction, confirmation, and nourishment.]: it had a divine Instructor, who revealed all his Father’s counsels: nor could it need the fire to render the sacrifices more acceptable, since Jesus was about to offer one sacrifice for all. Thus did it excel in glory, even in those very particulars wherein it appeared most defective.]
He also exhibited in it a brighter display of the Deity than ever had been seen in the former temple—
[The glory of God did indeed fill the temple of Solomon [Note: 1 Kings 8:10-11.], but in Christ it shone with brighter, though less dazzling splendour. Behold the condescension of the Deity, in that he not merely dwelt with man, but became man! Behold the wisdom, in every discourse that Jesus uttered [Note: John 7:46.]! Behold the power, in in his miraculous cures, and irresistible operation on the minds of men [Note: Matthew 21:12.]! Behold the grace, in his treatment of the adulterous woman [Note: John 8:11.]! Such an exhibition of the Divine perfections in the temple far overbalanced every defect.]
[Wherever Christ dwells, he imparts a glory. And has he not yet a temple to which he will come [Note: Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20.]? Will he not vouchsafe his presence in his ordinances? And will not his presence in them make them glorious [Note: Isaiah 60:7; Isaiah 60:13.]? Will he not also make the souls of his people his habitation [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:16.]? And will not the soul, in which he takes up his residence, be transformed [Note: Isaiah 55:13.]? Let him then be “the desire of our hearts; nor let us ever be satisfied till we possess that privilege [Note: Ephesians 2:21-22.]—.]
INTEGRITY OF THE SOUL ENJOINED
Haggai 2:11-14. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands: and that which they offer there is unclean.
THE one great rule of life which was given to Moses, and which is of universal and unchangeable obligation, is the moral law—the law of the ten commandments. But the ceremonial law also, which, in its primary use, was to shadow forth the Gospel of Christ, was of a moral tendency, and very instructive in that view. Take the most insignificant of its rites, such as the not wearing a garment of mixed materials, or sowing a field with different kinds of corn, or seething a kid in its mother’s milk; they were all intended to teach us some practical lessons of great importance. The same we may say of the law mentioned in my text. Jehovah intended to reprove the supineness of his people in neglecting to rebuild the temple. For this end, he directed the Prophet Haggai to consult the priests as to the demands of the law; and from their answers, to deduce the truth, which he was instructed to enforce. They acknowledged, that the meat which belonged to the priests, as their share of the sin-offerings, could not, though holy in itself, make any thing else holy which it might come in contact with; though a person, who by the touch of a dead body was unclean, would, according to the law, render any thing else unclean which he might chance to touch [Note: Whatever touched the altar was thereby rendered holy, as was also any thing which touched the flesh of the sacrifice (Lev. 29:37 and Leviticus 6:27.); but the cloth, in which such flesh was contained, conveyed no sanctity: but the clothes of one unclean communicated a ceremonial uncleanness. Numbers 19:22.]. From thence he took occasion to shew them, that the sacrifices which they offered, so far from cancelling their sins, were themselves vitiated, and rendered worthless by their supineness.
Now here was a valuable lesson for them: and it is no less valuable to us; since it is of use,
For the forming of our judgment as to the theory of religion—
To enter into this, consider the precise state of things at that time. The foundations of the temple had been laid several years before. The people having been obstructed in the work, became indifferent to it; and thought, that, by offering their sacrifices with regularity, they should supersede the necessity of incurring the expense and trouble of rebuilding the temple. ‘Now,’ says the prophet, ‘your sacrifices themselves, instead of being accepted of God, are detestable in his sight, on account of the hypocrisy which yet reigns in your hearts’ In other words, we may consider him as determining two most important points:
That practice is of no avail without principle—
[The Jews supposed that their offering of sacrifices would be accepted, though they were wholly inattentive to the principles by which they were actuated. And a most common error this is. Men abound in duties, public, social, personal; and add to these the offices of kindness and liberality to their fellow-creatures; and then ask with confidence, “What lack I yet?” Such were the Pharisees of old; who even went beyond the law in their observances, whilst they “neglected many of the weightier matters of the law—justice, mercy, and truth.” But I must declare, that these people labour under a most fatal error: for if St. Paul himself, who was, “touching the righteousness which was of the law, blameless,” and who was therefore “alive, in his own estimation, without the law,” but, when he saw the defectiveness of his obedience, saw and acknowledged himself to be a dead condemned sinner; if St. Paul himself, I say, so failed in establishing any righteousness of his own, much more must we lay aside such an erroneous conceit, and confess, that without a principle of faith and love we can never find acceptance with our God. We may attend the house of God every Sabbath; we may go to the table of the Lord; we may offer some stated prayers also in secret; and yet, if impenitent and unbelieving, be consigned over to everlasting perdition. We may have the tongues of men and angels, and have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and have faith so that we can remove mountains, and bestow all our goods to feed the poor, and even give our bodies to be burned; and yet be destitute of a principle, without which we are no better than “sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.].” We may see clearly, that without a principle of real, vital, universal holiness in the soul, no external services, however good, can find acceptance before God.]
That principle is of no avail without practice—
[As men of a Pharisaic cast maintain the error which I have just mentioned; so men of an Antinomian complexion are prone to indulge this of which I am now to speak. They have embraced the Gospel; they believe in Christ: they see in him a perfect righteousness: they have that righteousness imputed to them: they stand, as they suppose, perfect and complete before God, and are in his sight “without spot or wrinkle or any such thing; yea, holy and without blemish [Note: Ephesians 5:27.].” But are they necessarily in the state which this profession seems to imply? The persons reproved in my text offered their sacrifices, and professed to look to that great Sacrifice which those offerings prefigured: but were they therefore accepted of their God? No: they were essentially defective as to practical religion: under the influence of covetousness and self-indulgence, they neglected to rebuild the temple of the Lord: and therefore all their professions of faith were vain. Thus it is with thousands who rely on the Gospel of Christ for salvation, but neglect to adorn it by a suitable conversation. Their faith does not “overcome the world,” and “work by love,” and “purify the heart;” and therefore “their faith, being without works, is dead; and is in reality no better than the faith of devils [Note: James 2:19-20.].”
Nor let any one imagine that it is only a course of open sin that will thus invalidate the efficacy of his faith. No: if there be in him any secret lust, such as covetousness, or pride, or envy, or impurity, or any other, it will “so defile him [Note: Mark 7:21-23.],” as to make all his professions of religion vain [Note: James 1:26.].” “A right eye or a right hand, which offends” against the principles of vital godliness, must be parted with, or “it will destroy him, both body and soul, in hell for ever [Note: Mark 9:43-48. with James 2:10.].”]
But the reproof here given is yet further useful,
For the regulating of our conduct, as to the practice of it—
You will observe in the text the figure, and the truth contained in it. Now both of these are instructive, in reference to practical religion:
From the figure we may learn to take heed to our communications—
[It is a far easier thing to convey defilement to the souls of men, than holiness. One man that is diseased may impart infection: but ten men that are in health cannot impart health. Now, it is common for persons professing godliness to associate with the world, under an idea of doing them good; forgetting how much more likely they themselves are to contract evil from such society, than to impart to them any substantial benefit. A heathen could say, “Evil communications corrupt good manners [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:33. from the poet Menander.].” And experience proves the truth of it: for there is scarcely a person who associates much, and without necessity, with the world, but he imbibes the spirit of the world; and if not outwardly, yet in heart, declines from God. I mean not to say, that all connexion with ungodly men should be avoided; for “then must we needs go out of the world:” our duties in civil and social life require some measure of intercourse with them: but I mean, that we should be aware of the danger of infection from the ungodly; and that we should mix with them as a physican mixes with his patients in a hospital; having in our minds a desire to do them good, and exerting our influence for that end; and withdrawing, when we have fulfilled our duty, happy to breathe a purer atmosphere, and to associate with those whose state and habit are in accordance with our own. And this is the rule prescribed for us in the Gospel: “We are not to be conformed to this world [Note: Romans 12:2.]:” we are to “come out from it, and be separate [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:17.]:” we are “not to be of the world, any more than Jesus Christ was of the world [Note: John 17:14-16.]:” we are “not to affect its friendship [Note: James 4:4.];” or to “love any of its ensnaring vanities [Note: 1 John 2:15-16.].” Our affections must be “set rather on things above [Note: Colossians 3:2.];” and “our conversation is to be in heaven [Note: Philippians 3:20.]:” and we must be ever on our guard to keep our garments clean [Note: Revelation 3:4; Revelation 16:15.]: since it is almost impossible to come in contact with the ungodly, without contracting some defilement from them.]
From the truth itself we may learn to look well to our hearts—
[Solomon’s advice is good: “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life [Note: Proverbs 4:23.].” It is lamentable to think how much there may be amiss within us, whilst the external conduct is correct; yea, and whilst religion appears to have the chief ascendent over us. Truly, it becomes us to“search and try our ways [Note: Lamentations 3:40.];” yes, and to beg of God also to “search and try our hearts, to see whether there be any wicked way or principle in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting [Note: Psalms 139:23-24.].” When we reflect, that one evil propensity, if indulged, will vitiate all our moral and religious acts; and that it will make “our very prayers an abomination in the sight of God [Note: Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 28:9.];” we cannot but tremble for the great mass even of religious professors, who will be tried by the heart-searching God, and have their final doom fixed according to their real character, as it stands before him. Indeed, brethren, I wish you to examine yourselves well, whether ye be sound in principle, and upright in practice also. And be careful not to “deceive your own souls;” nor to rest, till you have an evidence in your own bosoms, and the witness of God’s Spirit also, that ye are “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile:” for whatever ye may imagine, it is “the pure in heart, and they only, that shall sec God” with comfort in the day of judgment [Note: Matthew 5:8.].
GOD RECOMPENSES OUR WORKS
Haggai 2:19. From this day will I bless you.
MEN, when they see so great a disparity in the states of their fellow-men, are apt to imagine that there is an inequality in the ways of God. But “God’s ways are equal,” both in the dealings of his providence, and in the dispensations of his grace [Note: Ezekiel 18:25-29. with Psalms 18:25.]. True, indeed, this equality, under the Mosaic economy, was evinced in temporal gifts, whereas it is now manifested rather in spiritual blessings: and we may all observe it in reference to ourselves, almost as clearly as they could who are addressed in my text. Let us,
Review the dealings of God with us in past times—
God called his people, after their return from Babylon, to “consider” how he had dealt with them. Whilst they were occupied only in their own concerns, and neglected to execute his will in the rebuilding of the temple, he visited them with sore and successive judgments: but now that they were engaged in that sacred work, he bade them take notice, even from the very day that they had commenced the work, that he would bless them. Now, “consider” how God has dealt with us,
Before we began to seek the Lord—
[We might prosper perhaps in temporal things, as the world accounts prosperity; but what was the real state of our minds? Did we find all the satisfaction in them which we hoped for? We sowed largely in hope: but when we reaped, and came to measure the produce, were we not grievously disappointed? Say, brethren, was there even one half the happiness derived from them that you expected [Note: See ver. 16, 17.]? Did you not find, that whilst you neglected to seek your happiness in God, the blessings which you sought with the greatest avidity and labour were but as “broken cisterns, that could hold no water [Note: Jeremiah 2:13.]?” Yes; you must confess that every thing to which you looked for comfort has proved, not only “vanity, but vexation of spirit also [Note: Ecclesiastes 1:14.].” There was a worm at the root of every gourd from which you expected consolation and repose [Note: John 4:6-7.].]
Since we turned to him—
[Possibly enough, in respect to temporal things, you may have suffered loss. But has not that loss been abundantly made up to you, by an increase of grace, and by the manifestations of God’s love to your soul? Have you not learned, that “man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth [Note: Luke 12:15.];” and that he only is happy who seeks his happiness in God? Possibly, too, you may have been bowed down greatly under the weight and burthen of your sins: yet will I ask with confidence, whether you do not look upon that day, when you were first convinced of sin, and stirred up to flee from the wrath to come, as the best and happiest day of your life? From what time, think ye, would St. Paul date his happiness, but from the hour when he was struck to the ground in his way to Damascus, and when he received the first communications of converting grace? And if you could tell the time of your first awakening, with the same accuracy as the laying of the first stone of the temple was marked (“the 24th day of the 9th month”), you would be able to say with certainty, “From that day God has blessed me.”]
Supposing, then, that we have been truly converted to God, let us,
Consider the anticipations which we are authorized to indulge—
Here the promise in our text indisputably belongs to us: “From this day will I bless you.” Again I say, that we are no longer to estimate the Divine favour by the measure of our success in temporal things. True indeed, “If we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all earthly things, so far as they will conduce to our welfare, shall be added unto us [Note: Matthew 6:33.].” But that which we are authorized to expect, is, that “God will bless us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ Jesus [Note: Ephesians 1:3.].” God will give you,
The communications of his grace—
[These shall be suited to your necessities [Note: James 4:6.], and sufficient for your wants [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]— — —]
The manifestations of his love—
[No words can express what is implied in these. But “he will manifest himself to you as he does not unto the world [Note: John 14:21-23.],” and “shed abroad his love in your hearts [Note: Romans 5:5.],” and “give you the witness of his Spirit, as the earnest of your everlasting inheritance [Note: Ephesians 1:13-14.]” — — —]
A meetness for glory—
[His whole work of grace will he carry on within you [Note: Philippians 1:6.], till you are transformed into his image [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.], and fully prepared for his glory [Note: Php 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-12.] — — —]
To those in whom the foundation of God’s spiritual temple is not yet laid—
[You, alas! have no part or lot in these promises: and a far different portion have you to expect. If ye will be intent only on your own business, and be concerned only to please yourselves, how can you expect that God should bless you? “Consider, I pray you,” whether they who serve not their God can reasonably hope for the same portion as his faithful servants shall enjoy [Note: Malachi 3:18.]. I will be content that you shall judge this matter for yourselves. But, O! be persuaded, ere it be too late, to follow the convictions of your minds, and to turn unto God with your whole hearts.]
To those who are building up themselves a temple for their God—
[To you assuredly is the promise made, that God will bless you, both in time and eternity. Be more and more diligent, then, in the work in which ye are engaged. “Be coming daily to Christ, as lively stones, to be built up on him as the living foundation-stone [Note: 1 Peter 2:4-5.];” and God will make you the habitation of his holiness for ever and ever [Note: Ephesians 2:19-22.].]
To those who think this distinction visionary—
[If such there be among you, put it to the proof. God himself challenges you to this [Note: Malachi 3:10.]. Make but the experiment fairly, and I have no fear of the issue.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Haggai 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20