Haggai and God’s House: “I Am [Still] With You”

Consider times in your past when you received a timely word of encouragement from the Lord. The message seemed unforgettable at the time. Yet time passes, its impact fades, and weariness sets in. This article examines the obedience of the remnant that began to build the temple structure, why discouragement returned among them, and the solution to their discouragement.

Continuing the Work (2:1-9)

Discouragement in the Work (vv1-3)

Haggai’s third message comes less than a month after his second message to these discouraged people. Ezra 5 shows that one reason for discouragement was that old adversaries were appealing to the highest power in the Persian empire to stop the building. The concern is revealed in verse 3 and answered in verses 6-9, as the older generation was disappointed when they compared this building’s lack of prestige to Solomon’s Temple.1 Similarly, we can become discouraged. The message from the Lord through Haggai encouraged them to examine the promises of God to them in the past and into the future. World events can make life harder, and once-prestigious local assemblies might whittle down in number, but encouragement comes when we remember that faithfulness is what God requires in us and that the rest is up to Him (1Co 4:2).

Look Way Back (vv4-5)

The first part of the message is to “be strong.” This same message came to Israel and Joshua, to Solomon, and again later to the same builders through Zechariah (Deu 31:6,7,23; Jos 1:6,9,18; 1Ch 28:10,20; Zec 8:9,13). Haggai highlights that they must remember that, though dispossessed, they were “the people of the land” who “came out of Egypt” and could “be strong” in the power of the message (vv4-5).2

Why could they be strong? It was because the Lord was with them. There must be a reason one knows they can be strong. If they rested on being strong because they were “the people of the land,” a sudden faltering would be inevitable. It was because the Lord was with them that they could “be strong.” This is why they were “the people of the land.” His presence among them was both their strength and what defined them as the people of the land. When our attention is on what is around us, or even when we only focus on who we are and our blessings, we easily grow cold. But Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, can spur us onward in our weariness (Heb 12:2-3).

The words “I am with you” emphasize the steadfastness of God.3 They needed to look way back to the promise of God to this same people through Moses (Exo 33:14). Paraphrastically, the Lord is saying in verse 5, “I told you this long ago.” The important lesson is that God keeps His promises and He never changes (Mal 3:6; Rom 11:29); He is faithful to His Word. He says to the believer, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb 13:5). He says He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of God “unto the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). This is the reason to be strong. It is why we do not need to fear. It is encouraging to know that the Lord’s presence in us as believers depends on His eternal faithfulness, not ours.

Look Ahead (vv6-9)

We can not only look back at God’s promises in His Word for encouragement but also ahead in anticipation of His Word’s fulfillment. The kingdoms of the earth which were threatening God’s building and its lack of worshippers were temporary, and the brilliance of the temple was not to be their concern. Six of the fourteen references in Haggai to the Lord as the “LORD of hosts” are in verses 4-9. The political powers around were of no threat if the Lord determined the building of His house to be completed. Further, the time markers in the phrase in verse 6, “yet once, it is a little while,” signify that those kingdoms operate on His timetable. The Lord, the head of armies of angels, will one day shake everything not in alignment with His kingdom plans, demonstrating His ultimate control.4

He will also “shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory” (v7). Though only a remnant was there to worship, the Lord encouraged His people that this would not always be the case. Zechariah, in a couple of years from this point, would tell them that even Gentiles would “seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD,” and that ten Gentiles would take hold of a Jew and say, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zec 8:20-23). The valuable lesson for today is that numbers or the lack thereof in a congregation are not necessarily a sign of favor or disapproval from Him. If my emphasis is on drawing crowds instead of desiring God’s approval by keeping to His descriptions and prescriptions for His house, then I have forgotten whose house it is.

Lastly, the precious metals that beautified the old house and the comparatively few that were part of this house were His. This would be the same temple that Herod embellished, receiving the title “the Great” from the Jewish people. The Lord said not to worry about the silver and gold. He could provide it if it was His desire, but look ahead and see that there will be greater glory and greater peace. “This latter house” is the temple that will exist once the action of shaking in verses 6-7 occurs, built by the Branch, the Lord Jesus Christ (Zec 6:12-13). Ezekiel, in chapters 40-44 (chronologically near to this prophecy), describes a vision of this future temple and its glory. Where is our focus? It is easy to get caught up in appearances, creating attractions, and what I can do, rather than laying hold of His promises, giving Him our hearts, and hearing His words to propel us forward, “I am [still] with you.”

1 Note that a similar event in Ezra 3:12-13 is separate and occurred after the foundation of this temple was completed.

2 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV.

3 See the previous article in this series for more on Haggai’s first message, “I am with you.”

4 See also Hebrews 12:25-29.