Here is, I. The date of this message, Hag. 2:1. It was sent on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, when the builders had been about a month at work (since the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month), and had got it in some forwardness. Note, Those that are hearty in the service of God shall receive fresh encouragements from him to proceed in it, as their case calls for them. Set the wheels a going, and God will oil them.
II. The direction of this message, Hag. 2:2. The encouragements here are sent to the same persons to whom the reproofs in the foregoing chapter are directed; for those that are wounded by the convictions of the word shall be healed and bound up by its consolations. Speak to Zerubbabel, and Joshua, and the residue of the people, the very same that obeyed the voice of the Lord (Hag. 1:12) and whose spirits God stirred up to do so (Hag. 1:14); to them are sent these words of comfort.
III. The message itself, in which observe,
1. The discouragements which those laboured under who were employed in this work. That which was such a damp upon them, and an alloy to their joy, when the foundation of the temple was laid, was still a clog upon them—that they could not build such a temple now as Solomon built, not so large, so stately, so sumptuous, a one as that was. This fetched tears from the eyes of many, when the dimensions of it were first laid (Ezra 3:12), and still it made the work go on heavily—that the glory of this house, in comparison with that of the former, was as nothing, Hag. 2:3. It was now about seventy years since Solomon’s temple was destroyed (for that was in the nineteenth year of the captivity, and this about the nineteenth after the captivity), so that there might be some yet alive who could remember to have seen it, and still they would be upbraiding themselves and their brethren with the great disparity between this house and that. One could remember the gold with which it was overlaid, another the precious stones with which it was garnished; one could describe the magnificence of the porch, another of the pillars—and where are these now? This weakened the hands of the builders; for, though our gracious God is pleased with us if we do in sincerity as well as we can in his service, yet our proud hearts will scarcely let us be pleased with ourselves unless we do as well as others whose abilities far exceed ours. And it is sometimes the fault of old people to discourage the services of the present age by crying up too much the performances and attainments of the former age, with which others should be provoked to emulation, but not exposed to contempt. Say not thou that the former days were better than these (Eccl. 7:10), but thank God that there is any good in these, bad as they are.
2. The encouragement that is given them to go on in the work, notwithstanding (Hag. 2:4): Yet now, though this house is likely to be much inferior to the former, be strong, O Zerubbabel! and be strong, O Joshua! Let not these leading men give way to this suggestion, nor be disheartened by it, but do as well as they can, when they cannot do so well as they would; and let all the people of the land be strong too, and work; and, if the leaders have but a good heart on it, it is hoped that the followers will have the better heart. Note, Those that work for God ought to exert themselves with vigour, and then to encourage themselves with hope that it will end well.
3. The grounds of these encouragements. God himself says to them, Fear you not (Hag. 2:5), and he gives good reasons for it.
(1.) They have God with them, his Spirit and his special presence: Be strong, for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts, Hag. 2:4. This he had said before (Hag. 1:13), I am with you. But we need to have these assurances repeated, that we may have strong consolation. The presence of God with us, as the Lord of hosts, is enough to silence all our fears and to help us over all the discouragements we may meet with in the way of our duty. The Jews had hosts against them, but they had the Lord of hosts with them, to take their part and plead their cause. He is with them; for, [1.] He adheres to his promise. His covenant is inviolable, and he will be always theirs, and will appear and act for them, according to the word that he covenanted with them when they came out of Egypt. Though he chastens them for their transgressions with the rod, yet he will not make his faithfulness to fail. [2.] He dwells among them by his Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy. When he first formed them into a people he gave his good Spirit to instruct them (Neh. 9:20); and still the Spirit, though often grieved and provoked to withdraw, remained among them. It was the Spirit of God that stirred up their spirits to come out of Babylon (Ezra 1:5), and now to build the temple, Hag. 1:14. Note, We have reason to be encouraged as long as we have the Spirit of God remaining among us to work upon us, for so long we have God with us to work for us.
(2.) They shall have the Messiah among them shortly—him that should come. To him bore all the prophets witness and this prophet particularly here, Hag. 2:6, 7. Here is an intimation of the time of his coming, that it should not be long ere he came: “Yet once, it is a little while, and he shall come. The Old-Testament church has but one stage more (if we may say so) to travel; five stages were now past, from Adam to Noah, thence to Abraham, thence to Moses, thence to Solomon’s temple, thence to the captivity, and now yet one stage more, its sixth day’s journey, and then comes the sabbatism of the Messiah’s kingdom. Let the Son of man, when he comes, find faith on the earth, and let the children of promise continue still looking for him, for now it is but a little while and he will come; hold out, faith and patience, yet awhile, for he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.” And, as he then said of his first appearance, so now of his second, Surely I come quickly. Now concerning his coming it is here foretold, [1.] That it shall be introduced by a general shaking (Hag. 2:6): I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. This is applied to the setting up of Christ’s kingdom in the world, to make way for which he will judge among the heathen, Ps. 110:6. God will once again do for his church as he did when he brought them out of Egypt; he shook the heavens and earth at Mount Sinai, with thunder, and lightnings, and earthquakes; he shook the sea and the dry land when lanes were made through the sea and streams fetched out of the rock. This shall be done again, when, at the sufferings of Christ, the sun shall be darkened, the earth shake, the rocks rend—when, at the birth of Christ, Herod and all Jerusalem are troubled (Matt. 2:3), and he is set for the fall and rising again of many. When his kingdom was set up it was with a shock to the nations; the oracles were silenced, idols were destroyed, and the powers of the kingdoms were moved and removed, Heb. 12:27. It denotes the removing of the things that are shaken. Note, The shaking of the nations is often in order to the settling of the church and the establishing of the things that cannot be shaken. [2.] That it shall issue in a general satisfaction. He shall come as the desire of all nations—desirable to all nations, for in him shall all the families of the earth be blessed with the best of blessings—long expected and desired by the good people in all nations, that had any intelligence from the Old-Testament predictions concerning him. Balaam in the land of Moab had spoken of a star that should arise out of Jacob, and Job in the land of Uz of his living Redeemer; the concourse of devout men from all parts at Jerusalem (Acts 2:5) was in expectation of the setting up of the Messiah’s kingdom about that time. All the nations that are brought in to Christ, and discipled in his name, have called him, and will call him, all their salvation and all their desire. This glorious title of Christ seems to refer to Jacob’s prophecy (Gen. 49:10), that to him shall the gathering of the people be.
(3.) The house they are now building shall be filled with glory to such a degree that its glory shall exceed that of Solomon’s temple. The enemies of the Jews followed them with reproach, and cast contempt upon the house they were building; but they might very well endure that when God undertook to fill it with glory. It is God’s prerogative to fill with glory; the glory that comes from him is satisfying, and not vain glory. Moses’s tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were filled with glory when God in a cloud took possession of them; but this house shall be filled with glory of another nature. [1.] Let them not be concerned because this house will not have so much silver and gold about it as Solomon’s temple had, Hag. 2:8. God needs not the silver and gold to adorn his temple, for (says he), The silver is mine, and the gold is mine. All the silver and gold in the world are his; all that is hid in the bowels of the earth (for the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof), all that is laid up in the exchequers, banks, and treasuries of the children of men, and all that circulates for the maintaining of trade and commerce; it is all the Lord’s. Every penny bears his image as well as Caesar’s; and therefore when gold and silver are dedicated to his honour, and employed in his service, no addition is made to him, for it was his before. When David and his princes offered vast sums for the service of the house of God, they acknowledged, It is all thy own, and of thy own, Lord, have we given thee, 1 Chron. 29:14, 16. Therefore God needs not sacrifice, for every beast of the forest is his, Ps. 50:10. Note, If we have silver and gold, we must serve and honour God with them, for they are all his own, we have but the use of them, the property remains in him; but, if we have not silver and gold to honour him with, we must honour him with such as we have, and he will accept us, for he needs them not; all the silver and gold in the world are his already. The earth is full of his riches, so is the great and wide sea also. [2.] Let them be comforted with this, that, though this temple have less gold in it, it shall have more glory than Solomon’s (Hag. 2:9): The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former. This was never true in respect of outward glory. This latter house was indeed in its latter times very much beautified and enriched by Herod, and we find the disciples admiring the stones and buildings of the temple, how fine they were (Mark 13:1); but it was nothing in comparison with Solomon’s temple; and, besides, the Jews own that several of the divine glories of the first temple were wanting in this—the ark, the urim and thummim, the fire from heaven, and the Schechinah; so that we cannot conceive how the glory of this latter house should in any thing exceed that of the former, but in that which would indeed excel all the glories of the first house—the presence of the Messiah in it, the Son of God, his being presented there the glory of his people Israel, his attending there at twelve years old, and afterwards his preaching and working miracles there, and his driving the buyers and sellers out of it. It was necessary, then, that the Messiah should come while the second temple stood; but, that being long since destroyed, we must conclude that our Lord Jesus is the Christ, is he that should come, and we are to look for no other. It was also the glory of this latter house, First, That, before the coming of Christ, it was always kept free from idols and idolatries, and was never polluted with those abominable things, as the first temple often was (2 Kgs. 23:11, 12), and in this its glory excelled all the glory of that. Note, The purity of the church, and the strict adherence to divine institutions, are much more its glory than external pomp and splendour. Secondly, That, after Christ, the gospel was preached in it by the apostles, even all the words of this life, Acts 5:20. In the temple Jesus Christ was daily preached, Acts 5:42. Now the ministration of righteousness and life by the gospel was unspeakably more glorious than the law, which was a ministration of death and condemnation, 2 Cor. 3:9, 10. Note, That is the most valuable glory which arises from our relation to Christ and our interest in him. As, where Christ is, behold a greater than Solomon is there, so the heart in which he dwells, and makes a living temple, behold it is more glorious than Solomon’s temple, and will be so to eternity.
(4.) They should see a comfortable end of their present troubles, and enjoy the pleasure of a happy settlement: In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts. Note, God’s presence with his people in his ordinances secures to them all good. If God be with us, peace is with us. But the Jews under the latter temple had so much trouble that we must conclude this promise to have its accomplishment in that spiritual peace which Jesus Christ has by his blood purchased for, and by his last will and testament bequeathed to, all believers (John 14:27), that peace which Christ himself preached as the prophet of peace, and gives as the prince of peace. God will give peace in this place; he will give his Son to be the peace, Eph. 2:14.