…the God who gives endurance and encouragement…
The rebuilding of the temple decreed by Cyrus had ground to a halt. Fourteen years passed and the foundations had become silted with debris and overgrown with weeds. Meanwhile the Jews transferred their energies to their own concerns and God’s concerns.
This time of year it’s easy to focus on what “hasn’t happened,” what we don’t have, while losing sight of the big picture of what God has been up to in our lives. Advent is a reminder that much of life is waiting. But by itself, that is not very encouraging. God wants us to know that he has not abandoned us in the meantime – he is here with us in the waiting.
This coming Sunday, Erik Thoennes will be preaching the first nine verses of Haggai 2. In that passage, the God of Encouragement brings a word to his people through the prophet that is meant to restart their energies and renew their passion to finish what they began years ago. And he takes their imaginations into the future, catching them up in his Grand Design, for there is a glory to be revealed that will far outshine any glory this rebuilding could ever contain.
The passage contains three commands to “be strong,” and an exclamation point of “fear not.” How can God say this? Are these just empty words?
Absolutely not. There is one truth that guarantees success for God’s people.
My Spirit remains in your midst.
This is the season that the word “Emmanuel” takes on significance. God with us. Be praying that the ever-present God of Encouragement will do just that among us as we worship him this Sunday.
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet:
“Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?
Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord.
Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest.
Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst.
For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”