Who remains among you who saw this House in its former glory? So how do you see it now? Does it not seem as nothing in comparison in your eyes? …The treasures of all the nations will come, and I will fill this House with glory, says Adonai-Tzva'ot…The glory of this latter House will be greater than the former," says Adonai-Tzva'ot."
—Haggai 2:3, 7,9
Life in Jerusalem was being rebuilt after disaster. Expectations were high. In short order, the altar was built and sacrifices began. It was a time of rejoicing as Sukkot was celebrated! Surely, the Jewish hope had not been cut off! Then, after a time, the Foundation of the Temple was laid. The time for fulfillment of God's promises to Israel had finally come!
But then something strange happened. "But many…who had seen the former House, wept loudly at the sight of the foundation of this House…" (Ezra 3: 12). The Lord knew their disappointment and spoke through Haggai, "Who remains among you who saw this House in its former glory? So how do you see it now? Does it not seem as nothing in comparison in your eyes?" (Haggai 2:3). Yet the Lord assured them, "…I will fill this House with my glory…says Adonai-Tzva'ot…The glory of this latter House will be greater than the former," says Adonai-Tzva'ot" (Haggai 2:7, 9).
How could this be? This temple did not at all reflect the beauty and glory of the first Temple of Solomon. But listen for the harmony line of the prophet Haggai in this part of the story. What the people could not see then was the fullness of this promise. Ezra-Nehemiah was not the end of the prophetic story for the Jewish people, but it was one step closer. For one day in the future, wouldn't One walk through the Temple courts who is the glory of His people Israel (see Luke 2:32)?
And yet of a time in the future when…"I saw no temple in her, for its Temple is Adonai Elohei-Tzva’ot and the Lamb. And the city has no need for the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God lights it up, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations shall walk by its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory into it. Its gates shall never be shut by day, for there shall be no night there! And they shall bring into it the glory and honor of the nations" (Revelation 21:22-26).
Zechariah told the people in Ezra-Nehemiah's day too: “Thus says Adonai-Tzva’ot, ‘In those days it will come to pass that ten men from every language of the nations will grasp the corner of the garment of a Jew saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you”’” (Zechariah 8:23). And again, in Zechariah 14:16: “Then all the survivors from all the nations that attacked Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, Adonai-Tzva’ot, and to celebrate Sukkot.”
Did this happen during Ezra and Nehemiah's lifetime? Not quite. No one but the exiles at that time had access to the Temple or to God's presence. Who celebrated Sukkot during the time of Ezra-Nehemiah? Only the returnees, the Jewish people (Ezra 3:1-4; Nehemiah 6:72b-8:18).
But is that the fulness of what God promised through His prophets or is there another line in the song that makes up the whole? Yeshua, taking from Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 56:6–8 – read this one!), says in Mark 11:17, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be a house of prayer for all the nations'?" Even then, was this expectation met while Yeshua walked the earth? No, but will He bring His words to pass? You better believe it. It will happen when we all join in the song of Moses and of the Lamb:
Great and wonderful are Your deeds,
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who shall not fear and glorify Your name, O Lord?
For You alone are Holy.
All the nations shall come and worship before You,
for Your righteous acts have been revealed!
One day, the song God has been composing through the ages will be sung. All the nations will join with the Jewish people to worship the only Most Holy, for His righteous ways will finally be revealed, known and understood. Hallelujah!!!
Could it be this year? Our hope must be set on the One who made the promises. Though we may not see their fulfillment today, we have hope that the One who promised is faithful and He will bring His Word to pass. May we wait with expectant hearts for the promise of our Father.
Oh Lord haste the day when the faith shall be sight
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll
The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend
Even so it is well with my soul!
- Lord, prepare me for your return! Fill me with expectancy and hope! You said, "But understand this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed his house to be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you don’t expect” (Luke 12:39-40). I don't know where we are in your story exactly, but I want to be discerning of the signs of the times. May I set my heart on You and Your Kingdom so that I can join in Your forever song!
- What do we do when what we hoped for in the way we expected it doesn’t happen? Did God's promises to us fail? Does the crush of unmet expectations and snuffed out hope mean that God cannot be trusted or that His promises are no longer true? It can be hard to see through the pain of today the hope of the future. It is difficult to imagine something better in the face of a less than hopeful reality. Still, we have the hope of the Scriptures, the promises of the One who never fails. Choose to trust Him today and look for the day when your faith will be sight!