“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?... “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory… The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house…” (Hg 2:3, 6-9)
We’ve spent a couple of months studying the fear of the Lord, and today’s sermon is the last one of the series. Last Sunday, we talked about the relationship between fearing God and God’s vision.
I think one of the most remarkable changes that we experience when we recover the fear of the Lord is that our perspective, or worldview, changes. We all have our own values that we live by, and our values are largely influenced by our perspectives—the way we see the world.
When we recover the fear of the Lord, we start to seek God’s vision and not our own. What’s important to God becomes important to us. We become more interested in God’s mission than our own plans.
However, when we lose the fear of the Lord, we lose sight of His purpose for us and become interested in our own plans without regard for God’s will.
That’s what happened when the Israelites returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon. At first, their top priority was rebuilding the temple of the Lord. They were very enthusiastic and passionate about it. But when they faced opposition and interruption, they just gave up.
Over time, they slowly lost their passion for the temple of the Lord and started to focus on their own affairs. As a result, the temple of the Lord was neglected and remained in ruin.
At that time, God sent the prophet Haggai to tell the Israelites,
“These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house… Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?... Give careful thought to your ways.” (Hg 1:2-5)
One of the ways we can check whether we fear God or not is to see if our future plans and what we pursue in our lives are in line with God’s vision for the world.
There’s nothing wrong with being busy, and it’s actually good to be busy to some degree, but we need to make sure that whatever we’re busy with is related to the kingdom of God that we’re called to build as His people.
If we’re Christians, the way we see the world must be different. Our perspectives and values must change. Rather than being interested in building our own paneled houses, we’re to constantly think about how we can prepare the way of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we can build God’s kingdom on earth. And I believe the key to recovering God’s vision for us and for the world is the fear of the Lord.
Consider the Former Temple
Let’s return to Haggai. When Haggai proclaimed God’s message to the Israelites, they listened to him and started to build the temple of the Lord again.
Ezra 5:1-2 says,
“Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel and Joshua set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.” (Ezr 5:1-2).
As a result of the prophets’ proclamation, the fear of the Lord was restored in the hearts of Israel, and their focus returned to God. They still faced opposition, but they chose to rebuild the temple despite the situation. They chose to listen to God’s message through the prophets and prioritize His will over their own interests.
Then, when they started rebuilding the temple, Haggai said to the people of Israel,
“Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (Hg 2:3)
The temple of the Lord they were building truly looked small and trivial compared to the first temple that had been built under King Solomon.
So when the foundation of the temple was first laid, even though many people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord full of joy and excitement, Ezra 3:12 says, ℗ “many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid” (Ezr 3:12)
They started to rebuild the temple of the Lord, but it paled in comparison to the previous one.
When the first temple was built, resources were abundant. King David spent a long time preparing everything for God’s house, and there were a lot of workers and supervisors. And the splendor of the first temple and God’s glory that filled it were great.
But now, they didn’t have many resources and workers. On top of that, their enemies kept trying to interrupt their work. How could they build the temple of God to match the splendor of the previous one? The temple they were building couldn’t even compare. It was certainly discouraging to the people of Israel.
But God told them,
“But now…Be strong, all you people of the land…and work. For I am with you…This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.’” (Hg 2:4-5)
Here, we find three important things that we must focus on when we work for God—His presence, His promise, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Even though there were fewer resources, God was still with His people. Even though what they were building seemed insignificant, the work was part of God’s covenant. What’s more, the Spirit of God remained with them and gave them strength to work.
I think these are three important aspects that we should also focus on. The more we focus on our situation, the more we will be discouraged.
But if we focus on God’s presence, His promise, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can keep following God’s will no matter the circumstances.
But that’s not all. God also gave them His glorious vision again. Let’s read Haggai 2:6-9 together.
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory. The silver is mine and the gold is mine. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Hag 2:6-9)
It's truly amazing to see how God described the temple the people of Israel were building. It seemed insignificant to them, but not to God. God told them that the glory of the temple they were building would be greater than the glory of the previous one.
That definitely wasn’t because they had more resources or workers. That wasn’t within their control, but it was within God’s control. God told them this because He had the power to see it through. He Himself would work, shaking the heavens and the earth and all nations, and fill the temple with His glory.
They didn’t have to worry about the lack of resources because they had the true source of all resources.
We also read how God describes the future glory and restoration of the people of Israel in the book of Isaiah.
Isaiah 30:26 says,
“The moon will shine like the sun, and the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days, when the Lord binds up the bruises of his people and heals the wounds he inflicted.” (Is 30:26)
The context of Isaiah chapter 30 is that the people of Israel were relying more on Egypt than on God.
As God said,
“Woe to the obstinate children, to those who carry out plans that are not mine… who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.” (Is 30:1-2)
They sought strength from the world rather than from God. They relied on idols more than God. So God would have to purify the people with adversity and affliction.
Through this process, they would cast out their idols and turn their hearts back to God. And once this happened, God would heal his people and “the sunlight will be seven times brighter, like the light of seven full days” (Is 30:26)
I think this refers to the healing that would come from Jesus, the Messiah, who is also called “the sun of righteousness.” As God said, “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays” (Mal 4:2)
No one but Jesus has seen God’s full glory.
There will come a time when God restores everything and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14). On that day, we’ll see this prophecy fulfilled. “His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth” (Hab 3:3)
This is the ultimate sense of God’s glory we must always keep in mind as Christians. If we don’t, we will end up failing to achieve God’s will for us and drifting away from it.
I believe God is asking us the same question today that He asked through the prophet Haggai: “How many of you remember the church in its former glory? How does it compare to the church today?”
The glory of the early churches was outstanding. On the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came and filled the disciples. And they went out and began to proclaim Jesus’ name in the streets.
Their proclamation and the power of the Holy Spirit captured the attention of the crowds in Jerusalem. And thousands of people came back to Jesus day by day.
The early churches did not have many resources. There was no newspaper, radio, television, or internet, but the gospel of Jesus Christ spread very quickly throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the Gentiles.
The apostles’ teachings were accompanied by many wonders and signs. In the early stage of the church, the glory of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit were so intense that the church grew quickly in a very short amount of time.
How believers lived out their faith was admirable. They shared their possessions so that no one in the community lacked anything. Even though Christians faced intense persecution, they rejoiced all the more for joining in Jesus’ suffering. These were glorious times in the early church.
I wasn’t there, but I miss those times. I really wish I had been there and experienced the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. I miss the great revival, the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, and genuine faith that was accompanied by sacrifice, obedience, and suffering.
And when I see the church and Christian faith nowadays, it’s true that it seems like nothing compared to what it used to be. But that’s not what I want to focus on, because we still have God’s promise that His churches will be even more glorious than the former church.
Even though we can’t see it now, we know that this will happen because the One who promised it is God Almighty, who is faithful to His covenant and never fails to keep it. We’ll see the sun of righteousness restore everything and the sunlight shine 7 times brighter.
The full glory is yet to come, but it surely will come. That’s what we must focus on right now. Our faith must be future-oriented. We can’t stay stuck in the past. We shouldn’t complain about our current situation by comparing it to the past. We shouldn't be stuck in the past just because we think the faith we used to have was stronger than the faith we have now.
Rather than living in the past, we must focus our eyes on the future glory that God will bring us. That’s where we must put our hope. In other words, we must trust in God’s vision for the future. Then we can stand up, keep following God’s will with sincere faith, and trust in Him no matter the circumstances.
I strongly believe that God has special plans for each of us. God is working in us and wants us to work with Him. Even though there are many obstacles that keep us from following His will, they don’t really matter when our eyes are focused on Him.
What we need to believe is that God is always with us, that He keeps His promises, and that the Holy Spirit is working in us with His power. God is faithful to His promises, and He promised us that we will see His glory which can’t compare to any glory we’ve seen so far.
I hope and pray that God opens our minds and hearts so that we can trust Him and see His future glory, and that we can keep walking with Him no matter what with faith in His presence, His promise, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
Heavenly Father, please restore Your vision and Your glory in us. We’re so weak that we’re easily discouraged by our circumstances. Rather than putting our hope in You and Your promise, we’re quick to compare our present circumstances to the past and feel disappointed.
Lord, we need Your revelation. We need to recover Your glory and our trust in Your promise. Please be with us, work in us, show us Your glory, and help us walk in faith by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Allow us to recover our fear of You so that our ways will always be in line with Yours.
We thank You, Lord.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Today, we talked about the importance of recovering God’s glory. These are the questions I want us to think about.
1) Are you a past-oriented person or a future-oriented person? Why?
2) What do you think your future will be like? Do you have a verse that speaks to you as a personal promise from God? Do you have an idea of how God will expand His kingdom through you?