Vol. 5, No. 4
~ Page 15 ~
Haggai 2:4-5 records a portion of a message of Jehovah to those trying to lead in the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the captivity. God, through Haggai, says:
'Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says the Lord; 'and be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and be strong, all you people of the land,' says the Lord, 'and work; for I am with you,' says the Lord of hosts. 'According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!' (NKJV)
It is the second part of the statement that was so eye-catching to me. If ever there was a bold statement of the faithfulness of God, couched in a command to be faithful to him in return, this is it.
After the exile from their homeland, many Jews had been allowed to return to Judah and Jerusalem. They eagerly began reconstruction of the temple, but fell into a fear-filled delay when their enemies raised a fuss over it. The incidents are recorded in the first chapters of Ezra, and chapter four, verse twenty-four concludes with this sad recognition:
Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
I guess we shouldn't, as fellow human beings, be too hard on those folks who discontinued the work. After all, the opposition was persistent and vociferous. But, God, in his wisdom and righteous expectations, was not pleased. So, chapter five, verse one of Ezra records that God sent a couple of prophets to stir the people to work. One of them, of course, was Haggai.
Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.
History tells us that approximately fifteen years had passed from the stoppage of work on the temple to its resumption. Children were born and grew to be teenagers while the house of God was neglected. These prophets' message, though, had the desired effect. Zerubbabel and Joshua led in the rebuilding (Ezra 5:2) and the temple was completed and dedicated (6:13-18).
Hopefully, the people realized, and we assume they did, that God's power was behind this success, and not their own. And that is what brings us back to the second part of Haggai's statement -- a sentence that so fitly describes the faithfulness of God.
'According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!'
God's promise to help them overcome their fear within and their enemies without was not based on a whim, an arbitrary delight, or how he seemed to feel that day. It was based on a promise he had made centuries before. When he brought up Israel out of Egypt, he had made promises regarding them. He had even made promises before this -- to their father Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). One example of such a promise is in Exodus 29:45-46:
"I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them up out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.
The point is simple, and applicable under the New Covenant, even though the specifics are different. God made promises regarding his people in his church at the establishment of it nearly two thousand years ago. He's still good for them. Just like he was still good for his promises to the children of Judah after all those years, he's still good for his promises to us. And, oh, yeah, just as he expected their obedience in return, he still expects ours. How wonderful it is to serve such a faithful God.