“On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the remnant of the people’ ” (Haggai 2:1-2). Less than a month after construction began, God spoke to Haggai, giving him a message for the nation and its leaders. God’s message became Haggai’s second sermonette (Haggai 2:1-9).
Interestingly, the twenty-first day of the seventh month was the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:33) and the very day that Solomon had dedicated the first temple (2 Chronicles 7:8-10).
Be strong! Be strong! Be strong! Haggai spoke to the Governor, to the High Priest, and to Jerusalem’s citizens. Obey the Lord! Don’t be afraid! Be strong! Build the temple!
But why was the temple so important to God?
First, the temple was a sign of the people’s priorities. The temple was the center of worship, the focus, the dwelling place of God’s glory in Jerusalem. As the Hebrews gathered to rebuild the temple, Jehovah was pleased to see their passion, their singlemindedness, their hungering to worship and honor their God.
Second, the temple showed that God was working powerfully in His people and that His promises of restoration were being fulfilled. While the Israelites were still living in Babylonian captivity, God had promised: “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be a permanent covenant with them. I will establish and multiply them and will set my sanctuary among them forever. My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their God, and they will be my people. When my sanctuary is among them forever, the nations will know that I, the Lord, sanctify Israel” (Ezekiel 37:26–28). The temple was a sign of God’s faithfulness, and evidence of His living presence among His people.
Third, the temple displayed God’s glory and thus brought Almighty God pleasure. After Solomon had completed the first temple, God filled it with His glory. “Fire descended from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests were not able to enter the Lord’s temple because the glory of the Lordfilled the temple of the Lord. All the Israelites were watching when the fire descended and the glory of the Lord came on the temple. They bowed down on the pavement with their faces to the ground. They worshiped and praised the Lord: For he is good, for his faithful love endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1–3).
And lastly, the temple served as a pledge of the new covenant. “The days are coming... when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah... I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them... For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin” (Jeremiah 31:31–34). The temple was a foreshadowing of better, more glorious things to come. Someday soon, we will dwell in the presence of our glorious and gracious God. There will be no temple in Heaven, because Jesus will be there. “He will wipe away every tear... Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:3–4).
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.