The book of Haggai serves as a rich commentary to these chapters in Ezra. Haggai (along with Zechariah – which we’ll read through in December) was the local prophet who encouraged the people to restart building the temple. Evidently, all the earlier opposition pushed the people into complacency. They were content to live in their own houses while the house of the Lord lay in ruins. God had something to say about this!
He had sent drought and hail in the hopes that the people would turn to him for help, but they continued in their self-sufficiency. In spite of this, God was merciful and intervened through the prophet Haggai.
There are so many rich layers woven throughout these passages.
First, we see that the Jews’ responded to Haggai’s message in obedience – so that the temple was completed! The temple represented God’s continued presence with his people and his faithfulness to keep his promises.
But glaringly obvious to everyone was the fact that the temple did not compare to Solomon’s former temple. God addressed this in Haggai:
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, [and] 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. Fear not (Haggai 2:3-5).
God asserted that the temple’s outward grandeur was of secondary importance to His presence. This second temple served as a stepping stone to the day when the temple would no longer be a physical building – but rather God would manifest His presence within His people.
Paul touches on these themes in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians. He teaches that we are not at “home” in our physical bodies – rather we long for “a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1). Paul says that while we are on earth, we “groan” for our heavenly tent – for “mortality to be swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4).
So, in many ways, this second temple’s lack of grandeur is a physical picture of our life on earth. We long for more… We long for our eternal home.
Lastly, we see a hint of the fulfillment of all God’s promises in the last verse of Haggai. The hint isn’t obvious, but it’s there!
On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts (Haggai 2:23).
Zerubbabel was the current governor of Judah, but he was also a descendant of the last king of Judah, Jehoiachin (1 Chron. 3:16–19, where Jehoiachin is called Jeconiah). And if Zerubbabel was descended from the last king of Judah, that meant he was also descended from King David. And who was prophesied to come from the line of David to establish his Kingdom on earth? Yes. Jesus.
“On that day” (Haggai 2:23), looks forward to the end of the age, when the temple is replaced by the Lord himself!
…for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb … and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it (Rev. 21:22, 24).
Yes, one day, this man, who knew no sin – but became sin, so that we might become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21)…this man will take his place as the final temple. And then, and only then, will we be home.
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 (Haggai 2:9).