REMEMBER your PAST and ‘BOLDLY’ FACE your PRESENT: 'Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing? 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. (Haggai 2:3-4)
Haggai was a contemporary of Zerubbabel the governor and Zechariah the prophet (see Haggai 1:1; 2:2; Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Haggai prophesied during a period about 18 years after the Persian king Cyrus had permitted the Jews to return to their homeland from exile in Babylon. Despite this length of time, the second temple remained unfinished, and Haggai’s messages urged the people of Jerusalem to complete the task. His message was bold and practical. In the words of Frank Gaebelein: “Few prophets have succeeded in packing into such brief compass so much spiritual common sense as Haggai did.”
The people in Haggai’s time had become discouraged with the new building, especially when they thought of the glory of the former temple of Solomon, which was one of the wonders of the ancient world (see 1 Kings 6). The aged persons, who were able to recall the magnificence of Solomon’s temple, found big difference between the grandeur of the two buildings. Despite the difference in the external architecture, God was present in this temple as well, which made up for all the shortage (v. 4).
In the above passage, it was Jehovah God who makes the comparison between the present temple and Solomon’s temple, which was predominant in the minds of the people of Israel. By comparison, the new temple seemed “as nothing” in their eyes when compared to the old. In fact, Ezra confirms that at the laying of the foundation of the Temple, many of the older people who had seen Solomon’s temple wept during that ceremony. How gracious of God to recognize their deep concern and grief!
In the similar fashion, many of us today are discouraged when we remember our past glorious days. What we should understand is that God did not discourage the leaders of Israel in Haggai’s time from honoring their glorious past, but He did exhort them to turn their eyes toward the present. He challenged the leaders and the people with these words: “Be strong and work; for I am with you” (2:4). Their newly constructed temple may not bring back the days of Solomon, but it would at least be a structure they could be proud of!
Many scriptures encourage us to remember and honor the past, but they also urge us to face the reality of the present. God is at work today, just as He was at work yesterday. God’s Spirit remains with us today (see John 14:16–17), just as He was with believers in times past. If we cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing today, we will bring even greater glory to God and accomplish even greater ministry than has yet been seen!
Let us beware that golden memories do not rob us of utilizing our present opportunities. God calls us to meet the needs of today, so even though we remember the past and what God has accomplished for us before, let us boldly face the present with courage and conviction knowing well that He has promised to be at our side for our help until the end of the age!