Epiphany Three, January 27, 2019 — Haggai 2:1-9 — What Makes a Building Impressive?
Sermon for Epiphany Three – Sunday January 27, 2019
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
God’s Grace, mercy and peace are yours; a gift of God the Father planned in eternity, a gift purchased and won by God the Son, a gift made your possession by God the Spirit. To God alone the glory, Amen.
Haggai 2:1–9 (NKJV)
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: 3 ‘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? 4 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. 5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. 8 ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts. 9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who alone is our hope of glory,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood,
No doubt you’ve noticed that there are a number of new buildings going up in Marquette. There is the new UP Health Systems Hospital on Baraga Avenue; The Huge Condominium called One Marquette Place right next to the Ore Dock in the lower harbor; to say nothing of the Condominiums that have been springing up along Lakeshore Boulevard.
What is it that makes a building impressive? Is it the architecture of the building; is it the amenities that it houses; is it the location? What about the purpose of the building? I suppose that we could argue that all of these things influence what people think of a building.
So, is it the outside, the façade, the look of the building that makes it impressive…or what goes on inside of it? Again, it’s a judgment call, a matter of opinion. It depends on the ‘eye of the beholder.’
In 605 BC and 597 BC, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem (2 Kings 24:10-17) and gutted the temple and carried away all but the poorest people of the land. He left the temple standing, but without any of its furnishings. Then 10 years later (587 BC) Nebuchadnezzar returned to level it. The Fall of Jerusalem and the destruction the Temple of Solomon is recorded in 2 Kings (2 Kings 25:8-11):
8 And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month (which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon), Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He burned the house of the LORD and the king’s house; all the houses of Jerusalem, that is, all the houses of the great, he burned with fire. 10 And all the army of the Chaldeans who were with the captain of the guard broke down the walls of Jerusalem all around. 11 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive the rest of the people who remained in the city and the defectors who had deserted to the king of Babylon, with the rest of the multitude.
In 538 BC, King Darius, as influenced by the LORD, allowed some of the Israelites who had been taken from their homeland to return and to rebuild. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell how that rebuilding happened and what hurdles they encountered. They rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem and their homes, but after laying the foundation of the Temple, they became discouraged and stopped.
Even when the Temple was completed, some of the people were disappointed. Why? They were disappointed because the temple that they rebuilt wasn’t nearly as impressive as the first temple built by Solomon.
What is it that makes a place of worship impressive? Is it it’s furnishings? It’s people? It’s pastor? Is the true glory of the church to be found in its external façade…or is it the message that is proclaimed within and the one who is honored and worshipped? It’s an important question.
We begin with prayer:
O Almighty and Everlasting God, you have joined together all those who believe in Christ into one spiritual temple. Look with favor upon this little flock and upon this building raised to the glory of Your Name. Enable us to gather here to hear your Word and to offer up our prayers and praises. Grant that this place may always be a place where Your name is honored; a place set apart for Godly Worship and prayer. Bless our coming in and our going out from this time even forevermore, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord. Amen.
In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying: 3 ‘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?
We don’t only shed tears when we are sad. We sometimes cry when we are overwhelmed with joy.
When the foundation of the 2nd Temple was laid, Ezra describes the response of the survivors in this way (Ezra 3:10-12):
10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes…
Those who had seen the first temple wept! Were they tears of joy or disappointment?
What makes a place of worship impressive? Is it it’s look and furnishings? If so, then there was no comparison. The inner walls of the Temple of Solomon were cedar walls carved with ornamental buds and open flowers overlaid with pure gold (cf. 1 Kings 6:14-30).
The 2nd Temple was simply a wood structure; the people didn’t have the wealth of Solomon. If the true glory of a building is to be found in its furnishings and price tag, then the second temple was as nothing.
If the true glory of a building is in its external beauty and price tag then St. Peter’s Cathedral has to be one of the most impressive places of worship in Marquette! Then there is First Presbyterian and First United Methodist on Front Street. Even with the time and money we’ve spent painting and landscaping…if ranked by furnishings and price tag…where would Calvary rank?
Well, maybe they wept because of the people who weren’t present. Is it the people who attend a place of worship that make it impressive? The Temple of Solomon was attended by Kings, David, Solomon, Josiah and Hezekiah. If it’s the people who come to a building that make it impressive…then the 2nd Temple wasn’t glorious at all.
Is it the seating capacity that makes a place impressive? If so, then Calvary surely doesn’t rank in the Top 10 in Marquette. If it’s the people that attend, what famous person attends Calvary?
Well, is it the worship leader? There are those who count charisma and speaking ability as valuable. Is that what makes a place of worship glorious?
Does that matter? I’m sure you know the names, Albrecht, Naumann, Sandeen, Schaller, Reim, Fleischer. Did they make Calvary impressive? Each man served the LORD and played his role imperfectly, it was God who blessed the efforts of each of them (1 Corinthians 3:1-16). They weren’t the glory of Calvary Lutheran.
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. 5 ‘According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’
The people needed to be encouraged. Some were discouraged by the enormity of the task, while others were disappointed with the simplicity of the 2nd Temple. So, the LORD encouraged them.
Let’s look carefully at how the LORD lent them the strength they needed – from the Governor to the High Priest, to the Survivors. He didn’t only say, “Be strong.” He didn’t call upon them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. He strengthened them and their resolve by reminding them of two simple things:
1) I am with you. I haven’t left you. I’m still here to support and protect you. My promise to be with you and to be your God is still good! I will still send the Messiah, and keep every other promise I’ve made to you. You aren’t alone, you don’t have to do this yourselves…I will make it happen.
2) My Spirit remains among you…and you have no reason to fear. The LORD was present with them. The LORD would still provide strength to them by His Spirit, through His Word.
We can be certain of the same today. The LORD Jesus has promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). The concern should never be that He will turn away…but rather we are to be on our guard that we not turn from Him.
Then the LORD promised that the plain wooden temple they were building would be still more glorious than the first temple, than Solomon’s Temple:
6 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts. 8 ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts. 9 ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts.
When the LORD of Hosts, the Commander in Chief of the Angel Armies, promises to shake heaven and earth, to shake all nations, we think of the Day of Judgment. It is the LORD’s presence that causes heaven and earth to shake, as in the day when the LORD descended upon Mount Sinai to give the Law of God to Moses (Exodus 19:16-20; Hebrews 12:18-24).
So, the LORD God wasn’t promising an earthquake to shake heaven, earth, sea, dryland and all nations…but was promising that His Presence would again descend to earth. He would again come to His Creation in a special way…not to judge or frighten but to save and comfort…not only His People but all nations.
The LORD of Hosts promised to shake all nations and to draw them to something called ‘The Desire of All Nations.’ ‘
ü Now there are some who read these words and conclude that the LORD is merely saying that He will gather from the nations the gold and silver needed to make the 2nd Temple Glorious. They imagine that the true glory of the Temple was to be found in its furnishings, gold and silver. All the silver and gold were already the LORD’s and in truth, still are (Psalm 24:1-2).
ü However, many others see ‘The Desire of All Nations’ as a person, a particular person. They don’t’ just see Him here in Haggai, but also in another promise of God given to a contemporary of Haggai, the Prophet Malachi (3:1):
“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” Says the LORD of hosts.
It would be the Desire of All Nations, the Promised Savior, Jesus of Nazareth, who would make the 2nd Temple more glorious than the former…for He would come to it and speak and teach within it. Herod the Great would make improvements to the Temple built by Zerubbabel, but the work of their hands was glorified when as a 12-year-old child and as a man, the Messiah, the God-man, came to speak and to teach in its courts. Then, as in the days when the pillar of cloud and fire revealed the presence of the LORD…did His glory fill the temple.
What makes this building impressive…is not it’s architecture! There is no inlaid gold here, just concrete block painted white. As much as we’d like it, this isn’t a 50,000-seat arena filled to capacity on Sunday. These walls haven’t played host to the rich and famous.
Still, this building is just as impressive as Solomon’s Temple…for the Desire of All Nations still comes to this place, still speaks and teaches here in His Word. He still encourages and comforts; despite the faults and failings of His under shepherds. For the Messiah, the God-man, still comes to us according to His Promise (Matthew 18:20):
20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.”
Peace is such a fleeting, ‘pie in the sky’ idea for most human beings today. Peace, for most, is merely peace and goodwill between nations. This is not the peace that the LORD of Hosts promises to provide in the Desire of All Nations. No, He provides peace with God, spiritual peace of heart and mind in the fact of sins forgiven.
It was in that place, in Jerusalem – technically just outside the city walls – that the LORD of Hosts made that peace a reality….when the Christ gave His body and shed His blood to make atonement for all men of all nations!
We shouldn’t have an inferiority complex here at Calvary. Our place of worship may not be glorious by human standards, but the Desire of All Nations still comes here with His message of love and grace.
May we never take it for granted.