Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, said the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest…
A ruined church is oftentimes a sad comment on religion; an unfinished church is a sadder one. What had arrested the work that began so auspiciously?
1. The enthusiasm of the people was but a transient fervour. Steadfastness is a cardinal virtue. The reward is to him that over cometh.
2. Then they began to question and calculate. Might it not be that the project was premature? The altar was restored, why could not the temple wait? Some said, "The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built."
3. Meanwhile there was the natural concern as to temporal affairs. One by one the workmen left the temple walls, and turned their energy to affairs of more personal moment. Perhaps if they had continued to devote themselves to God's sanctuary, He might have devised some plan for providing for their wants.
4. There were other things that conspired to arrest the work. The adjacent tribes had set themselves against it Not until Darius came to the throne did the Jews pluck up courage to resume the work. Haggai's prophecies are brief and fragmentary, consisting of three addresses all delivered within a period of three months. In the first he admonished them that self-seeking at the expense of the Lord's work is a losing venture. Their own prosperity had suffered. It may seem that Haggai appealed to a low motive, but the Jews were always sensitive at this point. They had ever an eye to the main chance, and they have to this day. The Lord knew how to move their sluggish natures. When Darius issued an order endorsing the original permission to build, Haggai delivered his second address. The resources seemed inadequate to a great enterprise, and it seemed hardly worth while to build what must be an inferior house. Haggai is to assure them that God was with them, and the glory of the latter house should surpass that of the earlier one. How could that be?
(1) God would here manifest Himself in the outpouring of His power. Sublime messages of truth, announcements of Divine faithfulness in the fulfilment of old-time shadows, flaming prophecies of ultimate glory were to be heard amid these rising walls.
(2) But, better still, Messiah Himself was to worship at the altar, and walk among these porches. If the light of the golden candlesticks was quenched, what mattered it? The Light of the World was here to shine forth.
(3) If God were so minded He might adorn the second temple with wealth incomputable. "The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine."(4) Still further, the latter house was to be beautified with salvation. "For in this place will I give peace." With such considerations as these did the prophet encourage the builders. Then came Haggai's third message. He began by admonishing them that sin disqualifies for holy service. Then he touches upon their sordidness and want of faith. Let them turn and trust God. Still it holds true that godliness, obedience, simple trust, is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:8). On the same day when this address was made to the people a special word of encouragement was sent through the prophet to Zerubbabel. Haggai's work was soon ended. His work was to encourage the builders, and he did it. What more could be asked of any man? God has a commission for every one. To heed and endeavour is to make an assured success of life. This is the very best that can be written of any mortal man, that he had something to do, and did it for God.
(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:
WEB: Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,' says Yahweh. 'Be strong, Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,' says Yahweh, 'and work, for I am with you,' says Yahweh of Armies.