Remembering the Old, Pressing on to the Future
This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for June 12, 2022. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.
More than one person has asked me, as we look at the stories in Ezra, why are we jumping between Ezra, about the middle of the OT to Haggai at the end and back again. Let me remind you about the organization of the English OT Bible, made up of 39 “books.” The books are arranged in Four different sections: 1) The Law or Torah by Moses (Gen-Deut), 2) The History Books (Josh- Esther), 3) The Poetry Books (Job-Song of S.) 3) The Prophets (Isa-Mal). Ezra is at the end of the History section along with Nehemiah & Esther. Haggai is a prophet who ministered at Ezra’s time. His Book is towards the end of the Prophets, and he wrote it during the life of Ezra. Each of these books help us better understand the other book better.
So, this morning’s Scripture reading is taken from Haggai 2:1-9. Today’s message is meant to be short, so we can move on to the business meeting which follows.
As the returned exiles are beginning to rebuild their Temple in Jerusalem, the people are excited to see what God is doing. Most of them were born in the Mesopotamian River region to parents or grandparents who had been exiled from Judah because of the Jews’ refusal to follow God. The truths of God’s laws had been taught to them and they were eager to begin a “New Judah,” free of the pagan practices which had plagued the “Old Judah.”
The roadblocks to reconstructing the Temple had been removed by the Emperor, and new resources to build without harassment were in place. The future looked bright.
However, within the crowds of builders were some who were old enough to remember “the good old days” of the “former Temple” as it is called in our text. After all, from the last exile (detailed in Jeremiah) to the return of Zerubbabel is 47 years. The delays in rebuilding the Temple took 19 years long. That is 66 years, so the “elderly persons” old enough to remember the old Temple were +71 years old. They could remember the old Temple. While the Temple build was the same square footage, the old one was much more ornate. The courts surrounding the Temple were, for the most part, missing in the new Temple. The buildings remembered by a child of 5 or 10 probably seemed much bigger than the ones they saw now.
There is a tendency for each of us, especially when we have seen a few more “winters” than those around us, to reminisce about the “good old days.” At Vets Chapel we may think back to when the post was active and new soldiers, on either permanent or temporary duty, would flock to this building or to the Post Chapel.
We also may remember times when the American social morés were different. In the past, pastoral ministers were respected and looked up to in the community, rather than viewed as “remnants of a bygone era.” Right or wrong were defined in light of objective truths about God and authorities.
Our tendency is to view the present in the light of a skewed view of the past. Things are not as they used to be in the “good old days.” The future is also often viewed as a slippery slope into destruction. Nothing good can come of this present world, so “Beam me up Lord!!” is our cry.
What we need to remember is: 1) the past is often viewed through our limited vision of our nostalgia. We forget the so called “good old days” were filled with as many sins and challenges as the present. For Ezra’s time, they forgot that God had removed the Jews out of His Promised Land because of their unfaithfulness. 2) The present is God working in the world today. In the case of Ezra’s time, God was preserving His people for the next phase of His plan, the bringing of the Messiah to earth, and Messiah being descendant of the city mayor (governor), Zerubbabel. We often do not see God working today. And we can never grasp what He has in mind for the future. He calls on us to simply trust Him for the results. 3) We often forget God is working all things out for a future ultimate good. Someday, and that probably in heaven, we will look back and see how our individual life struggles and doubts worked out to the good in God’s overall plan for the ages.
In the case of these “elderly” Jews in Zerubbabel’s Jerusalem, they needed to be reminded that God was in this “little and insignificant” house. It was being built under His supervision, and into it would come, in the future, the glory of God (Haggai 2:7). Yes, this is a prophecy of Herod re-modeling this Temple to be the largest and greatest Temple so-far-built in the Roman Empire. And it was grand and beautiful.
But more than that “’the Desire of all the Nations’ (2:7 KJV) will come and fill this house with glory, says the LORD Almighty.” This is the very house that the One everyone in the world is looking for, would enter, worship, and teach. And in so doing, He would fill this very house with glory. Jesus Christ, the one the whole world is looking for, came into the house with glory. We remember that day as Palm Sunday.
And someday He will again return to His house and rule the world in absolute truth. That house is not built yet. But we need to recall that God is working in our world today, just as He has been for centuries, to bring it about.
God Bless you,
CH Jim Odell