“The Deeps” from The Valley of Vision. Ed. By Arthur Bennet. (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh, 1975), 134-135.
Give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach;
Help me chastely to flee it, and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be thine alone.
Give me a deeper knowledge of thyself as Savior, Master, Lord, and King.
Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in they Word, more steadfast grip on its truth.
Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly Husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until thou alone art seen in me, thy beauty golden like summer harvest, thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.
I am nothing but that thou makest me, I have nothing but that I receive from thee, I can be nothing but that grace adorns me.
Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water. Amen.
Haggai 2:1-5—Take Strength in God
2 1In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘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? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
On Monday we noted how good the Persians were at keeping records of the date (2nd year of Darius=520 BC), here in chapter 2 we see Haggai is keeping close records as well. It’s the seventh month on the twenty-first day of the month—to us that’s July 21st, but not so with ancient Israel. Their calendar began in mid-March (the month of Nisan lasted from mid-March through mid-April), so the seventh month was September/October (Tishri).
I know you don’t really care about the day or month Haggai was prophesying to the people of Israel, neither do I, but this date is significant. The 21st day of the seventh month, Tishri, was the last day of the feast of Tabernacles. This was also called the Feast of Booths. In this fest the Jews celebrated God’s provision in the wilderness as they journeyed toward the Promised Land. So, we see how Haggai’s prophesy at this moment corresponded very nicely with the feast Israel was celebrating.
At the feast of Tabernacles, the Jews built little Tabernacles/booths to live in temporarily commemorating their pilgrimage when they didn’t have a permanent home. It also commemorated that God’s home wasn’t permanent either—Yahweh traveled in a tent (The Tabernacle) with His people. So as Haggai came forward with God’s message on this day, it had very timely relevance. They were celebrating God’s presence being with them even in the wilderness, when they didn’t have a permanent home and God’s house was still mobile too.
This feast pointed forward to the day when the Temple would be built first by Solomon, fulfilling the requirement of Dt. 12:4-7 (You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.). Wonderfully appropriate considering they are currently, in Haggai’s time, looking forward to finishing the Temple again.
But, there’s a problem. It’s the same problem we noted yesterday—v.3 “‘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?” They are caught in the tension between what theologians call “the already but not yet”. They’ve already experienced the greater redemption from Exile, greater even than the Exodus (Jer. 16:14-15). That’s HUGE!!
It’s even part of the Ten Commandments—Dt. 5:12,13,15 (Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work. . . You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.). But now the saying will be Yahweh delivered Israel from the north countries (Babylon, Assyria, Persia). So, according to God’s word Israel is currently experiencing a greater redemption than they previously had. That’s the already.
But the problem is what they see in the temple. That’s the not yet. The foundation was a rinky-dink little structure that caused the old men who remembered Solomon’s temple to cry because it was so little (Ezra 3:12). God’s answer is “take courage, fear not”.
Does that mean God is telling us, “buck up little camper” or “keep a stiff upper lip” (read that in a British accent)? If that’s what he means, then we don’t really need God, do we? We can do it all by ourselves already!
That’s not what God means by take courage and fear not. Just look at how God says it, “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares Yahweh. Work, for I am with you, declares Yahweh Sabaoth (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.”
This statement is telling God’s people there’s something for us to do, the Christian life isn’t a spectator activity. Be strong—decide to follow, to rely, to seek God. Work—like doing your chores no matter your age, they need to get done, work. But the foundation of the commands is found in the essence of why God says, fear not.
Yahweh doesn’t say fear not because Israel is so great at doing what they should, nor are we. No, the reason we don’t need to fear is because God is a covenant making and covenant keeping God. We see this revealed in reminders and fulfillment here. First the reminder: “the covenant that I made when you came out of Egypt”. This isn’t any new agreement. God committed himself to His sinners much, much, before any of these people were born. You can rely on God because He’s never let us down! And fulfillment, he brought them out of Egypt under Moses. He’s brought them out of Exile under Shealtiel now. And God himself is with them, His Spirit is in their midst.
At the end of one of the angriest books in the Bible comes one of the sweetest truths of God’s love for his people: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zeph 3:17). Remember today God’s Spirit is in our midst and He quiets us by his love and exults over even us, as the least deserving disciples we are, he exults over us with singing! FEAR NOT your Father in heaven is keeping you in his plans and protecting you with his might! In that peace, we can work and be strong to His glory and for the good of His people, equipped by his covenant faithfulness.