By Brooke Holt
“In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: ‘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, ‘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? 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, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.” Haggai 2:1-5
A spirit of discouragement can be debilitating. When things don’t seem to be working out, or the opposition against you feels much greater than your resources, how do you respond? In the book of Haggai, God’s people were struggling under this spirit of discouragement. These people had once seen the glory of Solomon’s temple and then witnessed the destruction of that temple by the Babylonians. As God had forewarned his people, the Babylonians not only came to tear down their walls and temple but to lead them into exile. For seventy years, God’s people longed to be back in the Promised Land.
As Haggai penned these words, they were finally home. In fact, at the time of Haggai’s writing, they had been back in Judah for at least sixteen years. They had homes to live in, yet God’s temple was still not built. It was not that they hadn’t meant to rebuild the temple; each time they began, there was opposition and resistance followed by discouragement. How could they rebuild the temple with the same glory as before the Babylonian’s destruction?
The Lord saw his people struggling while he also saw the apathy that came with the discouragement. This prophetic word of the Lord through Haggai was intended to awaken and reinvigorate them. Three times in these five verses, the Lord tells them to “be strong” (Haggai 2:4). Notice how they were to be strong—through the Spirit that remained in their midst (Haggai 2:5). That Spirit of the Lord was there to strengthen them, drive out fear, and overcome the spirit of discouragement.
The Lord posed three questions to the people: who remembers the former glory of the temple, how is the temple now, and is that temple in shambles today? Three questions followed by three commands: be strong, work, and fear not. The Israelites were called to remember, honestly face their current situation, and then resume work on the temple, remembering what God had done in the past on their behalf, the covenant he had made with them, and that his Spirit was among them.
This was the pathway to temple restoration, and the time to begin that restoration was now! These questions of the Lord to the Israelites can be ours today—do you remember the times God was present in your life—working in and through you by his Spirit? Are you living faithfully in those memories and allowing him to continue that work in and through you? Today is the day for your restoration.
How is God calling you to overcome the spirit of discouragement and be strong in him today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Awaken the awe and the wonder of Advent! “The King Is Coming” is a 4-week Advent devotional especially written with a child’s heart in mind. It takes families through the salvation story by focusing on who God is, the gift of Jesus, and the importance of celebrating and sharing that miraculous gift! Bring your family together this Advent season for a journey exploring God’s big love for you.
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