Be Strong and Work, the LORD of Hosts is With You

Westminster Abbey, London

The gray hairs and old bitties looked on, underwhelmed, at the sight of the new temple. They had memories from their childhood years of a glorious structure that reached upward and sparkled in the Middle-Eastern sun. How pitiful the modern recreation must have seemed to them. The temple had been destroyed by the Chaldean army under Nebuchadnezzar, and now the rebuilding had begun. But the people were discouraged. Even the foundation seemed to pale in comparison to the former glory of the temple. It was during this scene that a word came from the Lord to the prophet Haggai.

Haggai 2:1 KJV* In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying,
2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,
3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
4 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:
5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not.
6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.
9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

The essence of Haggai’s message from the Lord for was this: Be strong and work, for the Lord of Hosts is still with us, and the glory of his house will be greater than in previous years.

When it comes to the great promises of the Lord through the prophet Haggai, although much was anticipated, and a good deal experienced by the Jews in his day, It was not fulfilled fully in the 2nd Jewish temple. The heavens and the earth could have hardly seemed shaken in their favor when the Jews were ruled by a filthy pagan gentile hundreds of miles away to the East, under the Persian Empire. Yet God gives a bold promise. It takes faith to believe God in the midst of hardship. The Lord promises that he who was with the Hebrews when they walked out of Egypt, and got away from Pharaoh and his great army, is yet with them. The temple would be rebuilt, but much was lacking, as the old timers were already starting to notice when this word was preached. The glory of the Lord’s house did not seem to be what it had been in generations past. The governor Zerubbabel and the Joshua the high priest must have been at a loss as to how to motivate this people to finish the rebuilding effort. But how could that be, when the Lord was promising such a glorious blessing for the future? There came time when the earthly building was superseded by that building not made with hands, in which the Lord has his dwelling forever. This, brothers and sisters, is the Church of Jesus Christ. It is that temple which was restored at the resurrection, and dedicated on the day of Pentecost, the pillar and ground of truth.

God’s promise of the rebuilding of the Temple is fulfilled in the church today in Christ. We are that holy nation, that peculiar people, according to Peter. We are stones fit together tightly, placed upon that foundation which no man can lay, which is Jesus Christ our Lord. Verses 7-9 prophesy about the wealth of the nations being brought to the temple of the Lord, to replace that which had been stolen by the Chaldeans, but how far off this promise must have seemed to the people of God in Haggai’s day! They were beholden to the Persians to even have permission to build on the mount where YHWH (the LORD) had placed his name, and now they were being promised that the nations would bring tribute to Jerusalem??? These things are more than fulfilled in the Church of Jesus Christ. He who is called the LORD of hosts cannot fail to execute that which he has promised.

The glory of the Church consists: in her being gathered from many nations, in the fellowship of the family of God, and in the grace and peace in Christ experienced by her members.

The Church of Jesus Christ is gathered of many nations. No longer constricted to the Jewish nation, our Lord now calls through the preaching of his good news throughout the world, sons and daughters from every nation under heaven, to come taste and see that the Lord is good. We are one family in Christ. The riches of the nations coming to him are the peoples themselves, of every nation, who come and give fealty to our King, having been invited by the preaching of the gospel and drawn by his Spirit to a loving submission. This temple is rich indeed.

In the Church of Christ, members have a family of God. Though many have given up much to bear the name of Christ, yet our Lord assures us that we will gain all the more, in the family that he has created:

Mark 10:28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.
29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

There is sacrifice in the Church of Christ, as many of us have experienced, but there is also a blessing. There is that love that the world cannot know. There is a unity between brothers and sisters in Christ: a love that causes us to share our goods and efforts with one another. So the person who has forsaken much for the name of Christ feels like he has gained all the more, through the bonds of love that he has received with all of his brothers and sisters who are blood-brothers, having commonly been bought by the precious blood of the Lamb.

In the Church of Jesus Christ, believers experience the grace of God and peace that passes understanding.

Forgiveness of sins, and adoption into God’s family. What more could anyone ask for? What further riches could be sought after? We who know the grace of God count the riches of the world but dung for the sake of Christ. We have that peace with God. I don’t know if you knew this, but he owns everything. If we are trusting in him, we are confident that our heavenly Father will withhold from us no good thing. Let us revel in that grace of God that we have experienced, in the peace, and joy that we have known by God’s grace to us through Christ, that surpasses every earthly bauble.

Be strong in faith, and work, for the LORD of hosts is on our side. He has not left us. He who has saved us from our sins and redeemed us by the blood of Christ will also establish his name here in this place where we gather. He does not have his name placed only on one mountain in Jerusalem, but in every place. Let us be diligent in prayer and in action that God will establish his Church here in this place. He has given to each one of us gifts with which to bless the body: whether hospitality, or service, or being a witness to friends and neighbors. Let us all use our gifts as he has enabled us with the intention of growing his church here in this place, for he has promised that the glory of his Church will surpass that of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Let us work to establish his kingdom here in this place where he has planted us. We cannot fail with the LORD of hosts on our side, with him who controls all the armies of heaven, and works everything according to the counsel of his will. Everything he intends will come to pass. All the silver and the gold belongs to him. If we have him, we have all riches.

Be strong and work, for the Lord of Hosts is still with us, and the glory of his house is greater than in previous years.

*The King James Version has been used because it is free from copyright restriction within the United States of America.

The preceding is a short synopsis of a sermon preached at the Reformed Fellowship of Bellevue, on December 7, 2014, in Bellevue, Nebraska.

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