The year is 520 B.C. and Haggai, the prophet, gave a message of encouragement to the builders of the temple. The Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem after the fall of the Babylonian empire. They were abundantly provided for, even paneling their homes in 1970’s fashion (Haggai 1:4). The Lord gathered the men on the last day of the Feast of Booths to address their discouragement (Haggai 2:1). The comfort had settled in (Haggai 1:6) and the construction of the temple stopped. The builders were discouraged (Haggai 2:3). What was God’s encouragement through the prophet Haggai? God encouraged them to fight discouragement with 3 Commands:
God does not leave any believer out of his expectation to act in spiritual strength.
- Be Strong! (Haggai 2:4) – The imperative implies inward superiority where the confidence of God’s presence collides with the courage of man. ‘Be strong’ is repeated three times in Haggai 2:4 with different audiences addressed each time (Zerubbabel, Joshua son of Jehozadak, and all the people of the land). God does not leave any believer out of his expectation to act in spiritual strength. Strength would be used in the secular world to convey the state of someone who recovered from illness. Discouragement was their spiritual illness and spiritual vitality was commanded. We also see this instruction consistent throughout the Old Testament (Deut. 31:23; Josh. 1:6, 9; 1 Chr. 22:13; 28:20; Zech. 8:9). Similar in fashion to the New Testament advice in the teachings of Paul (Ephesians 6:10). We can start our pursuit of strength by not letting the world get in the way of your sacrificial worship to God (Rom. 12:2), and having a Christian mindset in all times (Eccl. 3:1-10; Phil. 4:8-10), and clothing yourself with the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20). Fight discouragement today by fostering spiritual strength, knowing that God is still Immanuel (God with us).
- Work Hard! (Haggai 2:4) – The imperative implies the exertion one does physically and mentally to achieve a goal. For the Jews in Haggai, this meant getting out of the mindset of complacency and seeking God’s will in rebuilding the temple with hard labor. After this address, the Jews went to work and completed the construction of the temple by 515 B.C, in less than 5 years. We must ask if we have a complacency leading to laziness in our own lives? Are we hard workers taking the time and putting forth the mental energy to fight discouragement and achieve God’s Will? In order to fight discouragement we can start working hard in prayer, reading the Bible, attending Church, and serving our local Church with our spiritual gifts (Acts 2:42-47).
- Don’t Fear! (Haggai 2:5) – Fear implies that you are afraid of the process or outcome, even after being promised that God is amidst you. The Jews felt opposition from neighboring peoples and this caused them to fear their continued progress (Ezra 4:4-5). In Haggai, the Jews had the Spirit abiding in their midst, which should have caused them to know that God was going to be more powerful than any opposition. As New Testament believers we have the Holy Spirit in a greater sense, not abiding in our midst, but abiding within us (John 14:17; 1 John 3:24; 4:13). As New Testament believers, we are not building a physical temple, but our spiritual temple must be built without fear that God is in control. Fear is a lack of reliance upon God’s omnipotence (all-powerful) and omnipresence (everywhere). Fear has led many to act unbecoming before God. Saul’s fear led him to listen to the bad advice of his people and offer a forbidden sacrifice; which caused Samuel to say “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22-24). In order to fight discouragement we can start by not fearing the world’s opinions when we want to obey (1 Sam. 15:24), not fearing for our future provision by pursuing righteousness (Matt. 6:25-34), and by putting on love to cast out fear (1 John 4:18).
A remnant will always fight discouragement and not let the comforts of society get in the way of being encouraged by God. Amen!
David J. Lupinetti is the Associate Pastor at San Tan Bible Church in Arizona. He has a passion for Expository Preaching, Biblical Counseling, Discipleship, and Evangelism.