We’ve come to the end point of Old Testament history, and the final week in our series. We saw last week that God’s people had sinned so much that they were sent away from the Promised Land to Babylon. Eventually, Babylon itself was conquered and taken over by the new superpower, Persia. Under the rule of Persian king Cyrus, the people of Judah were allowed to return to their homeland. This was seen as a great act of divine deliverance, just like when the Israelites were delivered from slavery in Egypt.
Once people had returned to Jerusalem, they undertook the task of rebuilding the temple. The temple had been an essential part of worship for Israel:
– it symbolised God’s presence with his people
– it was the place where people could be reconciled with God
Even though they were in the Promised Land again, things weren’t quite living up to the promise. The line of Davidic kings were no longer ruling in the land and only some of the tribes of Israel had returned. As the new temple was being built, a sense of disappointment grew – it didn’t seem to match the splendour of what had gone before.
Through Haggai’s prophecy God encourages his people not to become disheartened.
In a little while, I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD Almighty. The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the LORD Almighty. The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the LORD Almighty.
God promises that, in the near future, he will ‘shake the heavens and the earth’ – he will revolutionise the way that people relate to God. And connected closely to this, the arrival of ‘the desire of all nations’. Going right back to the promise made to Abraham, it has always been God’s plan to extend his blessing to the whole earth.
Though the temple being built seemed underwhelming compared to Solomon’s temple, God promises that it will actually have even greater glory. A stronger sense of God’s presence and favour. Lasting peace between God and his people. All of these promises – a new order, blessing for all nations, glory and peace – come through the new temple.
Yet, as with all these Old Testament prophecies, the immediate fulfilment points ahead to something further still. By Jesus’ time, the temple had fallen into corruption and profanity. In John 2:18-22, Jesus rebukes the corrupt practices he sees happening. Not only that, Jesus identifies himself as the true temple. He fully lives out the theological truths that the temple pointed towards. Through the incarnation of Jesus, God dwells physically with his people, not merely symbolically.
Jesus is the place where we can find ultimate reconciliation with God, once for all through his death on the cross. As Jesus gave his last breath, the veil in the temple – separating humanity from God – was torn in two. Heaven and earth were shaken up, forever changing the way people can approach God. And Jesus is the ‘desire of all nations’, the one who offers salvation to all people. It is through this Temple that people of all tribes and languages will come to God, and the promise to bless all nations will be fulfilled.
Through the sacrifice made in Jesus’ body, we can have deep, lasting peace with God that radiates out into peace with one another. Jesus’ glory is far greater than that of Solomon’s temple, or even the temple of Haggai’s day. For Jesus is the perfect representation of the Father, and accomplishes his age-old plans to redeem and restore his people.
When Jesus walked on earth, he was the physical Temple of God. But now, through the Holy Spirit, we as believers are also described as God’s Temple! We are the dwelling place of God, and the place where people can come to meet him. Not only us individually, but as a community of believers – built together with Jesus as our cornerstone.
We’ve come to the final week of our A Holy History series! I hope it has been enriching for you as we’ve looked at the big picture of the Old Testament and how Jesus is promised every step of the way!