Haggai 2: 6 – 9
How big is God? How great is His glory? Just the thought of it is enough to boggle the mind.
Psalm 19:1 - "How big is God?" Considering the vastness of His universe, the universe He created, how big would God have to be to create all of this which my eyes can see? It was more than my mind could imagine. What little my human eyes could see that night was enough to convince me that God was beyond my comprehension. And I only could see a very small fraction of the cosmos.
Our universe is vast indeed. Our sun is one of its stars. The sun is so huge that if it were hollow, more than one million earths would fit inside. Yet, it is one of the smaller stars in our galaxy. There are many stars that are much larger than the sun; so large, in fact, that one-half billion suns would rattle around inside. There are one hundred billion stars in a galaxy, and over one hundred million galaxies which are thought to be in our universe. Our universe is vast, indeed. Our galaxy alone is thought to be one hundred thousand light years in diameter. Yet that is just the distance across our galaxy. Take that and multiply it by one hundred million galaxies.
How big is God? Big enough to make all of that! "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." But there’s more. Right now, we appear to be still. Yet, we are all moving - the earth is rotating - and we are moving through space as we travel in our orbit around the sun. But our solar system is moving as well, around our galaxy; and our galaxy is moving around the universe, as is every planet and every star and every solar system and every galaxy in existence. It certainly takes a divine traffic cop to orchestrate the movements of all these bodies through space. "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Our God’s glory truly is revealed as we ponder the heavens above. And yet, this is just one small manifestation of the glory of God. For all the vastness of this universe did not tax the intelligence of God. In His creative genius they represent only one creative thought in His mind. How great and glorious is our God!
It is incredible, but it is true that God desires to manifest His glory to His people and through His people. While we see the creative genius and power of God through what is around us, God’s glory is also manifested through mortal man. Our text today speaks about God’s desire to manifest His glory in the midst of His people. What is in view is the rebuilding of the Temple under Zerubbabel. Prophetically, Haggai speaks of the former glory and the present glory of God’s Temple. Now, while the former glory referred to the Temple under Solomon, and the present glory referred to the Temple under Zerubbabel, there is a broader application to this passage. We see, in this passage, not only a reference to how God manifested His glory under the Old Covenant; but also a prediction of the greater glory which would be revealed in the New Covenant.
In the Old Testament, God met with His people and manifested His glory, first in the Tabernacle, and then in the Temple. But under the New Covenant, the Bible teaches us that we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. Now, God desires to manifest His glory in us and through us. This is the exciting message of the Word of God to us today. We can be a people who manifest the glory of God. We can experience His glory in our lives, and we can reveal His glory to the world.
Have you ever considered that you are created to contain the glory of God? Has the thought ever crossed your mind that you are a vessel through which God can channel His glory? Do you know that God desires for ordinary Christians to carry His glory and manifest that glory to the world? It’s true — for you. It’s not reserved for the apostles, or pastors, or special "holy" people, but it is for everyone. It is for you.
1. The Former Glory v. 9a
Let’s look briefly at God’s glory revealed in the Old Testament, specifically, at the former glory of God revealed through His Temple.
There are 6 Hebrew words for glory. Haggai is referring to God coming and taking charge. When kabod comes, God is present with us. God is taking charge. When kabod is absent, God is absent. You are probably familiar with the term ichabod, which means, "the glory has departed." When the glory has departed, God has departed. But when the glory descends, God takes charge. So, the glory of God is simply the presence of God in our midst.
In the Old Testament, when the Tabernacle was built, the glory of the Lord God descended upon it and He communed there with His people. When Solomon built his great Temple, God’s glory descended upon it - 2 Chronicles 7: 1, 2. God had been meeting with Israel through the Tabernacle from Moses’ day until Solomon’s, and continued to do so in the Temple Solomon built.
But Solomon’s Temple was destroyed and the people of Israel were carried into captivity. Now Zerubbabel had come back to Jerusalem and was endeavouring to rebuild the former house. Thus we have the prophecy in Haggai. God promises, in v. 7, to "fill this house with glory." But He also promises, in v. 9, that “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former.” Again the people were desiring to come into relationship with God, and He would reward them with His presence by manifesting His glory in their midst.
Following the Lord is relational in nature. God is a Person, and as such He desires to commune with His people. He always has. In the Garden of Eden He walked in the cool of the day with Adam as they enjoyed fellowship with one another. When He called Israel, He set up the Tabernacle to commune with them. Now, Solomon had built his Temple. When that Temple was dedicated, God’s glory came, kabod came. God’s glory was manifested to serve as an encouragement to the people, as a reminder of His strength and provision for them and as a motivation for their worship of Him as the Lord God.
The ultimate fulfilment of Haggai’s prophecy would not come in the rebuilding of the Temple, however. Although there was great glory which God manifested in the Temple, the ultimate fulfilment would not come under the Old Covenant, but in the New. The ultimate fulfilment of Haggai’s prophecy would come in the person of Jesus Christ and through His work of grace in our lives. It is the glory of the New Covenant of grace.
2. The Present Glory
Let’s turn now to see God’s glory revealed in the New Testament. The Greek word, doksan, carries the same idea as kabod - John 1: 14. In Christ we see the glory and authority of God. The glory of God is revealed and manifested in Christ Jesus. In the Old Testament, we saw God revealed in a place. In the New Testament, we see God revealed in a person. God is revealed in Jesus Christ.
This is a glorious and precious truth indeed. Through the incarnation of Jesus Christ, we can behold God. Do you want to know what God is like? Simply look at Jesus. Do you want to see the Father? Behold the Son. God, as a great cosmic spirit, is difficult to comprehend. So God sent us Jesus Christ. In Christ, God was made a man so that we could see how God lives as a man. In this man, Jesus, we see the glory of God manifested in human flesh.
Here’s the incredible thing: God not only manifested His glory in Jesus, He also desires to manifest His glory in us. John 17: 10 - Christ desires to be glorified in us. What an amazing thought! But it’s true.
1 Corinthians 3: 16 - In other words, we are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God. Just as God dwelt with His people, Israel, in the Old Testament Temple, so He dwells with His people in a New Temple. The Spirit of God dwells in each of us. We are a temple of God. We are a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. We are a place where God manifests His glory. We are people through whom God manifests His glory.
The Bible teaches that we are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That is God’s purpose for us. God is changing us daily into the image of His Son. Now, this image is an inward image, not an outward one. So God gives us His moral attributes: love, peace, purity, justice, fairness, and the like. They are imparted to us as we allow the Holy Spirit to live in and through our lives. This is God’s plan for us. It is His plan for the Church.
At Pentecost, the glory of God fell, even as it fell on the Temple that Solomon built. The Holy Spirit descended into the midst of those early Christians and filled them to overflowing with His power. That power is still present for us today. As we allow God to fill us with His Holy Spirit and to control us by His sovereign power, then we become vessels, filled with His glory. We have no higher calling as believers in Jesus Christ than to be filled with the glory of God and to manifest that glory to this watching world. Just as the heavens above declare the glory of God, so should we declare the glory of God. Just as Jesus Christ manifested the glory of God, so should we manifest the glory of God. But how does it occur?
2 Corinthians 3: 18 - We are invited here to behold Jesus in order to be changed into His image. This is the key to practically manifesting the glory of God in our lives. We must behold Jesus. He must be the centre of our lives. He must be the driving force behind all we do. He must be the passion of our heart. If we would be those who manifest His glory, we must behold Him. We must keep Him ever before our eyes. We must look to Him, surrender to Him, spend time with Him, allow His glory to fill us and His power to possess us.
In Jesus we see the reflected glory of God. It is as if we are beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord. We could not stand in the presence of His full glory. Jesus allows us to see the glory of God only in such a degree as we can stand. But even beholding the reflected glory of God, the Scripture teaches that we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory." It is like sitting before a tanning lamp, receiving its rays. As we do, our bodies begin to change. They become tan and brown as we bask in its warmth. So, we all need to bask in the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We need to sit in His presence and behold Him. We need to cry to Him, "Lord Jesus, change me. Lord Jesus, transform my life. Lord Jesus, make me like you. Lord Jesus, fill me with Your Holy Spirit and help me to live daily for You." And then we need to worship Him, who is our life, with all our hearts. As we do so, we will be changed, from glory to glory, by beholding Him. Have you ever thought of yourself as being the depository of the glory of God? Have you ever considered that God can use you to reveal His glory? That is His desire, and it should be our delight. God has called each of us to be a vessel in whom He can dwell.