Text: Haggai 2:6, 7 — “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and 1 win shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all the nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.”
The prophet Haggai, living about 520 B.C., exercised his ministry at a crucial period in the history of God’s people. Then the temple was being rebuilt; work had slowed down upon it; and the people of God were discouraged. Disappointment made them neglectful in their restoration of the house of God. It was through Haggai’s ministry and that of Zechariah, after Darius ascended to the throne of the great Persian Empire, that God induced his people to resume their building of the temple with a ready heart. “In the second year of Darius the ling, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.” And throughout the entire course of this brief prophecy, Haggai continues in a similar vein to upbraid and chastise and encourage and console this people, who through his words took heart and resumed the construction of the temple of the Lord of hosts.
Our text, while it has reference to such building of the second temple, nevertheless refers as well to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and it is at this point that we center our interest. I take that text from the second chapter and verses six and seven: “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; 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.”
I should like to draw this proposition from the text: That God solemnly assures his people of the sudden advent of the Saviour who is their heart’s desire. Consider,
I. That our text points us to dependence upon God.
In the space of four short verses, five times does the phrase appear, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts.” Verse six:
“For thus saith the Lord of hosts”; verse seven: “And I will fill thiS house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts”; Verse eight: “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts”; Verse nine: “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.” He is Yahweh Sabaoth -the Lord of hosts.
I say at once that our text points us to dependence upon God. You must recall how very low was the estate of God’s people at this juncture in their history. Some fifty thousand had in 536 B.C. returned from captivity. God had kept his word and permitted the restoration of this people. But the vast majority chose to remain in Babylon and the eastern provinces, and it was but a remnant that returned to a countryside, desolate and forsaken, and to a city in which there was apparent yet the ruin of a former temple, that of Solomon. The people must have been cast down, but at once they began work upon the second temple.
Though the years passed by and they continued their sporadic efforts toward its construction, yet they lost heart and looked about them to see only that they were but a poor, pitiful handful of people whose enemies were very great in number. Their plight was a sorry one. The glory of Judah and of the royal house of David had departed. God’s people occupied a very low and ignominious condition. There was little about which to be glad. While it was true that they had been permitted to return to the promised land, yet what was this promised land but a heap of rubble? And the task that awaited them was staggering. But the prophet repeatedly uses those few short words and with purpose: “Thus saith the Lord of hosts.” You see, there is a principle involved here. The less likely a thing seems, the more necessary it is to trust God for it. The prophet uses the expression, “Thus saith the Lord,” to impress upon the consciousness of this people that the future does not lie in their, but in God’s hands. “Thus saith the Lord.”
My dear friends, learn, therefore, that we must be dependent upon God for all things. O, human nature likes. to think of itself as independent of God. But it is not independent. Man must await God’s pleasure. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” “The Lord hath made all things for himself, yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” I say, learn to trust God for all things. This people, as they looked at Solomon’s temple in ruins and at the miserable substitute that their means would now permit them to erect, had need to take heart in the Lord their God.
Perhaps you have had a very severe disappointment in life. It may be on account of family; it may be in the area of your work; perhaps it is in relationships with neighbors; it may be that you have been disappointed in a friend; perhaps you are uncertain about the future and fearful of provision for its exigencies and needs. My dear friends, learn to do as these people did. Learn to trust in God. It is from him that our help comes. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts.” Nothing is too hard for him. Nothing is beyond his capacity to assist or be of help. In his hands is the whole world. He holds the reins of the government. Nothing transpires without his direction. He is a God of providence who keeps covenant with his people. This must be my comfort, and it must be yours.
II. That our text makes us await God’s time and God’s way.
“For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth.” I have already indicated to you that the prophecy was uttered in 520 B.C. This was a long time before the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. But even so, God tells his people, “Yet once, it is a little while”—but a few short years must yet transpire before I shall shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. Take heart my people! Be lifted up! Be filled with joy! Have confidence within you! “Yet once, it is a little while.” “I will not tarry forever. You will not be permitted to rest always in your sins. As the future is in my hands, I will direct it toward your salvation. I will work your deliverance. I swear it upon my word as Almighty God.” “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth.”
No doubt, those years seemed very long, and the people must often have cried out, “How long, O Lord, how long?” There was great suffering yet in the experience of God’s people throughout the era of the Maccabees under Antiochus Epiphanes and others. “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth.” God’s time is not man’s time, is it? And God does not await man’s pleasure, but his own. The fulness of time had not yet come. O, from before the foundation of the world Jesus Christ was already appointed to be the Mediator and Redeemer of his people. But he should be born of a woman, born under the law, only when God said so and not a moment before. “Yet once, it is a little while.” Learn patience from our text, and understand that God the Almighty, who is at gathering his Church and at beginning a good work in the hearts of his people, will bring this all to conclusion one day—the day he has appointed. “Yet once, it is a little while.”
Let us in our hearts be at peace on this score, without fear, without terror. 0, for Our sakes the waiting is not the same as it was for ancient Israel. Israel must await the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ, but now he has come! The child has been born. The angels have sung their hymns of adoration and praise. The apostles have preached their Gospel and established the Church. And throughout these two thousand years Cod has been at calling his chosen ones out of the world into its fellowship. However, the end is not yet. And though it is true that the early Christians looked for it, yet it did not come in their lifetime. And it may not come in ours. But, “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.” For our hearts, let us learn today that God will come. God will complete his work of redemption. God will bring us body and soul before his presence with exceeding joy. O, what a comfort it is to know that the same Cod who addressed himself to the decrepit Israelites in Haggai’s day addresses himself to us now at this Christmastide, and assures us: “Yet once, it is a little while”—only a little while, a few short years—“and I will shake the heavens, and the earth.”
III. That our text promises violent upheavals at the Lord’s coming.
“I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land: And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” There should be. the prophet said, at the advent of Messiah, great upheavals. You must know that this began shortly after the prophet uttered this prediction. For Persia was already doomed, and ere long her king, the king of kings as he was called, was overthrown by Alexander, whose own conquests were usurped afterwards by the power of Rome. Even Rome, though in the days of the republic, when its Senate was vigorous, and its people strong and fresh and young, very great indeed, was now an empire since the accession of Augustus Caesar and on the way to ruin.
But there is more here than a reference to political upheaval, the destruction of Persia and Greece and Rome and all world power, and the convulsions that are forever at shaking the realm of men. For Almighty God would so shake the nations, that in the days of Cyrenius, governor of Syria, all the world went to their own home cities to be taxed; hence, Messiah could be born in Bethlehem-Judah. Still more, the Magi, the wise men, came from Persia to Jerusalem and to Bethlehem as they were guided by a star. There were celestial manifestations at the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. The heavens themselves praised him. And a star, a miraculous celestial occurrence, guided these wise men from the east to the manger bed of the infant Jesus.
Again, after he had been born, throughout the course of his life, did not the blind see, the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the lame walk, and the dead live? And whilst he was hanging upon the cross, after being delivered to death by the sentence of Pontius Pilate, the procurator of Judaea, did not the earth shake with great quakings, and were not the graves opened, and did not the bodies of the saints appear to many? And were not the heavens covered by a thick, dark blanket of clouds to blot out the face of the sun? And on Easter Lord’s Day morning did not Jesus Christ, as he had said, rise from the dead?
Once more, through the preaching of the everlasting Gospel in the ministry of our Lord and the apostles, and particularly of St. Paul, was not the whole world turned upside down by the testimony of the very heathen? “I will shake the heavens and the earth.” Behold, how important to Almighty God is the salvation of his people. Behold to what lengths God will go to save his people. He is not an impotent, helpless sort of God that can do nothing to deliver his children from the shackles of sin in which they have locked themselves. He is the Almighty One, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who possesses every attribute, and who will by all means save his people.
Ah, let us rejoice at this ancient testimony to the efficacy and the power and the strength and the saving energy of the Gospel of God’s grace. Are you a poor sinner? Have you terrible sins in your life? Do your sins appear to you as a great mountain immovable? Are you weighed down to the earth by the weight of them? Do you see no way out of the guilt of them? Then my dear friends, hear again the words of this prophetic minister of the Old Testament. “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; and I will shake all nations.”
But there is something more. For while these things have been fulfilled in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet that fulfillment is only partial. Is there not here an indication of that which yet must be, when the sun shall be darkened and the moon turned to blood in the day of the convulsions of the end, when our Lord himself will appear on the clouds of heaven, and the elements melt with fervent heat, and the sky be rolled up as a scroll, and the consummation come? Then indeed will be fulfilled in strength and power the words of Haggai, “I will shake the heavens, and the earth.” There is much power amongst men. And the inventions of the twentieth century stagger the imagination as we consider but the nuclear power possessed by the great nations. But nuclear power is nothing before the power of God. He created it. He is behind it, and God, the God of Jesus Christ, the God of his people, at the last day will purge this same earth, will with one hand as the trumpet blows dash all unconverted persons to everlasting destruction and with the other refurbish that which now appears until it becomes that new heaven and new earth of prophetic promise.
IV. That our text describes our Lord truly as the desire of all the nations.
“And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” What a beautiful description of the Lord Jesus Christ this is! And yet it poses a problem to us, does it not? The catechism truly reflecting the teaching of Scripture describes human nature as prone by itself to hate God and our neighbor. Mankind, as he is in himself, does not love God, and does not wish to serve God. But the prophet here calls our Lord Jesus Christ “the desire of all nations.” What possibly can he mean?
I believe initially he means, though the nations of the earth do not love God, but the rather hate him; and do not love righteousness, but the rather hate it; that there is beneath the surface of things that often hidden consciousness of the existence of God, and that almost submerged conviction that human nature is not what it was intended to be, and that if it does not change, it must perish at last. “The desire of all nations”—there is religious aspiration throughout the world. There is longing for God in every human heart. It is twisted; it is perverted; it is not directed properly; it cannot save; but there is, nevertheless, something left still of what our Creator put within us at the rust.
Still more, when the prophet speaks of Jesus Christ as the desire of all nations, we must note that he does not refer primarily to the nations as such, but to his people amongst them. Similarly, when we read, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” though in one ideal sense we are to see the world as a whole, yet in another we are to understand his people, for whom Christ died and whom he will save. “The desire of all nations shall come.” Jesus Christ is truly de. sired and loved by his people,—His people amongst Israel, His people throughout every age. He is the desire of his people. He is the longed-for One whose coming his people once anticipated with great joy and ever since have looked back upon with thanksgiving.
Now, let me ask you: Is he your desire? The Psalmist Solid, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” It is this which the prophet intends. Do you desire Jesus Christ? Is he the object of your longing? Is he the one whom you anticipate? Do you look for his second coming in glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead? Do you, and this most importantly, look for him, long for him, desire him as Saviour? “And the desire of all nations shall come.”
“The desire of all nations.” There is much that we de· sire in this life. We desire friends; we desire a loved one with whom to spend our life; we desire family; we desire comfort and prosperity; we desire posterity—children; we desire to be well-thought of and to be of some repute; we desire many things. And by and large, human nature spends itself in these things that it desires. But the first desire, the paramount desire, our only desire at last, must be Jesus Christ. Is that true of you? Haggai and his associates looked toward him, but he has come. And you must look back upon him, yes, and up to him in heaven. “The desire—the desire—of all nations shall come.”
I fear very much that for many of you Jesus Christ is not your great consuming desire. I fear very much that a good deal of our religion is of custom, form, and superstition. I fear very much that we are motivated by something other than a desire to be saved and to be made like Jesus Christ in worship and life. 0, what a superficial age this is! I beseech you today, as you look into the Scriptures of God, consider well the condition of your heart. God will not be satisfied by that which contents men. And God will not accept the credentials you have received from bis Church. God will only accept of you true believing faith. God will only accept of you a regenerated, converted heart. “The desire of all the nations shall come.”
V. That our text predicts the glorious establishment of the Christian Church.
“And I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” In the book of Ezra we learn that there were those amongst the fifty thousand that returned who remembered Solomon’s temple and wept when they saw its replacement. It was a poor, shoddy substitute. The temple in Jerusalem after the return of the exiles was something of which they were not proud, but rather ashamed, when they compared it in their minds with the glory that had been. God understood this, and promised something much more glorious than a temple made of wood and stone, even though it be furnished with gold and silver and precious gems. God promised a Church. There is no more important establishment in Scripture than the Church. The Church is the body of Christ—that for which he died, the whole sum of his elect, those who belong to Jesus Christ and arc united to him by saving faith.
Many despise the Church. Do you know that our confession teaches us outside the Church there is no salvation? It means that those who belong to Jesus Christ find their natural home in the church; those who are his people are the people of the church; their’s are the means of grace; their’s are the sacraments—the Lord’s Supper and holy Baptism; their’s are the ordinances of revealed religion. The Church is the Christian’s natural home, and he is not permitted to contemn or despise it, but must, rather, give thanks to Almighty God for it. O, with what great joy it is that we look upon the Church of Jesus Christ, that fold of God into which all his sheep are safely led.
I have already asked you, Do you belong to Jesus Christ? Is he the desire of your heart? Now I ask you still more, Are you a part of his Church? The two go together, you see. Are you a part of his body?—the fulness of him that filleth all in all. What a striking article that is in the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in a holy catholic Church.” The Church, the Church for which he died; the Church, the Church which he keeps; the Church, the Church that he will save—are you a part of it?
Much about the Church is shoddy and poor and weak and miserable. But it is His Church. And the Scripture tells us, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” And again, Jesus said, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come.” Ah, my dear friends, look upon the text and upon the Lord of the text and upon his Church and find your place in it. Amen.
As we prepare to commemorate again the blessed event of Our Savior’s birth, our attention should direct itself to the Scriptures which alone disclose the fact and its significance. We appreciate the privilege of being able to present this sermon, preached on a striking Old Testament passage, by the Rev. John R. De Witt in the Sixth Reformed Church of Paterson, New Jersey.