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Saturday, September 9, 2017

Haggai and Zechariah Prophesy About Christ's Second Coming

  Haggai and Zechariah Prophesy About Christ’s Second Coming
Down through the many centuries before Christ, the Jewish people had the experience of hearing God’s laws and messages and receiving His guidance through their many prophets. A prophet would be a Jewish person who was dedicated to God.  Most of the Old Testament prophets were men.  And God called each of these men to be God’s messenger and speak God’s Word to the people.  God would often raise up a prophet for Israel at a time when the nation specially needed God’s guidance.
 The power of the Holy Spirit would come over God’s chosen prophet and give him or her the words to say. Often prophets would see visions of what God would be doing in the future and their job was to pass God’s Word on to the people. God gave visions to many of the prophets.  Visions of lessons God wanted to teach them.  Visions of what would be happening far into the future and visions of the last days and the end of the age when Jesus will come again in glory.
Over several thousand years God would raise up seventeen or more Old Testament prophets.  The ancient Israelites were used to God sending these prophets when they needed special guidance, or when they had sinned. The Israelites expected God to save them from their enemies, since He promised them He would if they obeyed Him.  And the Israelites knew that God would punish them when they worshipped idols or broke His laws and did not repent.
 The prophecies from God given to Israel through their prophets were written down and carefully saved and are part of the Old Testament of our Bibles.  Sometimes the prophets were persecuted and hated by the Israelites.  Often this happened when the unpopular prophet was telling the people that God wanted them to turn from their sins.
The date was approximately 520 B.C. when two of the minor prophets, Haggai and Zechariah came on the scene. It had been nearly a century since God had sent Israel a prophet. The Jewish people had been released from their captivity in Babylon and had come back to their land.  They were busy rebuilding a wall around their city and rebuilding their houses that had been destroyed when they had been taken into captivity some seventy years earlier. 
The Jewish people wanted to build a new temple where they could worship and bring sacrifices to God.  Their old temple had been glorious.  Built by Solomon, it had massive pillars and gold, silver and jewels embedded into the walls. But the enemy had torn their temple down long ago and now the Jewish people worked together and laid the foundation for a new temple.  At first, they were excited about building the new temple.  But then the Samaritans and other neighbors vigorously opposed the project and threatened the Jewish people with harm if they continued their work on their temple. 
Older Jewish people who were alive before the first temple had been destroyed came around and fussed and cried.  These folks were disappointed because the new temple would be much smaller and less glorious than the first temple had been.  They wanted their old temple back. The Israelites didn’t have the money to decorate their new temple with gold and silver and jewels.  Soon the Jewish people became discouraged because of the criticism from their fellow neighbors and fearful of trouble from the Samaritans. Soon the Israelites stopped working on God’s house. The threats from the Samaritans and the disappointment over not being able to build another temple as grand as the first one had stopped them in their tracks.  Do things like that ever stop us in our tracks today?
This is the time that God sent Israel two prophets with words and visions of warnings and encouragements.  Haggai, along with the prophet Zechariah encouraged the Israelites to get back to work on God’s temple.  Both prophets told the discouraged people that God promised to be with them in their work. That His Spirit would give them strength.  That even the little things they did were important.  That God was jealous that they had put other things before Him and the building of His house.
God spoke through Haggai to the Jewish people.  God’s message was this: If the Israelites would build the temple and give God first place in their lives then God would send His blessings.  Obedience brings the strength of the Spirit.  This is a lesson for us today, as well as for these Israelites who lived over two thousand years ago. 
 God spoke again. Disobedience and rebellion would bring curses.  Zechariah brought the people a vision from God showing that their rebellion against God brings a curse.  In his vision, Zechariah saw a flying scroll. (Zechariah 5:1-4) On one side of the scroll it said: “Every thief will be banished” and on the other side of the scroll it said, “Everyone who swears falsely will be banished”. The scroll was flying across the land coming into their houses with the curse.  It sounds like these ancient people had given in to the sins of stealing from one another and of swearing falsely.  God was calling His people to repent of their sins back then, just as He calls us to repent of our sins today. 
The Lord also spoke to the people about their new smaller temple. God told them not to be disappointed with their new temple. God promised that the glory of their new temple would be greater than the glory of that first larger glorious temple. (Haggai 2:9) Haggai even prophesied that God would shake the nations and that “the desire of all nations” (Jesus Christ) would come, and will fill this house (the temple they were building) with glory, says the Lord Almighty.”  (Haggai 2: 7) The Israelites were encouraged by God’s Word and got back to work.
The temple these Israelites built was partially destroyed by Rome in 70 A.D. when the Jewish people were dispersed.  The outer walls of the ancient temple (approximately 2,525 years old) built by those discouraged Israelites and encouraged on by Haggai and Zechariah, still remain today in Jerusalem.  One of the famous walls, the “Wailing Wall”, is visited every day by hundreds of visitors and worshippers. Someday those walls may be renovated with a roof and floor and when Christ comes again in all of His glory He will enter the temple and fill it with His glory, just as the prophet Haggai prophesied that He would!
God’s promises spoken through the prophets to the people of Israel were not just promises for them during their lifetime but God’s promises extend far into the future – all the way to the last days and to the Second Coming of Christ, when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! (Revelations 21 and 22) The faith of those ancient Jewish people was strengthened by the prophet’s visions of God being with them. 
 But I believe their faith was also strengthened when God gave them a vision of the end times when God’s original purpose for Israel will be realized.  And all evil will be overcome forever through Christ Jesus our Lord.  When we become discouraged with our life and work like those Jews back then, our faith can be strengthened today when we read God’s prophetic promises!  Promises that when we pass from death into eternal life, we will be dressed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ and we will be victors in Christ and reign with Him forever!
There is significance in the prophet Zechariah’s name, because the name “Zechariah” means “The Lord Remembers”.  God remembers His covenant promises and takes action to fulfill them.  In the book of Zechariah, God’s promised deliverance from Babylonian exile and a restored Jewish community and a functioning temple. But Zechariah’s and Haggai’s prophecies lead into even grander pictures of the salvation and restoration to come through the Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Finally, the books of Haggai and Zechariah as a whole, teach the sovereignty of God in history, over people and nations, past, present and future!  




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