The temple was central to Jewish identity. It was the place God chose for worship, and was also a sign of God’s presence with His people. So even though Israel had returned to their land from the Babylonian exile, the lack of a temple was a glaring problem.
This is why the message of Haggai was so important: God promised a new temple for His people. The prophet gathered together the governor, the high priest, and all the remaining people to declare his message. The old temple may be destroyed, but God’s presence was not lacking. They should take heart that God would not only enable them to rebuild the temple, but “the glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Hag. 2:9). Solomon’s temple had been grand (cf. 1 Kings 6), but the glory of the new temple would far surpass the old and would be a place of great peace.
During the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, a new temple was indeed built. Yet all who saw it knew that it was not as grand as the old temple. Many of the older priests, comparing it to the first temple, actually wept (see Ezra 3:12). Had God’s promise failed? Absolutely not! The glorious new temple Haggai described finds its fulfillment not in a building made of stone but in the living temple of God’s church. Jesus Christ is our cornerstone; Jews and Gentiles, reconciled together, are made to be “a holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:21). God’s presence and peace do remain with His people because Christ’s church has been “built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph. 2:22). Gloriously, amazingly, we are God’s new temple!
Apply the Word
Scripture reminds us that we are to be God’s holy temple. Unfortunately the world often sees only the sin and hypocrisy of the church. How might your own church failed to be a witness about Christ in your community? In repentance, seek God’s forgiveness as well as His strength to renew your commitment to be God’s holy temple in the world.