First Things First

Haggai 2:1-9


“The ‘good ‘ol’ days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems…” — Billy Joel


Time is a funny thing. There is a past, a present, and a future. The events and circumstances of our past can serve as an anchor or a launching pad. Our current circumstances can serve as a burden or a blessing. Our future can be met with a sense of foreboding or be met with faith in a God who has all things under control. The problem is with our perspective. How do we deal with the past and the present as we seek to face the future.

Recent days have illustrated this plainly. The circumstances regarding COVID have brought up fears from our past, brought uncertainty to our present, and created fears for our future. When we take a small break from the pandemic, we are met with social problems. The pain of past racial hatred and violence boils over when a white policeman allegedly murders an African-American. This boils over to looting and rioting in our present, and paints an unclear portrait of where our nation is headed.

What we see socially is also true spiritually. In the Church there are those that cling nostalgically to the past “good-old days,” while others willy-nilly reject everything that is not perceived as modern. Some reject the present and try and live in the past, while others ignore the present and seek to live in a day that has not yet come. Some look to the future with fear, and others have faith-filled expectations.

How do we balance this funny thing called time? The balance comes when we believe that God was at work in the past, God is at work in the present, and God will still be at work in the future! Fear dissipates when we live under the conviction that God is at work! God has a plan. God knows what God is doing. And we can rest in the conviction that no matter what has gone before, whatever is happening now, whatever we will face tomorrow, God will work out God’s plan!

On September 5, 1886, Charles Spurgeon began his sermon on our text with these incisive words:

Satan is always doing his utmost to stay the work of God. He hindered these Jews from building the temple; and today he endeavors to hinder the people of God from spreading the gospel. A spiritual temple is to be builded for the Most High, and if by any means the evil one can delay its uprising he will stick at nothing: if he can take us off from working with faith and courage for the glory of God he will be sure to do it. He is very cunning, and knows how to change his argument and yet keep to his design: little cares how he works, so long as he can hurt the cause of God.

The Abiding of the Spirit the Glory of the Church”, September 5, 1886

Satan little cares how he works, so long as he can hurt the cause of God. What a powerful truth. And I believe that one of the ways that Satan works is to give us an improper perspective on time.

  • Instead of letting go of the past, Satan entices us to live in the past
  • Instead of looking up in the present, Satan entices us to look down on the present
  • Instead of living for the future, Satan entices us to let go of the future

The result of this is the Building of the Kingdom of God is hindered because we don’t understand time. So, let us look to the little book of Haggai today and take the time to understand time so that we can help, not hinder, the work of God.

Haggai 2:1-9


1. Don’t Live in the Past; Let Go of the Past

The word of the Lord came to Haggai. In verse two, Haggai delivers that word to Zerubbabel and Joshua, the governor and the high priest. “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?”

God here uses an interesting play on words, and then a series of rhetorical questions. First, He instructed Haggai to speak to the remnant. Remember, these were people who had survived exile into a foreign nation, but after many years were returned to their homeland. Now God is saying to the remnant who left, “who is left among you?” He is speaking to the remnant of the remnant.

Second, God asks, “who is left who saw this house in its former glory?” The temple was destroyed in 586 B.C., and Haggai was prophesying 66 years later. There would certainly be some who had remembered the splendor of Solomon’s temple.

When these people remembered the old temple they were nostalgic. When they looked at the tattered ruins of the new temple they were embarrassed. Here’s the problem. The remnant had good memories of the wrong thing. Let me explain. They had memories of the glory of the temple. They remembered the beauty of the temple. They remembered the building and it’s glory and forgot God and His glory! They saw how puny the new temple was and forgot how big God is!

“Does it seem to you as nothing?” This remnant was stuck in the comparison game. God is calling their game foolish and dangerous. Why? Because we cannot live in the present until we let go of the past!

But the good old days…I have heard the lament for years. 

  • Why can’t we do outreach like we did in the 80’s?
  • Why can’t we dress like we did in the 70’s?
  • Why can’t we do ministry like we did in the 60’s?
  • Why can’t we sing music like we did in the 50’s?

Church, we will never go forward if we keep going back! A phrase has been repeated to me on many occasions. Church worked in the 50’s, and if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Listen…church for the 50’s worked in the 50’s because it was the 50’s. But my friends, that is 70 years ago, that is a generation ago, that is for most of us more than a life-time ago.

The glory of the 50’s should not be our aim, the glory of God must first and foremost be our aim in everything we do, and God is not glorified by methods, God is glorified when His majesty is put on display for the world to see.

Stop playing the comparison game and commit yourself to the discovery of what God is doing in the here and now, and get busy making Him famous!

2. Don’t Look Down on the Present; Look Up at His Presence

When you idolize the past you demonize the present. When you live in the past, you look down on the present.

  • The preacher doesn’t even wear a tie.
  • The people dress like they are bums.
  • The music is right out of the dance hall.
  • The words are on the screen not in a book.

When you live in the past you look down on the present. Friends, we have got to look past the external and ponder the eternal. Look at verse 4.

  • “Be strong.”
  • Again, verse 4: “Be strong.”
  • “Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts.
  • Verse 5, “My Spirit remains with you.”
  • Verse 6, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.”

God gives us a command, be strong, and He reminds us of His name, the LORD of hosts. Three times in these few verses got redirects our focus from the things of earth to the One in heaven. The Lord of hosts means, “the One who is Sovereign over all powers of earth and heaven.” It’s a military-type name, because it means that God is greater than all the powers of earth and heaven.

  • No one can stand against Him.
  • No one can defeat Him.
  • No one can slow Him down.
  • No one can defeat Him in battle.
  • He is mighty. He is able. He is powerful. Be strong, because God is strong!

What would happen if we would all take our eyes off the way we worship and remember the God whom we worship? The Lord of Hosts is here now! How different it would be if instead of coming to endure a sermon, we came to engage the Sovereign King of Heaven? How radically different would it be if instead of coming to sing a song, we came to celebrate the Savior? How markedly different would it be if instead of coming to fellowship with our friends, we came to fellowship at the foot of the cross?

God wants to shake the heavens. God wants to shake the earth. God wants to shake the nations. God wants to fill His house with His glory, but we are to busy being the dozing frozen chosen! He can’t shake us, because He can’t wake us! We are slumbering and the glory of God is sliding by us without us ever noticing it!

We are too busy looking down at everything around us to look up to the God who wants His Spirit to remain in our midst and until all the treasures of the nations pour into His house.

3. Don’t Let Go of the Future; Live For the Future

God only moves in one direction. God only calls His people in one direction: forward! Forward. God is marching forward and calling His people to go with Him into the future. He is saying, “Don’t let go of the future.” Don’t get so focused on what you see right now that you forget about what is to come.

Don’t become so discouraged with what you see that you fail to understand what is to come. Look at verse 9. “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place, I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.” There’s that name two more times. God is just drilling into our minds the awesomeness of His authority. And, He is crying out, “Don’t let go of the future even the world is a wreck. Instead, live for the future, for I am going to make the world right.”

Solomon’s temple was magnificent. The rebuilt temple was puny. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up for better days are coming. The Church of the ‘50s was blowing and going. Today the church looks puny. Don’t be discouraged, and don’t give up for better days are coming.

You see, hundreds of years after Haggai wrote these words, Jesus Christ Himself walked in the walls of the new temple. God stepped out of heaven and stepped into His house here on earth. The LORD of Hosts Himself came to His own House.


  1. After you have looked back, start moving forward.
  2. After you have begun moving forward, keep moving into the future.
  3. Because, when we finally get to the “future” we will see His Fingerprints all over our past.


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