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Haggai: Prophet of the Greater Temple

Haggai prophesied in the years after the end of Judah's captivity to Babylon. The first major project was to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. This project actually prophesied of a greater temple that was yet to be built made of living stones.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 3

The Homeless God

The prophet sets forth the real problem in Haggai 1:3-6,

3 Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, 4 “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate? 5 Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Consider your ways! 6 You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”

It is apparent from this that most of the people were quite poor and unable to support such a building project. Perhaps this was one of the reasons they thought it was not yet time to build a temple. Their building fund was empty.

However, Haggai turns this question around and uses their poverty as evidence that the temple should be built.

7 Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! 8 Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord. 9 You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”

In other words, their poverty was brought about by their failure to build the temple. Most of them, though poor, had houses, while God was homeless. So who was the poor one—them or God? In a way, says Haggai, God had deprived them because they themselves had deprived God of a home.

God Seeks a Home

When Solomon had finished building the first temple, he prayed, saying in 1 Kings 8:27,

27 But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built!

In his wisdom, Solomon knew that an earthly house, no matter how large and splendid, was not suitable for the Creator of the Universe. Yet he offered no solution to this problem, for it was not until Christ had finished His first work that the Holy Spirit came to indwell human flesh. Only then did the believers really understand the true desire and plan of God.

The revelation of Sonship, which was unknown in previous ages, was made plain by the virgin birth of Christ and its extension in us through the experience of all who have been begotten by the Spirit. Paul tells us in Col. 1:25-27,

25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles [ethnos, “nations”], which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Paul considered himself to be a steward of the word of God, specifically of the secret of Sonship. The truth—that we are living temples of God and dwelling places for the Spirit of God—is considered blasphemous among carnal religions today, which see only servanthood and submission as the highest goal attainable by those seeking God. The idea that one might become a son of God is too much for them to believe.

Even those who believe the word of Sonship often have very little understanding of it, not knowing how to apply it to their creeds and teachings. Unfortunately, many Bible translators and scholars have not understood Sonship either, and for this reason they have mistranslated Sonship passages without realizing it.

The New Testament Greek word gennao holds one of the keys to understanding Sonship. Dr. Bullinger comments on this word in his notes on Matt. 1:2 where we read that “Abraham begat Isaac.” He explains the word “begat.”

begat. Gr. gennao. When used of the father = to beget or engender, and when used of the mother it means to bring forth into the world.”

Hence, Matt. 1:2 says “Abraham begat Isaac,” for if the apostle had been speaking of Sarah, the word gennao would have meant to say that Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Men beget, while women give birth. The same Greek word carries both meanings, and it is for us to understand if it applies to a father’s transmission of seed or a mother giving birth.

Though all good Bible translators know this technically, their lack of understanding of Sonship often causes them to render gennao incorrectly. The sons of God are those begotten by God, who is their heavenly Father. The motherhood of God nurtures and brings to birth, but the fatherhood of God begets sons in the earth.

The KJV translates 1 Cor. 4:15 correctly, saying,

15 For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten [gennao] you through the gospel.

Here Paul pictures himself as a spiritual father to the Corinthian church, and the translators tell us that Paul had “begotten” them by the gospel. Continuing this metaphor, the gospel was the spiritual seed that had impregnated them with “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

However, we find the translators to be in error in 1 Pet. 1:23, where the KJV reads,

23 Being born again [gennao], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Here Paul was comparing two kinds of “seed.” The “corruptible seed” is what produces flesh, which is both corruptible and mortal. So Peter backs up his statement in the next verses, telling us,

24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; 25 but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Fleshly seed begets fleshly sons, for we know that Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:6,

6 That which is born [gennao] of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born [gennao] of the Spirit is spirit.

While it is unclear in this case if Jesus was referring to birth or to conception, His point was that only spiritual seed could bring forth spiritual sons. Fleshly sons, as Peter tells us, are begotten of corruptible seed which “is as grass.” Like beautiful flowers, they spring up for a while and then die. It is clear, then, that because Peter was speaking of “seed,” verse 23 above should have been rendered:

23 Being begotten [gennao], not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

Such mistranslations may seem insignificant, but they have contributed to a lack of understanding. For this reason, Christians talk about being “born again,” rather than being “begotten from above,” as John 3:7 ought to read. The term “born again” puts the focus upon the “son,” rather than on the seed that begat him by the will of God.

The impregnation of Christ in you satisfies God’s desire for a house like no structure of wood and stone can do. It is by begetting Christ in us that He is able to indwell our hearts, thereby calling us His temple. This is the solution to God’s homelessness.