December 16, 2009

The Desire of Nations - Dec 13, 2009

Grace and Advent peace be multiplied in the name of Jesus Christ, the Child of Bethlehem, the Prince of Peace, Amen.

Today the Holy Spirit directs our attention to the Word of God in the book of the Prophet Haggai, chapter 2, verses 6 through 9, as follows:

"For thus says the LORD of hosts: `Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 `and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. 8 `The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts. 9 `The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts. `And in this place I will give peace,' says the LORD of hosts." This is the Word of God.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Name Which is Above Every Name, Dear Fellow Redeemed,

Desire is a fickle thing. Different people find different things desirable. Some women are irresistibly attracted to chocolate. Some men have a burning desire for the latest electronic gadgets. Some desires change over time, become stronger or weaker. In addition, some desires vary according to geography – that is, certain items are considered desirable in some cultures, but are treated with indifference or even despised in others.

Is there anyone or anything that everyone desires? The obvious answer would seem to be no. But our text for today says yes. Though many don’t know it, and though some would vehemently deny it, the truth remains: what our Savior Jesus Christ has is what everyone wants! Through the Old Testament prophet Haggai, the Lord issues a prediction that all nations will come to the promised Savior, to whom He refers with a very special name, “The Desire of Nations.” As part of our series, “The Name Which is Above Every Name,” we’ll take a closer look at that prophesy this morning. Our theme:

Three promises accompany His Advent:
I. “I will shake heaven and earth”
II. “I will fill this temple with glory”
III. “I will give peace”

It was the year 520 B.C., and the returning Jewish exiles had an attitude problem. They were discouraged. Though it’s hard to see why - everything had been going great for them. Cyrus, king of the Persians had released them from captivity and allowed them to return to their homeland. He and his successor, Darius, had encouraged them to rebuild their Temple, and had even given them money to do it with. But the work wasn’t progressing. In Ezra we read that, after the foundation was laid, “…many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes.” --Ezr 3:12. They remembered the glory of the previous temple, the Temple of Solomon, a building larger and far more grand than this second temple would ever be. And it made them discouraged. The work gradually tapered off in apathy and indifference. They could see nothing special in this more modest second temple.

Boy, were they wrong! God sent the prophet Haggai to shake them up and make them come to their senses. There was a truth here that they couldn’t see. God had great and glorious promises to fulfill in connection with this temple, and with the Savior who would one day walk there – THE DESIRE OF NATIONS.

The first promise connected with the Savior’s advent was this: “I will shake heaven and earth.” "For thus says the LORD of hosts: `Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; 7 `and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations.”

Why does God say “once more”? Because He had shaken heaven and earth once before, hadn’t He? On Mount Sinai, at the occasion of the giving of His holy Law, Scripture says Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Now Mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire. Its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. -- (Exo 19:17-18 NKJ)

That was the giving of the first covenant, the covenant of the Law. But at the giving of the second covenant, the covenant of grace, God would once again shake all nations. The 500 year period between Haggai’s prophesy and the coming of the DESIRE OF NATIONS was filled with tumult and war. It culminated with the great Roman census, where the entire then-known world had to move, just to get a young man and his expectant bride from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the little town prophesied for the birth of the Messiah. All nations were shaken, and it was God’s doing.

Sometimes we need some shaking up in our lives, don’t we? Months and years pass, and nothing much seems to change. Here we are, we’re members of this little church on Waller Road, there’s nothing particularly imposing or impressive about this place (certainly not outwardly). Yes, our Lord has promised to return to His believers, with power and great glory, at His second Advent. But day follows day, and nothing’s happening. And you might start to think that nothing ever will happen. But don’t fall into that trap. That’s the attitude the unbelievers take, says the Apostle Peter: Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation."--2Pe 3:3-4.

But the ultimate fulfillment of Haggai’s prophesy, of course, lies yet in the future. It may be a very little while, now, before God for the last time shakes the heavens and the earth. Peter continues, But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2Pe 3:10 NKJ). On that great Day of Judgment, the Bible says, Jesus truly will be the DESIRE OF ALL NATIONS. On that day every knee will finally bow. A few faithful believers will welcome Him as their one Desire whom they longed to meet all their lives. But the vast multitude will come to their senses too late. They will have one desire – to be saved by Jesus – but that desire will be beyond their reach. "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, `Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: (Mat 25:41 NKJ)

But there is another promise connected with the Savior’s advent in this prophesy of Haggai. God says: “I will fill this temple with glory! They shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. 8 `The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts. 9 `The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts.

This promise of the Lord must have seemed fantastic to those old-timers in Jerusalem. How could anything exceed the glory of Solomon’s Temple? Consider just the gold: nearly everything in the first temple was made of gold or covered in gold. The Bible says that 100,000 talents of gold were used in the building of the temple (II Chron. 22:14). A talent was approximately 75 lbs. If you have a calculator, that’s over 3700 tons of pure gold. Gold stands at about $1100 an ounce right now, so that would be…well, my calculator doesn’t go that high. But that wasn’t where the glory of God’s house lay. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now. God doesn’t need gold. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, says Scripture. `The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,' says the LORD of hosts. And then He goes on to make that astonishing promise: `The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts.

What will be the great glory of this second temple? Why should the believers wake from their lethargy and take up their work with eagerness and excitement? Because this temple would see the glory of the Son of God Himself walking amongst its courts and columns. The prophet Malachi predicted the day when the DESIRE OF NATIONS would arrive there: the Lord, whom you seek, Will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts. (Mal 3:1 NKJ) When was that prophesy fulfilled? Eight days after our Savior’s birth, when Joseph and Mary brought him into the Temple for the first time, the day on which aged Simeon said, "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation 31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, 32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel." (Luk 2:29-32 NKJ) You and I have seen His glory, too, haven’t we? It’s not a coincidence that those are the same words we sing after receiving in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. For what could be more glorious than receiving the true body and blood of our Savior as a pledge and seal of God’s forgiveness toward us in Christ?

The final promise connected with the Savior’s advent is the most poignant and comforting for us: “And in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts. Why is Jesus THE DESIRE OF NATIONS? Because through Him God gives peace to the world. Not political peace- that’s a pipe dream, of course. Even our president admitted this week in Oslo that “…armed conflict will not be eradicated in our lifetimes.” That’s a safe bet, isn’t it? He might as well have said “in anyone’s lifetime.” For war will never cease while sinful human nature is what it is. Man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward. (Job 5:7 NKJ)

And yet we have this promise. The Lord says, I will give peace, and He connects it with the Church. It’s a promise we hear again and again in Scripture. Zechariah says of THE DESIRE OF NATIONS, He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be `from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. Zec 9:10. Isaiah predicted, His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isa 9:6 NKJ). And at the birth of the Desire of Nations, the angels sang over Bethlehem, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth PEACE, goodwill toward men!”

That’s the reason we can truly call Jesus THE DESIRE OF NATIONS. Because what everyone, down in their deepest soul, wants and desires – that’s exactly what Jesus supplies. Not political peace – we’ll never have that. But the kind of peace that really counts to you on a personal level. Spiritual peace. You could call it “the peace of NEVERTHELESS.” For Scripture says that, despite the fact that you are a wretched sinner, NEVERTHELESS God loves you. Despite the fact that you have offended against God’s holy Law in countless ways, NEVERTHELESS, God has provided a Savior for you. Despite all your failings and shortcomings, and good intentions unfulfilled, NEVERTHELESS, Jesus shed his blood on the cross specifically so that you could live forever by His side in heaven! Be at peace! For today your Lord Jesus Himself says to you, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (Joh 14:27 NKJ).

It was Lebanese-born American philosopher Kahlil Gibran who said, "Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death." Through the prophet Haggai, God showed the returning exiles why they simply couldn't be indifferent to the holy work that lay before them. The Temple they were building, though less imposing outwardly than the Temple of Solomon, would in fact be far more glorious. For into that building, one day, would walk the Messiah, the Savior of the world, THE DESIRE OF NATIONS. Can you and I be indifferent about the holy work that lies before each of us Christians? Impossible. For we too worship THE DESIRE OF NATIONS. We too serve a Savior whose name is above every name, and at whose name every knee will one day bow, AMEN.

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