“Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory?”
Reminders of past are a funny thing. The past could be a sensitive subject or it can light up a room with stories. The Israelites, as a people, had been in Babylon for 70 years before Persia took over, and God’s people were sent home. In 70 years time, many who had seen the temple of Solomon were no longer with them and new generations were now the leaders and elders. I believe it is fair to say many of them or most of them would have no personal recollection of the temple before. Yet, in God’s greater knowledge, His words confront them with the impossible question…who remembers and how does it compare to what you are building now? God asks about a past, He clearly knows the answer to the question that most of them only can infer from stories of the glory days, before the exile. I am confident there are stories which light up the room, but also some very difficult memories as well.
In asking this question, the Lord is calling them to recall, remember. What have you heard? What do you know? Think about what you have been told! The ancestors have told them about their God, the God who took them from Egypt, delivered them in miraculous ways, and was present among His people. They knew the stories, the stories of miracles and the glorious temple were truth to them, taught to the generations year after year. God’s words to Haggai press their hearts that they are not to forget the truths they know. There seems to be a necessity to peer into the past in order to rebuild today.
The past glories we see in our own lives can peppered with things which may not seem so glorious to us. Many of us have a very hard time looking to the past because there is much we would like to forget. Yet God’s declaration is, “Be strong, go back, it will help!” You see, nothing is wasted in the eyes of the Lord. As he invites them with these questions of comparison, in the same breath …we discover another summons, “Be strong.”
How does today’s temple look compared to yesteryears? What did God do to get you here, today? How has God moved to change the course of your life? When you reflect on your life there is a cairn of stones marking His movements, and these are the stones with which He will make you strong.
Whether or not you are looking at destruction right now, just as the Israelites were as they looked at a merger temple compared to a glorious temple of days past, He wants us to look back so that we can have strength for today. Even if we see much brokenness, sin, and darkness..these He will use. Some memories will be reflecting on some glorious times that we desire to have back. He will use all of the past to fashion sturdiness within us. The necessity of these questions posed is clear because we cannot forget what our God has done and His glorious presence through it all. Whether we immerse into good or bad memories of our past, the footprint of our God will be seen amongst the joy and the pain.
So I ask, my friends, how does God want to use the glory days in your life to bring you strength today? What is He building that needs the cairn of stones of your past as the foundation?