Luke 11-18

Luke 11-18

Christianity in the West, especially in the American South is flourishing. At least based on the number of people who would profess to be Christians. However, if religion is such a big part of our lives, why isn’t it making more of an impact on our society? The sad reality is that claims of religious commitment run high, but impact is at an all-time low. The reason: many professing Christians have mistaken views of saving faith although they verbally affirm the necessity of faith alone.

These views fall into a few different categories. One error would be the idea of faith as a mere intellectual assent to propositional truth and not an assent to such truth alongside a personal entrusting of oneself into the arms of the Savior. Far more common, however, would be views of faith that downplay or even ignore God’s demand for repentance. It is not unusual, for example, to find people calling unbelievers to trust Jesus without giving a good definition of the problem in which humanity finds itself. Sometimes, Christ is presented as if He can be added to a life without fundamentally changing that life. In such cases, there is a neglect of the doctrine of hell, the gravity of sin, the terror of God’s wrath, and the necessity of repentance.

When it comes to the fiducia of saving faith, the entrusting of ourselves to Christ alone, there can be no real turn to Christ Jesus unless we turn away from sin. Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the other magisterial Reformers emphasized repeatedly that faith and repentance go hand in hand. Scripture clearly teaches as much. Jesus’ very first message was for us to “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14–15, emphasis added). Acts 2:38 requires both faith and repentance for salvation.

Although we often distinguish faith and repentance for the sake of instruction, they are actually inseparable — two sides of the same coin, so to speak. Christ calls us to give up everything to follow Him, and that includes our sin and any attempt to earn favor from our good works. True repentance does not mean sinlessness in this life, but it does mean a full reorientation of one’s direction and love of self and sin, a marked turn from what opposes Christ to Christ Himself.

True faith is repentant faith, as revealed in Luke 18. The tax collector had true sorrow for his sin and faith in God’s mercy. Therefore, he was justified. The Pharisee, however, showed no repentance, thereby invalidating his profession of faith and revealing he was not justified in the Lord’s eyes.

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Luke 7-10

Luke 7-10

The concern for Greeks and other Gentiles evident in Luke’s writings is good news indeed for those outside the covenants with Israel and without hope in the world. If even the outcast can be saved, then there is real hope for fallen creation. And Luke’s gospel shows us that God’s love for the outcast is not limited to the Gentiles, but is also for those considered outcasts within the Jewish nation. Women in the first century were looked down upon in Jewish society, but Christ showed His respect for them in His willingness to instruct them just as He also instructed men (Luke 10:38–42). This was a revolutionary act as most rabbis would not take on female disciples. Luke tells us that several wealthy women supported Jesus’ mission financially (Luke 8:1–3), and, as with the other gospel writers, reveals how they were faithful to stay with Jesus in His hour of greatest need even as His male disciples fled at the first sign of trouble.

The poor, who were considered outcasts in many parts of first-century Jewish society due to a belief that righteousness and riches went hand-in-hand, receive special attention in Luke’s gospel as well. God, Luke tells us, has a special concern for those in poverty. Mary and Joseph were poor according to the things of this world, for they could offer only turtledoves and pigeons in the temple. Paradoxically, the couple was rich beyond measure, for they were tasked with raising the Messiah to adulthood. Luke also brings out Jesus’ concern for those in need, recording the Lord’s teaching that the kingdom belongs to the poor and hungry who trust Christ. The point of course is not that the impoverished are somehow inherently righteous or worthy of God’s love. Instead, this concern for the poor indicates that our Creator will search out those whom society might otherwise forget or cast aside. His kingdom is not for the strong and mighty, but for the humble and weak, and those who are poor, because they have no material goods to trust in, are often among those who are most aware of their weaknesses. Such poverty of spirit is required of all who would be saved, whether or not they are materially successful.

Humanly speaking, nothing required Luke to record these aspects of Jesus’ life and ministry. He could have chosen other events to describe, for he, just like the other Evangelists, had no shortage of material from which to draw upon. Under the direction of God the Holy Spirit, however, Luke gave us a gospel that shows the historicity of the Christian faith and emphasizes the Almighty’s concern for Gentiles and other outcasts. We can be grateful for these emphases because they give all of us who have been cast out of the kingdom on account of our sin, Jew and Gentile alike, real hope that God has intervened in history and will not regard forever as outcasts all those who believe on His Son.

Luke 4-6

Luke 4-6…The parable of the wine and wineskins

In this picture, Jesus humorously points out that no one puts new wine into old wineskins. There were numerous types of vessels that carried wine, but the most common were made from the skin of sheep or goats. After the animals were slaughtered, the hides were cleaned, and sewn closed where the legs had been. The spout of the wineskin was where the neck used to be. Newly pressed wine, or grape juice and other ingredients needed to make wine, was poured into the fresh wineskin through the neck, and when it was full, the neck was tied shut to make the skin airtight. Over time, the juice would ferment. The fermentation process would produce gas. And this gas would cause the goatskin to expand. A wineskin could be used several times before it lost its elasticity. Eventually, however, the skin would lose its ability to flex, and would no longer be suitable for making wine. If someone tried to use a wineskin that had lost its elasticity for making more wine, the fermentation process would cause the old wineskin to stretch beyond its limit, and the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. Both would be destroyed, and so Jesus retains a touch of irony in this parable. Nobody would be foolish enough to put new wine into old wineskins.

Ultimately, Jesus is answering questions about what kind of teacher He is, and what kind of disciples He is making, and ultimately, why He is doing things the way He is. The picture of new wineskins answers the question about why Jesus calls sinners and tax-collectors like Levi to be His disciples. And finally, the picture of new wine answers the question about why Jesus teaches what He does. These three questions and answers are brought out more clearly in Mark 2:1-22. And what is the ultimate answer to all these questions? The Kingdom has arrived and the exile is over.

In a way, therefore, the final statement of Jesus in Luke 5:39 is a veiled invitation to the Pharisees and the followers of John to try the new wine. He is not denouncing them or their ways, but a full cup of His wine has been placed on the table, and they are invited to taste it. Though they may not like it at first, the invitation is there. Jesus has brought in the Kingdom of God, and the invitation to participate is open to all. Jesus interprets his behaviors, which are questionable and innovative to some onlookers, as manifestations of God’s ancient purposes coming to fruition.

Luke 1-3

Luke 1-3

Luke’s gospel opens with an explicit statement of the evangelist’s purpose — to provide certainty to one Theophilus through an orderly account of the life of Christ (1:1–4). Apparently, several stories about Jesus were circulating at the time, probably records of individual episodes in His life, and Luke wanted to offer a more complete history of the Savior’s ministry to Theophilus and other readers. Using these fragmentary records, the other gospels, interviews with eyewitnesses, and so on, Luke sat down, under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, to give Theophilus a written document that would address his concerns.

As we would expect, our Father’s providence uniquely equipped Luke to record an orderly account of our Savior’s life and ministry. As Paul’s most faithful traveling companion (2 Tim. 4:11), Luke must have received a great deal of information about Jesus not only from Paul himself but also from the apostles with whom Paul had contact. We also know that Luke was a trained physician (Col. 4:14) whose education would have been an invaluable asset for helping him do the research and writing necessary to compose his gospel. Furthermore, God was the one who provided Luke a friend in Theophilus, a man whose concerns about Jesus needed to be addressed. This circumstance gave Luke the motivation necessary to write a gospel to deal with Theophilus’ questions and give us a glimpse at the purposes of God that we might not otherwise have received.

For instance, Luke demonstrates that the God of Israel, Yahweh, is Lord also of the Gentiles and deeply concerned with their plight. Matthew, Mark, and John make this point as well, but it is particularly evident in Luke’s work. The Greek of his gospel is refined and of a literary quality, which we would expect from someone of Gentile descent, though Luke may have converted to Judaism before hearing of the Christ. Is there a better way for God to demonstrate His love for the Gentiles than to inspire one to record the life of His Son? Luke also brings out Yahweh’s concern for the nations in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3:23–38. The evangelist traces the ancestry of Jesus according to the flesh all the way back to Adam, revealing that the Jewish Messiah is also of Gentile stock, for everyone between Adam and Abraham was a Gentile.

The third evangelist also shows the Father’s love for the nations through his special concern for world history. Of course, all four gospels, along with all the books of Scripture, are historically accurate and concerned with God’s work in recorded time. Yet the historical structure of Luke’s gospel gives us a unique look at our Creator’s intent to redeem people from every nation. Structurally speaking, a three-stage progression of God’s work in world history is discernible in Luke’s writings, which includes his gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke 1:1–3:22 emphasizes the work of the Almighty in Israel; thus, the first stage of world history is the era of the Jewish nation in which God prepared a holy people to give birth to the Savior. Luke 3:23–Acts 1:26 represents the era of Christ’s earthly ministry, the second stage of world history in which Jesus defeated the power of sin, death, and Satan and witnessed to God’s glory before the Jews and Gentiles such as Pontius Pilate. Acts 2–28 and all of church history until the return of Jesus (implied in Acts 28:28) is the time for the salvation of all peoples, which God accomplishes through the work of the Spirit-empowered church. During this third stage of human history, the gospel goes forth from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth as the Holy Spirit moves the church to proclaim God’s grace in Christ to all the nations.

Mark Overview

Mark Overview

Matthew contains 97 percent of Mark’s verses. Why, then, do we have Mark, since we could just read Matthew? Two competing theories reply that either Mark was written as a digest of the larger Matthew or that Matthew was written later as an expansion of Mark. Regardless of possible gospel origins, we should not fail to appreciate that Mark has its own value in the New Testament canon apart from comparison with the other gospels. Mark is a brilliant, lively, exciting presentation of Jesus as the Messiah who marched inevitably to the cross where He was determined to give Himself as a ransom for His people and, after death, to be raised as the glorious king of God’s kingdom. Let’s look at some of the particulars of this most vital book.

Mark opens and closes abruptly. The opening is like the beginning of a horse-race with no narration of the birth of either John the Baptist or Jesus. The first verse reads like a title: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Then after a quick, combined Old Testament quotation with Isaiah as the lead prophet concerning John as forerunner (Mark 1:2–3), we are given only a scant summation of John’s life and work (1:4–8). There is no time to catch one’s breath before Jesus appears and takes over the narrative for the rest of the book at the same galloping pace.

Mark’s narrative speed is caused by his focus on actions and only rarely on words. In contrast, for example, with Matthew’s long Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7; see also Luke 6; 12–13), Mark has two short blocks of Jesus’ teaching (Mark 4 and 13), and some small segments sprinkled throughout. For the most part, Mark focuses on the Lord’s deeds.

Compare, for instance, the temptation of Jesus. Mark has only two verses (Mark 1:12–13) compared to the much fuller description in the other Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 4:1–11; Luke 4:1–13). In the others, Jesus is “led” into the desert and the temptation itself is recorded, but in Mark Jesus is driven out into the wilderness to be with wild animals and the content of the temptation is not recorded. Mark focuses on the fact of Jesus’ temptation and how His baptism inaugurated His undergoing the wilderness and wild animal curse on behalf of His people (see Mark 10:39; Lev. 26:22; Jer. 12:9; 50:39; Ezek. 14:21) so that we may now dwell securely in the wilderness as a result (Ezek. 34:25; Rev. 12:14–16).

The quickness of Mark’s style is marked in many ways. He uses short, active statements in place of a more circuitous style favored by Greek authors. Mark also prefers lively, direct quotations, and he has some unusual redundancy, such as: “That evening at sundown…” (Mark 1:32) or “when he was in need and was hungry…” (2:25). A more notable feature of Mark is his favorite way of introducing a new event: “and immediately” — used some forty times, which is almost twice as often as found in Matthew and Luke combined.

When you read Mark verse by verse, the full effect of the unusual features of Mark’s redundant, lively style is lost, but this brings us to an important observation. In antiquity, most books were written to be read aloud and therefore to be experienced by hearing (see especially Rev. 1:3). Literacy was not common back then, and even those who could read preferred to hear a work read and to experience it presented well by a reader who could add emotion, gestures, and even different voices for the characters in the reading. In a public setting, it was normal for the audience to get into the story and jeer the bad guys and clap and cheer for the good guys.

In recent years, the oral features of Mark have been explored most fruitfully. One conclusion from this is that repeated phrases like “and immediately,” which may seem choppy when reading Mark in bits and pieces as we do today, actually help to orient the listener to a new plot development and to keep the narrative flowing. Like Jesus with His parables, Mark is a master storyteller. To experience this yourself, listen to Mark read out loud. It only takes about ninety minutes to hear the whole book and the experience is well worth the effort.

One feature of Mark that stands out when listening to it is the interconnection between episodes separated across chapter divisions. Let us look at some central episodes, which will display the main outline of Mark’s gospel.

In Mark 6:30–44, Jesus feeds five thousand people and the disciples puzzle over Jesus’ command: “You give them something to eat” (6:37). The narrative then moves along quickly to Mark 8:1–10 where Jesus tells the disciples that He has compassion on the four thousand people following Him and wants to feed them. But the twelve respond, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” (8:4). As listeners we’re thinking, “Wait a minute, didn’t they just see Jesus feed five thousand? Don’t they see that Jesus can do anything?!” Mark has drawn us into the story.

As Mark further unfolds after the second miraculous feeding of Mark 8, Jesus tells the disciples to avoid the leaven of the Pharisees, but they can only think about the one loaf of physical bread they have. So Jesus reminds them of the two feedings (Mark 8:14–21). At this point in Mark’s narrative we listeners are beginning to despair of the disciples, but then the miraculous happens in Mark 8:27–30. Jesus probes the disciples as to His identity, and Peter, representing the thick-witted disciples, finally confesses, “You are the Christ” (8:29; compare Matt. 16:16 and Luke 9:20).

Peter’s confession of Jesus is the great centerpiece and hinge of Mark’s gospel, which he has masterfully drawn us to see as such. In the first half of the gospel, Jesus’ powerful deeds attest to His identity as the Christ (or Messiah) who will rule in the kingdom of God. This has been the central thrust of Jesus’ teaching: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). But except for Mark 1:1, the title “Christ” has not been used until the pivot of the gospel when Peter confesses when pressed by Jesus: “You are the Christ” (8:29). Now the disciples get it! The feedings led us and them to finally see who Jesus is.

The first part of Mark’s gospel, then, hinges on Jesus displaying His messianic identity to all. But everyone is confused about Him — except the demons! (Mark 1:24, 34; 3:11). Mark brings out people’s confused response to Jesus in twenty-nine places through eight different Greek words for their fear, surprise, astonishment, bewilderment, and even stupefaction. Who is this Jesus who is not like their scribes (1:22)? The Pharisees think He’s a demoniac, (3:22–30); Herod thinks He’s John come back to life, while others think He’s Elijah or the great prophet (6:14–16; see Deut. 18:15); Jesus’ family thinks He’s gone mad (Mark 3:20–21), and even His disciples are mystified: “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and the sea obey him?’” (4:41).

The confused response of people highlights Jesus’ true, royal authority: “They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority” (Mark 1:22). Jesus, the Son of God (1:9–11) and the one mightier than John (1:7–8), provokes holy fear and awe in powerful words and deeds as He forgives sins (2:1–12), fights victoriously against a legion of demons (5:1–20; compare with the shorter Matt. 8:28–34 and Luke 8:26–39), and ultimately faces conflict with the authorities in Jerusalem over His authority to do these things (Mark 11:27–33). But Jesus’ rule is totally unlike that of Gentile lords in that He came to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant (Mark 10:42–45; see Isaiah 40–66).

With Peter’s confession, then, we now know who Jesus is: the sovereign, divine-human Messiah. Jesus has been working toward this confession of faith in Him in the first half of Mark, so that in the second half He begins to reveal to His disciples His true redemptive mission on the cross. This transition in Mark, in contrast particularly with John’s gospel, is underlined in that the action in the first half of Mark takes place almost exclusively in Galilee, yet in the second half Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem where He must suffer at the hands of the leaders of Israel as a ransom for His people (for example, Mark 8:31; 9:12; and 10:45).

In conclusion, Mark provides the listener with a dynamic account of the majestic authority of Jesus in word, but especially in powerful deeds that stunned His contemporaries with their supernatural character. These acts were a demonstration that the kingdom of God had indeed drawn near with His arrival. Yet the inauguration of this kingdom was not a political revolution but the King’s own substitutionary sacrifice for His people before His resurrection and ascension to “the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62). Mark has told this story in such a way that the attentive listener will be led to confess, along with the first disciples: “You are the Christ.”

Matthew 14-28

Matthew 14-28…Christ Will Return

The Father alone knows the time of Jesus’ return; thus, His people must always be ready for the end. Using illustrations and parables, our Savior begins to explain how to be prepared for His coming in the second half of Matthew.

The first few analogies tell us the second advent of Christ could occur at any moment. Signs may indicate the nearness of Jerusalem’s ruin (24:1–35), but there will be no way to know whether His final return is around the corner. Everyday life — eating, drinking, marrying — will go on until He comes (24:37–39). No remarkable difference in the basic, life-sustaining ways of humanity will herald His return; in fact, the lack of change will make many believe He is not coming back (2 Peter 3:4). We will be unable to discern the last moments before final judgment from the day people cease to form families or find a way to survive without consuming calories, for this day will never come. Mankind will do the most common tasks up until the end (Matthew 24:40–42).

Verses 40–44 stress the suddenness of Christ’s return. The taking of men and women from their tasks (vv. 40–42) is not a picture of a pretribulational rapture. Instead, Jesus is saying that the separation of the wicked and the righteous will be immediate. It is as if we will look up from our labor one seemingly ordinary day and find ourselves at the consummation of all things. Just as a thief might suddenly break in without warning, so too will our Lord return at a moment when we are not expecting Him (vv. 43–44). These illustrations encourage us not only to be ready for the Savior’s final advent, but also to be prepared to meet Him at any point should we die before He comes. Matthew Henry comments, “We cannot know that we have a long time to live; nor can we know how little a time we have to live, for it may prove less than we expect.” Putting off repentance and faith can lead to eternal damnation.

Therefore, we must be ready for Jesus’ return. Readiness, however, is not passive; rather, we are to serve our king actively, knowing that He could come at any minute. May we be wise, faithful servants who work for the kingdom, not those who lie down on the job and are fit only for destruction (vv. 45–51).

Matthew 1-13

Matthew 1-13…Fulfillment of the Law in Christ

Patience is a virtue, it is said, probably because waiting is so difficult. Young children find themselves having to endure an almost unbearably long stretch of school days before the freedom of summer. Engaged couples spend what seems like ages waiting for their wedding day even though the ceremony may be only a few months away.

After the fall of man, God turned us over to the consequences of our sin. Strenuous labor, pain in childbirth, broken relationships, and finally death would be our lot. Yet our gracious Lord spoke good news as well. His curse would not last forever, one day the seed of the woman, a people holy unto the Lord, would crush the serpent and his seed. Thus began our long wait for Satan’s defeat.

Our Father did not start over from scratch to keep this promise but chose some out of fallen humanity to be His own. Abraham and his seed would be the family through which God would bless the world (12:1–3). For centuries Abraham’s offspring waited for the great blessing they would share with the world. Yet though there were times when the patriarch’s seed blessed the earth, most of the nation of Israel failed to be salt and light to the world; thus, the Lord kicked them out of the Promised Land.

But God also promised an even greater blessing would come if His exiled people repented. The covenant community would go back to their land and a holy son of David would rule the world when they turned to Yahweh. Israel did return to Palestine, but national repentance did not follow, and the Jews lived as a shadow of their former selves, under the heel of one empire after another.

However, the faithful remnant in Israel continued to trust God for His blessing. Four hundred years or so after the voice of prophecy fell silent in Israel, the Father sent Jesus His Son to fulfill His promises (Matt. 5:17). The Gospel of this Jesus, according to Matthew, will occupy our study for the next week or so.

Malachi

Malachi Overview

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are familiar to most of us as the greatest of all the ancient Greek philosophers. Less known to many people are the pre-Socratic philosophers who developed their own systems of philosophy before these bigger names did their work. Heraclitus was one of these significant pre-Socratics. “Man cannot step into the same river twice” is perhaps Heraclitus’ best-known observation. When water flows, there are always changes that occur, both perceptible and imperceptible. Riverbanks slowly erode, water molecules constantly move, and, at the very least, people age between the first and second time they step into the river, even if only by a matter of seconds.

Heraclitus’ point in this statement was that change is the only constant. Modern science may tell us that each individual’s DNA code, under normal circumstances, remains largely the same throughout life, but we all experience physical, mental, moral, and spiritual changes over time. Yet as Malachi reveals, the Creator does not change like His creatures do (Mal. 3:6).

Question 4 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism argues that God is “unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” This is a brief exposition of the Lord’s attribute of immutability, which means that it is impossible for His character or being to undergo any mutation. The power of God cannot be augmented or diminished. He never learns or forgets, and He cannot be anything other than perfectly holy and just. Human beings are ever changing, but not our Father.

It is important to remember that immutability does not mean God cannot move or that He is inert. Scripture testifies often of the Lord’s constant work and movement to sustain His creation (Heb. 1:3a). Moreover, immutability does not mean the Lord’s relationship with us is unreal. Actually, His unchanging righteousness moves Him to pour out His wrath on the impenitent (Rom. 1:18–32), and His ever-abiding love moves Him to redeem His people (Ex. 2:23–25).

Jonathan Edwards said sinners hate the Lord because His immutability guarantees that God cannot overlook their rebellion. For believers, however, the unchanging character of our Creator means we can rely on Him in every circumstance (Ps. 46).

Zechariah

Zechariah Overview

Despite its importance as the first structure wherein God made His presence manifest among the people of Israel, the tabernacle was only a temporary dwelling that King Solomon later replaced with the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3). Solomon’s temple, however, stood only about four hundred years, being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At that point, the vessels used in the temple, including the golden lampstand, were also carried off to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10–17).

We could by no means overestimate the importance of the exile to redemptive history, nor could we overestimate the joy the people felt when, in 538 BC, God appointed King Cyrus of Persia to return His people to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23). Once in the land, the nation began rebuilding the temple and its furniture, including the lampstand first mentioned in Exodus 25:31–40.

Zechariah the prophet was commissioned during this restoration period to encourage the returned exiles to complete the rebuilding of the temple, which had run into difficulties because of Israel’s lack of faithfulness (Hag. 1:1–6) and opposition from neighboring peoples (Neh. 4:1–14). The immensity of the task and the paltry resources of the Israelites did not help, and the people despaired over the inglorious nature of the kingdom.

Yet the Lord’s determination to build His temple was not thwarted, which is one of the main points of today’s passage. Zechariah’s vision of a new lampstand (Zech. 4:1–3) meant that God would certainly build His house, for the lampstand would be useless without the temple. Though the restoration was troubled and it was a day of meager beginnings, Israel would one day rejoice in fullness (vv. 8–10a).

The restoration, in fact, would be so great that the light of the lampstand would never go out. Zechariah also saw two olive trees, one on either side of the lampstand, which continually dispensed oil to the stand via golden pipes (vv. 10b–14). With a continual supply of oil, the wicks would always burn and the light would continually shine. Ultimately, this points to the true Light who came into the world to shine forth God’s grace and build a living temple to honor our Father (John 1:1–18; 1 Peter 2:1–5). By His Spirit, this Light would restore glory to His covenant people (Zech. 4:4–7).

Haggai

Haggai Overview

Zerubbabel and Joshua, upon hearing the word of God through Haggai, began gathering the citizens of Judah right away to recommit to the work of rebuilding the temple. At once, the people got started on constructing a suitable house for the Lord because He stirred up their spirits (Hag. 1:12–15). John Calvin comments on Haggai 1:14 that “we should never be attentive to [God’s] word, were he not to open our ears; and there would be no inclination to obey, were he not to turn our hearts; in a word, both will and effort would immediately fail in us, were he not to add his gift of perseverance… . Haggai’s labors produced fruits, because the Lord effectually touched the hearts of the people; for we indeed know that it is his special gift, that the elect are made disciples.” When the Word of God is preached, only those in whom the Holy Spirit is working will trust that Word.

About a month into the reconstruction of the temple, it became clear that what the returned exiles were building was not all that special from a human perspective. Those in the community who had actually seen Solomon’s temple before the exile saw that the Lord’s new house was as “nothing” in comparison (Hag. 2:1–3). Here we see yet again that although the people were back in the Promised Land, the conditions of exile persisted. The glorious restoration that the prophets anticipated had not yet materialized (Ezek. 40–48; Mic. 4:1–2). Daniel’s vision of the extended exile was coming true (Dan. 9).

Nevertheless, although the restoration was getting off to what seemed to be a slow start, God was with His people, and that was what really mattered. Thus, Haggai spoke to the people again, reminding them not to look at their immediate circumstances but to trust that the Lord would bring their glorious restoration in His time. In short, the prophet issued a call to persevering faith, to believe in the promises of God even when tangible proof of His activity is not clearly evident. Our Creator was not slow in fulfilling His promises but would shake the earth to bring the world’s treasures to His people and to show forth the fullness of His glory in His time (Hag. 2:3–9). Given the corporate requirement of repentance for full restoration from exile (Deut. 30:1–10; Dan. 9) and what the New Testament says about the preaching of the gospel to all creation (Matt. 28:18–20), we understand that God will not consummate the restoration until all of His elect people have heard and believed the gospel.œ