“Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).
There were many older men living at the time the foundation of the second temple was laid, who had seen the original temple of Solomon. We are told by Ezra that these men, when they saw the foundation, “wept with a loud voice” (Ezra 3:12,13). These men wept, both because they were probably reminded that the temple of Solomon had long been destroyed, and because the second temple was nothing in comparison to the former, in their estimation. “Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” observed Haggai.
Haggai asked the question with regard to the temple, “How do ye see it now?” To the older generation it was nothing in comparison. To the younger generation it was something to cheer about because their place of worship, the house of God, was being built. Isn’t it interesting that how we see things, often depends upon our perspective. Not having seen the original, the younger generation welcomed this new temple. They had not the perspective to see it correctly, at least not in the same light that their elders had.
Our experience often colors what we see and how we see it. This is not to say, as some do, that we can never see the truth because it is colored by our experience. It is, nevertheless, true that our experience is a factor in the way we see things. It is especially true that those who do not travel the hard path do not appreciate the end destination! Too often those who have never been in the arena fighting the battles, taking the blows, struggling for victory, do not appreciate fully what they have. As Shakespeare once observed, “They jest at wounds that never felt a scar.” It is only after we have struggled and pushed and fought and climbed and pursued and been wounded and tasted our own blood that we truly appreciate the victory. It is so often true that those who have fought the battles appreciate peace the most.
How many times have we seen it? How many times, for example, have those who have come to America from countries where there was extreme poverty or no freedom exhibit true appreciation for the blessings and freedoms here in America while our own sons and daughters take these hard fought blessings for granted? In a similar fashion, how many times have the children of long-time members of the Lord’s church disregarded the uniqueness of the church and longed for something different? How many times have they left the Lord’s church in search of something “better”? How many times has the younger generation sought to change the Lord’s church? Too often!
I have spoken with older members of the Lord’s church who have seen good times in the kingdom. They have experienced auditoriums overflowing with people, they remember when chairs had to be set in the aisles to accommodate the crowds. They remembered the truth being defended and people being taught. They remember the debates. They experienced the sacrifice. However, they wept when they saw the current condition of the church and the changes taking place. Yet many in the younger generation not only welcome but advocate the changes taking place in the Lord’s church. The younger generation too often does not want the church of their fathers but one whose foundations are much smaller and far less glorious.
This is why it has always been important for the previous generation to faithfully transmit the truth to the next generation and instill in them a zeal for the truth. If we do not faithfully do this, there will arise another generation which does not know the Lord (Jud. 2:10). Paul said, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (II Timothy 2:2). If we are not made to know the truth, we will not be set free (John 8:32).
The hopeful note in this account was that the Lord promised the children of Israel that, while the present house was not as glorious as the first, God was going to make it even more glorious in the future. “For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:6-7). Paul quoted this passage and applied it to the church, the eternal kingdom (Heb. 12:26-28; II Pet. 1:11).
Today, of course, God does not tell us that any individual congregation will be more glorious in the future in this life. But we do have the promise that God will bless us by delivering the kingdom back to God (I Cor. 15:24). It will be delivered back to God without spot, wrinkle, blemish or any such thing but that it will be holy and glorious (Eph. 5:27). This is dependent upon our making our calling and election sure (II Pet. 1:10,11).
How do we see the Lord’s church now?
Eric L. Padgett