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The John Newton Project

Messiah No. 3

No 3 col

Haggai 2:6-7

[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
.] [1]
 
God shook the earth when he proclaimed his law to Israel from Sinai. The description though very simple, presents to our thoughts a scene unspeakably majestic and grand, but unspeakably awful likewise (Exodus 19:16-19 [2]). The mountain was in flames at [the] top, and trembled to its basis. Dark clouds, thunderings and lightenings filled the air. Not only the mountain but the hearts of the people, of the whole people, trembled, and Moses himself said, I exceedingly fear and quake. Then, as the Apostle referring to this passage observes (Hebrews 12:26 [3]), the voice of the Lord shook the earth. But the prophet speaks of another, a greater, a more important and extensive concussion:  Yet once more I shake not the earth only but the heaven. If we really believe that the Scriptures are true, that the prophecies were delivered by holy men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost, and that not one jot or tittle shall fail, how studious should we be to attain a right understanding of passages and events in which we are nearly [closely] interested, so as to be duly and properly affected by them. But alas, how does experience and observation confirm the poet’s words,
Men are but children of a larger growth. [4]
Put a telescope into the hands of the child; he admires the outside, especially if finely ornamented, but the use of it in giving a more distinct view of distant objects, is what he has no conception of. The music of the Messiah is but an ornament of the words which have a sense and meaning of great importance. This sense no music can explain, and when rightly understood will have an effect which no music can produce. That the music of the Messiah has a great and wonderful effect in its own kind I can easily believe. The ancients, to describe the power of the music of Orpheus, pretend that when played upon his harp, the wild beasts such as lions and tigers thronged around him to listen, and seemed to forget their natural fierceness. Such expressions are doubtless hyperperbolical, or rather, perhaps, figurative, intimating that by his address and instructions, he succeeded in civilising men of fierce and savage dispositions. But if we should allow the account to be true in the literal sense, I should still suppose that the wild beasts were only affected by his music while they heard it, and that it did not actually change their nature, and render them tame and gentle as sheep from that time forward. Thus I can allow that those who heard the Messiah might be struck and impressed during the performance, but when it was ended they retained the very same dispositions they had before it began. And many, I fear, were no more affected by the idea of this sublime declaration of the Lord’s design to shake the heavens and the earth, than if the same music had been set to the words of a common ballad.
3 influence
Let us, however, pray for the influence and teaching of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand the passage to the edification and comfort of our souls.
 
 
Instead of the last clause of the 7th verse, the passage in the Messiah closes with part of Malachi 3:1' [5] which I shall consider hereafter, together with what follows in the 2nd and 3rd verses of that chapter. At present I confine myself to the prophecy in Haggai.
 
The Jews, on their return from the captivity, met with many discouragements in their attempts to rebuild the temple - not only from the opposition and arts of their enemies, who prevailed for a time to compel them to desist from their work, but from the comparison which some of the old men were led to make, between the magnificence of the first temple, and the expectation they formed of the utmost they should be able to perform in the building of the second (verse 3 [6] compared with Ezra 3:12,13 [7]). In these circumstances the prophets Haggai and Zechariah were sent to animate the people, by a promise that, mean and poor as the second temple might appear compared with the first, the glory of the latter house should be greater than that of the former. Had this depended upon a profusion of silver and gold, the Lord could have provided it. But the glory spoken of was of a different kind, and would be abundantly verified, by the personal appearance of the Messiah. His presence in the second temple, would confer an honour and glory upon it, far surpassing the external pomp of the temple of Solomon, and would be attended with greater consequences than when he appeared on Mount Sinai. Then he only shook the earth, but under the latter temple he would shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land, to introduce the Messiah who should thus fill the house with his glory.
 
We have:
1.  A character of the Messiah - the desire of all nations.
2.  The effects of his appearance – shaking the heavens and the earth.
3. His filling the house with glory.
 
1. The Messiah is called the desire of all nations:
  1.1 Because the rumour of the prophecies spread abroad, had awakened the expectations and desires of many in different nations, that some great deliverer and friend of mankind was at hand.
    
The sense of many prophecies of the Messiah, though misapplied, is remarkably expressed in a short poem of Virgil written a few years before our Saviour’s birth, and of which we have a beautiful imitation in the English language by Mr Pope. [8]  It affords a sufficient proof that the Heathens had an idea of some great personage who would shortly appear, and would restore peace, prosperity and the blessings of their fancied golden age to mankind. On this account he was the desire of the nations. But,
  1.2 The need all the nations had of such a Saviour, is sufficient to establish his right to this title, though they had no knowledge of him. If a nation was involved in the darkness of night, though they had no previous notion of light, yet light might be said to be their desire – because the light, whenever they should enjoy it, would put an end to their calamity, would answer their wants, and therefore accomplish their wishes; for if they could not directly wish for light, they would naturally wish for relief. The heathens were miserably bewildered – they had desires after happiness which could not be satisfied – they had fears and forebodings of conscience, but knew no remedy. They paid a blind devotion to idols, because they were ignorant of the true God. When the Messiah came, as he was the glory of Israel, so he was a light to the Gentiles, as we shall have opportunity of observing more at large when we come to consider some following passages. He therefore who came purposely to bless the nations and turn their darkness into light, might justly be called their desire, though before his appearance they could form no just conceptions of him. What a nation was ours at the time of his birth - how evil, how wretched! - and what a change has his Gospel wrought!
2. The shaking
The prophecy was in a measure fulfilled literally: at his birth, a new star; at his death, the sun withdrew his shining, the earth quaked, the rocks rent, and the dead arose. In his life he often suspended and overruled the usual laws of nature, and exercised supreme power over the visible and invisible world. He shook the kingdom of darkness, spoiled principalities and powers. He shook the kingdoms of the earth -–the idols trembled and disappeared before his Gospel; till at length the Roman Empire renounced Heathenism and embraced the Christian name.

But the language of prophecy is highly figurative. Mountains and trees, land and water, sun and moon, heaven and earth, often signify nations, peoples and states. And particularly heaven and earth are used to denote the religious and political establishment of Israel – or, as we say, their constitution of church and state. This without doubt is the primary sense here. The appearance of the Messiah shall be accompanied with the total dissolution of the Jewish economy. The whole of their Levitical institution, was fulfilled, superseded and abrogated by the Messiah. Before he died, he said, It is finished; the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. And in a few years the temple itself was destroyed and therefore their former worship rendered utterly impracticable. Their civil state likewise was dissolved, they were extirpated from the promised land, and sifted as with a sieve among all nations. Though in one view they are preserved a distinct people, in another view they are not a people (Hosea 3:4) [9] – having neither settlement nor government, but living dispersed as strangers and foreigners among the nations. Nothing like this ever happened to any people. It is a striking, obvious and perpetual proof of the truth of the Scriptures. What was foretold by Moses and the succeeding prophets, is fulfilled to a demonstration in our eyes. How unlikely that it should be so, yet it must be so, because the mouth of the Lord had spoken it. And all that he has spoken is equally sure. He will yet again shake the heaven and earth, dissolve the frame of nature and destroy all who reject his Gospel.
3. He shall fill this house with his glory
When he visited it he displayed his glory. The blind and the lame came thither to him and he healed them. Children felt his power and sang Hosanna to the Son of David [10], and when the Pharisees rebuked them he said, If these held their peace the stones would cry out. [11] As the Lord in his own house he purged the temple, and drove out those who profaned it. And when he left it the last time, with sovereign authority he denounced that awful sentence which was soon after executed both upon the temple and the nation. His glory filled the temple when he was an infant, so that Simeon and Anna then acknowledged his character, and spoke of him to those who were waiting for the consolation of Israel. Especially his glory was manifested when he proclaimed himself the fountain of life, and invited every thirsty, weary sinner to come to him to drink and live.
 
The temple has been long destroyed. But he has still a house – a house not made with hands. This house is his church, his people. He dwells in each individually. He dwells among them collectively in their societies, and solemn assemblies. But before he takes possession of a heart, there is usually a shaking. He shakes the heavens and the earth; their former views of God and of themselves are changed. All that they have been building in religion is shaken to the ground - their vain hopes are shaken to the foundation. This makes way for the perception of his glory as a Saviour. In this day of his power the heart is made willing to throw open its gates, that the King of glory may come in.
desire
Is the desire of all nations, the object of your desire?
 


Endnotes:
 
[1] KJV verse 6 begins “For thus saith the LORD of hosts…
[2] Exodus 19:16-19 And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled. And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. And mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly. And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice.
[3] Hebrews 12:26 Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.
[4] John Dryden (1631-1700), All for Love, 1677, Act 4, Part 1
[5] Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
[6] Haggai 2:3 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?
[7] Ezra 3:12,13 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
[8] Messiah, A Sacred Eclogue, in imitation of Virgil’s Pollio, Alexander Pope, 1712 [see under Appendix]
[9] Hosea 3:4 For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim:
[10] Matthew 21:15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the son of David; they were sore displeased,
[11] Luke 19:40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.


Acknowledgements:
Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's Messiah notebook
 

Marylynn Rouse, 07/01/2015


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 10:37 on 12 December 2019