The book of Haggai ends with a truth that is not only found in Haggai, but virtually every prophet in our sacred Scripture, and it’s this: The King of kings will come in vengeance and victory.1
Haggai 2:20-23 reads,
20 The word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the Lord, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the Lord of hosts.”
The prophet of old says a day is coming that will be marked by two things: 1) the shaking of kingdoms (2:21-22), and 2) the setting of a king (2:23). The shaking of kingdoms is a promise of terrifying judgment. The setting of a king is a promise of comforting victory. Let me take these two realities in turn and squeeze out application from them.
First, the King of kings’ coming vengeance is terrifying. God uses words like shake, overthrow, and destroy to describe what this day will look like. His judgment of every kingdom that stands against His own is a terrifying judgment. Now, I realize that the terrifying judgment of God is not something that our culture wants to hear. But it is something that God wants us to hear. It is something that God may even want some of your friends or family members to hear.
Danish theologican Søren Kierkegaard once provided an answer to the question, “What happens to those who try to warn the present age?” He answered with a parable. On the opening night of a comedy production a fire breaks out backstage. A clown realized the danger and pushed through the curtains to alert the audience. They applauded. The clown repeated his warning more urgently. By now he was center stage, flailing his arms, his eyes wide in panic. The crowd went wild; whistles, cheers, and raucous laughter. Never had they seen such a routine! Kierkegaard’s point was that the human race thinks the warning of God’s judgment is just another happy joke.
Although some might consider me a clown, the judgment of God – revealed in Haggai 2 – is no happy joke. To what kingdom are you dedicating your life? If your days are devoted to the kingdoms of this world – power, pleasure, and prestige – you can be assured from Haggai 2 that God will overthrow them and judge you in the process. He will not suffer competition from another king or another kingdom. If you’re not a Christian, whether you realize it or not, you are going about your days building your own little kingdom and ruling as your own little king. You stand against God as a rival, and He will tolerate no rivals. There is a time coming where He will overthrow such rivals, but that time is not yet. His mercy and patience call out to you tonight to surrender your kingdom of sin, to understand that Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, took the punishment and wrath of God due to you for your little kingdom building experiment. The loving justice of God crucified His Son so that through faith in this King, you would be brought into God’s kingdom and know a joy and peace that cannot be described with words. Which leads us then to our second reality.
Second, the King of kings’ coming victory is comforting. Zerubbabel represents a discouraged and despairing people. Neighboring nations pressed down on Judah, revolutions in government marked the known word, the few and feeble Jews wondered if they would be safe. How does God bring comfort? From His promise that a king is coming. Maybe you are suffering from pain or suffering that few people can understand. Maybe the enemies of sin and Satan press down on you so powerfully that obedience and faithfulness is so hard to grasp. Maybe the future is so bleak that you find little reason to hope in the days ahead. Through Haggai, God is calling you and calling us to see the comfort found in the coming of Jesus Christ, the King of kings. Calvin said, “We must remember this principle, that from the time when Christ once appeared, there is nothing left for the faithful, but with suspended minds ever to look forward to his second coming.” Lift up your head and look to when the King will come and bring everlasting comfort.
2,500 years ago, in the far reaches of the Persian Empire, God’s people lived in despair while the temple lay in ruins. So God raised up a mysterious man named Haggai to proclaim His word to His people. He called them to prioritize His presence in their lives by rebuilding the temple, be encouraged that His presence fuels covenant faithfulness, and remember that God fulfills His promises to a holy generation. And the under-girding reality behind all the commands, the stirring up, the encouragement and promises is the fact that our God reigns as sovereign over His people. In His sovereign plan he has decreed that a king is coming in vengeance and victory.
So, as God’s people, we join the old song with renewed expectancy and sing, “And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll, The trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend; ‘Even so’—it is well with my soul.”