The Desire of All Nations
There is a limit and a longing to us all. And that interaction between the limit and the longing defines our human condition. We are finite creatures, and yet this finite world does not satisfy.
The prophet Haggai wrote in the 6th century BC to the Israelites in a strange kind of in-between time. They had returned from the Babylonian captivity, but they hadn’t exactly returned from exile. The true end of exile would be the coming of the Messiah.
And so the people had an experience something like our own. They, like us, were waiting for the Messiah to restore all things. And they, like us, felt their limit and their longing very keenly. The prophet describes their experience as one of constant frustration:
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (Haggai 1:6)
It brings to mind Lord Byron’s description of his own longings:
drank early, deeply drank, drank draughts. That common millions might have quenched; — then died. Of thirst, because there was no more to drink.
The longings and the limits collide and disappoint us all.
But Haggai tells them the solution. The people need to invest in the Messianic future. They need to rebuild the house of God (1:8). Physically speaking it won’t be a patch on Solomon’s old temple (2:3). But actually it will be more glorious (2:9) because Christ Himself will come to it.
Just as Malachi also prophesied, the Messenger of the Covenant – Christ – will grace the second temple with His presence (Malachi 3:1). And when Christ and the temple come together it portends the end of all things. The appearance of Christ at the temple makes both Malachi and Haggai think of the end of all things. And so they prophesy the last days, when the Messiah will shake the world right. Listen to Haggai’s warning:
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)
It’s a fearful prophecy. Everything we consider secure will be shaken. Even heaven itself! Not just an earth-quake. A heaven-quake. A creation-quake!
But in the midst of this cosmic demolition job, notice the interaction between limit and longing. The One who shakes down the whole cosmos is also our true Object of desire. The nations both end in him and delight in him! He is the destruction of the nations and the desire of the nations! Because beyond the destruction is a glorious and much-desired future. Thus the Messiah is both the true limit and the true longing of this world.
Jesus spoke of His own body when He said this:
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. (John 2:19)
The shake-down of the universe began on the cross. The original House of God – Christ – was destroyed. Then in 70AD, the second temple was destroyed. But one day when Christ returns, God’s house – the world – will be destroyed.
This is our limit and we must take it to heart. But Christ doesn’t simply destroy God’s house! He only demolishes to make way for a renovated House of God. And when He comes again to restore all things He comes as the Desire of all nations. The deepest longings of the Japanese, the Argentinians, the Fijians, the Swedes, the Kenyans, those from all ages, all backgrounds, all nations – they are met in Jesus.
Who could possibly shake this world right? Who could possibly satisfy a world’s thirst? What kind of Person is Haggai describing? He is Jesus, the Faithful Bridegroom, the Fountain of Living Waters, the Desire of all nations.
Thus saith the Lord of Hosts:-Yet once a little while and I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations; and the desire of all nations shall come. (Haggai 2:6-7)
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. (Malachi 3:1)