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 to the Israelites in the 6th century BC: 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”.
Our longings and limits collide and disappoint us all.
But Haggai tells them the solution. The people must 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 in another sense it will be more glorious (2:9) because Christ Himself will come to it.
Just as Malachi also prophesied, the Messenger of the Covenant will grace the second temple with His presence (Malachi 3:1). And when Christ and the temple come together it makes both Malachi and Haggai consider the end of all things.
Why would this be? Well Jesus comes to tear down the House of God and to build it again (John 2:19-22). In the Bible, God’s House could mean the temple, it could mean the world or it could mean Christ Himself. And actually all three will go through a death and resurrection. Christ comes to demolish and then to renovate. And when Haggai thinks of Christ colliding with God’s House, he starts to think of this world’s cosmic renovation:
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)
Haggai sees beyond his current circumstances, beyond Christ’s first coming and describes the end when Christ shakes this world right. It’s a fearful prophecy. Not just an earth-quake. A heaven-quake. A creation-quake!
But through it, there’ll be a renovation. On the other side there will be glory! And notice the interaction between limit and longing. The One who shakes down the whole cosmos is also our true Object of desire. The nations will end in him and delight in him! He is their destruction and their desire! Beyond the destruction is a glorious and much-desired future. The Messiah will be this world’s true limit and longing.
He is 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 possiblysatisfy this world’s thirst? What kind of Person is Haggai describing? Only Jesus, Messenger of the Covenant, Hope of the Ages, the House of God, the Faithful Bridegroom, the Fountain of Living Waters – the Desire of all nations.