Ah, the “good old days”! How we miss them! In a rapidly changing world, nothing is more appealing than memories, real or imagined, of greater glory than what lies before us at the moment. How can our present attempts or future dreams possibly measure up to the “good old days”?
We are not the first faith leaders to deal with the impossible expectations of an idealized past. Consider the rather put-upon prophet Haggai. Haggai lived in the first few decades of the Israelite return from exile. Visions of a glorious return to their land have sustained the people whose hopes are dashed by scarred fields, ruined homes, and the Temple in rubble. No attempt at rebuilding, especially the Temple, measures up to the splendor of days gone by.
Haggai gives his people a word that’s worth hearing today as we face similar reviews of our efforts. He reminds them that God’s interest focuses less on good beginnings than on good endings. Though the ancient promises may not be fulfilled in their entirety at the moment, God remains steadfast and continues to uphold those promises.
We do not fear. The future is still unfolding, and it rests in God’s hands. Though things may not be as they once were, we acknowledge that with God (as the great baseball philosopher Yogi Berra noted): “The game ain’t over till it’s over!”
Despite it all, God stays with us. God brought the people out of exile and continues to work to bring us out of our exiles. The good news: Even when we return and find a world we no longer recognize, God is not through with us yet. With God, the “good old days” are yet to come!
Gracious God, may I bask in the glow of your work in the present, knowing that the best is yet to come. Amen.
The rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple became a test of God’s promise. The prophetic word of Haggai insists on courage and labor, reminding the people that God’s Spirit is already present among them and points toward the future. In Second Thessalonians, some Christians have grown extremely agitated by claims that the “day of the Lord” has already come. The passage recalls what Jesus and God have already accomplished and insists that God’s future may also be trusted. Jesus’ response to the Sadducees confutes them, not merely by its cleverness (their question also is clever) but by its truth. The eschatological future cannot be understood simply as an extension of the present, except in one profound sense: God is Lord both of the present and of the future. This profound truth demands the praise to which Psalm 145 calls all creatures.
• Read Haggai 1:15b–2:9. The people return home from exile—but home has changed. When have you returned “home” to a different setting than the one you left? How did you feel the changes?
• Read Psalm 145:1-5, 17-21. How fully do you participate in worship? In what areas are you more reserved?
• Read 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17. The phrase “shaken in mind” may be better translated as “shaken out of mind,” implying great distress. What basics and foundation do you return to when you are “shaken out of mind”?
• Read Luke 20:27-38. The Sadducees miss the core of who Jesus is. When has an “old” religious mind-set blocked your ability to see and hear a “new thing”?
Respond by posting a prayer.