The Resource of the Remnant: "I Am With You"

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
It is commonly held at present that, so far as the Church on earth is concerned, we are in the wreck and ruin of things. But if so, is that to imply that the collective thing is impracticable and impossible? Far be the thought. There is a collective witness still, though it be of a remnant kind or character. We see a witness of this even in the early days of the Church in the address to Thyatira, where a remnant is specially singled out by the Lord. "But unto you I say,... the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine," and so on. Nor was this a new thing in Scripture. When the Lord Jesus was born into the world there were found in the midst of prevailing confusion in that day a faithful few in Jerusalem, such as Simeon, Anna, and others. So also at the close of Old Testament times there was a like residue which the Spirit of God notices in the book of Malachi: "Then they that. feared the LORD spake often one to another."
But in the days of Haggai a remnant is very fully brought before us. Released captives from Babylon had come back to Jerusalem, nut only arrangement or me chosen people of God.. They were a despised generation and the taunt of their adversaries, whose boast it was that a fox: could break down the wall they were building—a people with no outward or visible clothing of authority to inspire respect from those outside themselves, Even the outward unity of the nation was broken, for the ten tribes were gone. The temple, the ark of the covenant, and the Shechinah glory—all were gone! So none of those imposing witnesses were there to accredit these people in the eyes of others. But were they left without hope, or help, or divine resource? According to the prophet Haggai they were not.
Allow me to recall a few of the facts, as well as the way in which a ministry of grace wrought on behalf of this remnant.
After they had returned from Babylon, as recorded by Ezra, they had laid the foundation of the temple, and that in the midst of praise and thanksgiving. And here I would pause for a moment to notice something deeply instructive. Before they began the work of the temple they erected
the altar of the God of Israel on which to offer their burnt offerings. That is to say, worship came first, taking precedence over work. Such was the order then, however much departed from today. The Lord Himself came first before their hearts, and they then devoted themselves to His work. Man's order is the reverse, because he attaches so much weight to his own actings.
But to resume. In course of time the adversaries oppose the building of the temple, and finally the work is stopped. The people then seek their own things, attending to their own houses, and
neglecting the house of the Lord. At this time the ministry of Haggai intervenes. He reminds them of their self-seeking and ease, pointing out as the result of this how little they were obtaining from their toil for temporal things, and urging them to consider their ways.
Four things are recorded which are deeply significant.
The first is the important principle of obedience. They were instructed as follows: "Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD." And they act upon this—may I not say? according to "the obedience of faith." For we are told they "obey the voice of the LORD their God."
What followed their obedience? Nothing short Of the presence of the Lord. "I am with you, saith the LORD." A plain and precious pledge, and one prized by true believers in every age. As an instance of this see Moses in Exod. 33 Does he want to go up to the land without the Lord? He would rather not go at all than to do so on a condition such as that. So he can say to the Lord, "If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence." A choice and welcome utterance of the renewed nature!
To the company in Haggai's day what an encouragement this pledge must have been. It was not merely a promise that the grace and goodness of God would be with them. The pledge we know carried that, for "I AM" was with them. All which is included in that great, holy, and excellent name was to be with them as their all sufficient resource.
The third thing is work. "The LORD stirred up the spirit" of the people, and they "did work in the house of the LORD of
hosts, their God." There was in point of fact a general awakening, or as we should say now, a revival.
Fourth, there was an exhortation to "be strong" and "work." And who does not covet strength, and what right-minded Christian is there who does not wish to work for the Lord? But let us notice on what the exhortation is based. "For I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not." So here there was a threefold portion—the Lord's presence, His Spirit remaining among them, and the infallible, faithful word of God spoken a thousand years or so before.
Therefore, these obedient workmen had every reason to be sustained and cheered in heart.
All this is surely suggestive at the present time. There is a remnant now, which is also a witness of ruin, and in itself without inherent strength. It may be, as of old, the taunt of adversaries. But the "I AM" of Haggai's day, who pledged His presence then, is Jesus now, and the same who said when here, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them"—the same Lord Jesus who spoke these words when parting from his own, "Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." Then as regards the Holy Spirit He has spoken the well-known words, "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." And besides, there is the priceless treasure of the whole canon of Scripture which we have in our hands; so that now there is much to encourage the hearts of believers.
But one word more. The remnant in Haggai's day was pointed forward. "The Desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts." Their hearts were directed to the coming of Christ, and the glory which is to fill His earthly house.
And are we behind them in this respect? We happily know we are not. The "blessed hope" today is the coming again of Him who loves us, and has given Himself for us. Nor do we fall short of the privilege of casting glances forward to coming glory as we listen to such wondrous words as those spoken to the Holy Father, "And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them."
But a practical word in conclusion. "Go up to the mountain, and bring wood" is uttered in many, though varied, forms in Scripture. There is wood still on the mountain top for workmen, and it is for them to go up there and bring it down to build into the house. Uninstructed effort may busy itself with material got, not on the mount, but on the plain, or other unauthorized place. But why this waste for want of attention to instructions? And these are amply supplied in Scripture. What is needed so much now is truehearted obedience to them. May the words written by Haggai so long ago be suggestive now: "All the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God," bearing in mind as well that "Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning."