Haggai 2:3-4. 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now …Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts.
The Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem was once a thing of majesty. It is still considered one of the most beautiful structures in all of ancient history. But that glorious temple was destroyed by the Babylonians as they took the Jewish people into captivity. The prophet Haggai will stand in Jerusalem 70 years later as the people return from exile to rebuild the temple. But the people weep because the “Second Temple” is pitiful compared to what they once had. The new temple is nothing in their eyes.
Nostalgia can be a deceptive and dangerous thing.
“Things just aren’t what they used to be.”
“The world is so much worse today.”
“Back then we would never…”
“People today just don’t appreciate…”
“Remember the good ole days when we would…?”
“I used to love it when the church would…”
“This nation needs to return to the Lord.”
“Why don’t we sing any of the old songs?”
“Whatever happened to the ___, those were so good?”
“Pastor Jones never did it that way.”
There’s all kinds of serious problems with nostalgia:
Nostalgia deceives us into thinking that there was a time in history when things were better. But the truth is that there was only one time in world history when things were better than they are now – Genesis 1-2. But since Genesis 3 things have pretty much been the same amount of cursed.
Nostalgia is a drug that keeps us from confronting our own sin. It’s a form of escapism. Things were better “back then.” Before getting married, before the kids, before relocating, before the new job, before the new pastor. Rather than placing our faith in Christ and his future grace, we return to a false past. Rather than confronting our own selfish agenda, we idolize the glory days and lament the present.
Nostalgia lessens our view of God (while tricking us into thinking that we are honoring God). When all we can see is how God was working in such glorious ways in the past, does that mean he’s not working in all the same ways today?
And nostalgia might be the biggest destroyer of faith and love in the church today. It prevents us from reaching out in love beyond ourselves. It prevents us from trusting God with our present and our future. In Haggai’s day it almost prevented the temple from being rebuilt. All they could see was the former glory of Solomon’s Temple and it made them so sad and angry that they were paralyzed.
C.S. Lewis (and Haggai) warn us about our nostalgia. Lewis says that nostalgia for the past is actually deep longing for a perfection that is yet to come. We long for the former glory, but the glory is not in the past (and if you really could go back in time you would see this to be true). The glory we long for is actually in the future. Haggai will say the same thing:
Haggai 2:5-9. Fear not… I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts…The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.
Fear not, the best is yet to come!
Haggai is prophesying Christ and the church. You and me! The glory of the Lord never literally filled the new temple that they built in Jerusalem. But it has filled the church. We are the glorified temple of God in Christ. His indwelling life has brought the greater glory to our hearts. You see, with Christ, there’s always something better coming. For us today we long for a future lived face to face with Christ in the presence of God the Father. Our painful longing for that day can be satiated by pining for the “glories” of the past, or it can drive us deeper into Christ, our future Hope of glory.
“To live is Christ” is to fear not. It is to be strong. It is to keep working for the Lord is with you. Knowing the latter glory will be greater than the former glory. Forever. From glory to glory to glory. Life with Jesus just gets better and better. So let’s stop clinging desperately to the nostalgic past and hold fast to a future in Christ that is far greater than anything we could hope or imagine.
Where has nostalgia become your escape recently?
You in Christ
In Christ you have a glorious future that starts right now. Do you believe this?
Christ in you
How can your future glory produce a continuing work for the Lord today?
Playlist: Songs of Our Future