I was stuck on this song today. Ironically it has been within a week that my prayer theme has been ‘impossible’, meaning praying in all the areas of God doing the impossible. So the line of this song keeps ringing through my ears – “all things are possible”
I like Israel Houghton. I think he has an infectious heart of worship. Ever since his New Seasons release in 2001, he has had a growing presence in the gospel market. Though I do not listen to much of this genre, I find that New Seasons is an album I come back to from time to time.
As I listened to the words of this song, I was both encouraged and skeptical. I plan on doing a longer piece on Israel and his music, what I like and lament. But suffice it say for now that I listen with a great deal of ambivalence. Specific to this song, in relation to some long desired restoration I have hoped for, I am encouraged knowing that God can do the impossible.
You will be blessed, more than you can ask
Despite what has been done, the best is yet to come
And your latter will be greater
Your latter will be greater than the past
Take a listen to the whole presentation and you might pick up on why I’m skeptical. And by skeptical, I mean can we expect that our tomorrows will be better than the past?
The basis for the song is Haggai 2:9
“The latter glory of this house shall be better than the former”
While I have observed that this verse has been commonly stated and applied to mean that God will make our lives better, I think that misses what the prophet is saying. Reading this verse in relation to the chapter shows that he is addressing Israel’s loss. Keep in mind that Israel was a people who were recipients of his promises through what was promised to Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). At this point, Israel had just come out of exile and were rebuilding the temple. The temple was the central place of worship but they had lost it, and their land and kingship because of their rebellion. The prophet is saying that what is to come is better than what they have experienced via the system of temple worship. So by latter house the prophet is referring to the central place of glory found in the person of Christ (cf Col. 1:15-20; 26-27) through whom we experience all the spiritual blessings (cf Eph 1:3-14). That doesn’t mean that we don’t get blessed with tangible things. But if we are to understand how that passage relates to the New Testament, the only logical conclusion is that the latter house refers to fulfillment of promises in Christ.
But does that mean we dismiss the song outright? Because I do believe that God brings good things to his children. I do believe that he blesses us this way and we can expect for him to provide for us. I do believe the abundant life brings some kind of enjoyment, though there are trials, loss and suffering. And to be clear, we are not immune from hardships. In fact, Scripture speaks abundantly to the fact that Christians can expect to suffer in various forms (discipline, persecution, trials, etc).
If we have a guarantee that our future will be better than the our past, then what do you do with Peter or Paul or the many saints that have been martyred for their faith (think the end of Heb.11)? What do you do with those saints whose disease never healed or child never came home? Certainly we have promises in Christ but that does not guarantee that life will get better though it does as long as we are in Christ.
In terms of circumstances, ultimately the latter will be greater in the form of a new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21). There will be no more pain or tears. God will dwell with his people and we will enjoy pure fellowship with him and each other.
But until then, we can expect that in all things, God is working it out for good, sometimes that may not look good in the present…or in the future. We can hope for change and pray for better. We can believe that God will do a mighty work in our lives and address those desires of our heart. As he works and provides, that may take various forms, which may not necessarily look better on the outside.
Nonetheless, I do hope my future does look better than my past. So I’m still singing the song.