The Desire of All Nations

The Desire of All Nations, PDF

“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

  This text is from a book of the Bible that is not well known to many Christians.  Yet the subject of the text is the Lord Jesus Christ!  The Son of God, the Saviour of His people – the Desire of all nations!  In this text we have a wonderful prophecy about Him. 

  Every time I read these words, and meditate on them, they thrill my heart.  They fill me with awe, and wonder, and praise to my Lord and Saviour.  And may they do the same for the reader.

  Christ Jesus is the Desire of all nations!  But this is not a prophecy about His second coming.  It is a prophecy about His first coming into the world, which occurred over 2000 years ago now.  Haggai, who prophesied over five hundred years before Jesus was born, foretold of His coming.  He declared that it would most certainly come to pass: “the Desire of all nations shall come”!  It was something absolutely certain, even though it was not to take place for another five centuries.  And it was certain, because it was God who gave these words to Haggai.  “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21).  God is the great I AM.  He knows the end from the beginning.  With Him there is no past, present, or future.  And before the world even began, in the everlasting Covenant of Grace made between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, it was settled that God the Son would, in the fulness of time, in the divinely appointed time, come into this world, “God manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16), “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), and redeem His chosen people!  And therefore God the Holy Spirit moved this man of God, Haggai, to give forth this prophecy:  “the Desire of all nations shall come”.  It was a thing utterly certain.  It was fixed.  God had spoken!

  But before we look at the prophecy of the Desire of all nations, the context is very important.  Verse 6 says, “Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land”.  It is important to understand when this would occur, for then we can know when this prophecy regarding the Desire of all nations was to be fulfilled.

  And we are not left to guess, or speculate.  The Lord Himself gives us the very time of this fulfilment, for in Heb.12:27-29 this prophecy of Haggai is quoted, and an exposition is given:

  “Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven.  And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: for our God is a consuming fire.”

  This text from Hebrews shows us that the prophecy in Haggai refers to the times of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, and of His coming into the world the first time.  The Lord shook the earth and the heavens at the time of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, when there was thunder and lightning and smoke, and the trembling of the earth itself;  and then the Lord did it again, when the Son of God was incarnated, ministered on earth, and was crucified!  For at His coming a new star appeared in the night sky; at His birth the angelic host filled the sky and sang in praise to God, and Herod and the people of Jerusalem were shaken and troubled; during His ministry the wind and the sea were troubled and stirred; at His crucifixion the sky was darkened; and when He died there was a mighty earthquake that split the rocks and opened the graves.

  But as Hebrews 12:27 says, this “shaking” has a meaning beyond the physical one: for it also means that with the coming of Christ Jesus into the world, the old way of worship came to an end, with its priesthood, sacrifices, etc., and New Testament, Gospel worship was established!  And truly, about four decades after the Lord Jesus returned to heaven, when judgment fell upon the Jewish nation with the coming of the Roman legions and the destruction of Jerusalem, the entire Jewish nation was shaken, the temple itself was violently destroyed, and the old manner of worship was brought to an end.

  And what was then left?  “Those things which cannot be shaken”!  Christ’s eternal priesthood; the true, spiritual temple, the Church; and the Gospel, and Gospel worship in spirit and in truth.

  Verse 7 says: “And I will shake all nations”.  During the earthly ministry of the Lord Jesus, and during the ministry of His apostles afterwards, as the Gospel was proclaimed in power, there was indeed a shaking of the nations as never before!  On the day of Pentecost three thousand people, from many nations of the earth, shook under conviction of sin and were saved.  And in the months and years that followed, multitudes were shaken in their consciences, being pricked in their hearts by the Word of God, and crying out for salvation. 

  And multitudes more shook with hatred for Christ and for His servants, and hatred for the Gospel; and they opposed it, fought against it, and caused persecution to break out against the Lord’s people, so that indeed there was a great shaking.

  We therefore know, precisely, the time-period of the fulfilment of this prophecy of Haggai.  The epistle to the Hebrews leaves us in no doubt. 

  And still further evidence is found in verse 7 where it says: “I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.”  As wonderful as was the glory which filled the house of the Lord, the temple of God in Jerusalem, at its dedication, that glory was nothing but a shadow of the glory that filled it when Emmanuel Himself came into the temple (Mal. 3:1)! – when the Lord Jesus entered it, taught there, and performed miracles there.

  And so, with that brief background, we come to these wonderful words:

  “The Desire of all nations shall come”.

  It is perfectly evident, from both the context of the prophecy and its subject matter, that this “Desire of all nations” is no other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself!  In fulfilment of this and so many other wonderful prophecies, He came!  He came into this world of sin and darkness: “when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman” (Gal.4:4).  “Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king” (Matt. 2:1).  “He was in the world, and the world was made by him” (Jn. 1:10).  He came into the world which He had made!

  Over two thousand years have come and gone since that wondrous event – that moment in time when God became man.  And yet still today, Jesus of Nazareth is the central figure of the human race.  No other person has ever had the impact on the world that this wondrous Man has had.  “Never man spake like this Man!” said the men sent to arrest Him (Jn. 7:46); and never did any man live as this Man, nor act as this Man.  No single individual who has ever lived has had such an effect, such an impact, on the world.  For two thousand years, since “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14), He has dominated the history of mankind.  Indeed, during the four thousand years which passed before He came into the world in the flesh, He was, even then in a very real way, the central figure of the human race.  That one individual altered human history; that one individual is the reason for history itself!  For history is meaningless unless we place the birth, death and resurrection of Christ in the very centre of it.  Only then does it have meaning, only then does it make sense.  In the Person of Jesus Christ, God – the omnipotent God – intervened in human history.  He was “Emmanuel”! – “God with us”! (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23).  In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself walked among men in the flesh.

  What does Jesus Christ mean to the world?  To history?  To the future?

  I ask you, reader, more specifically: what does He mean to you?  

  Does He mean anything at all to you?  Who exactly is He, this Man who is called “the Desire of all nations”?  What did this mean, back then when Jesus was born?  And what does it mean today?  What does it mean to you?

  In what sense is the Lord Christ the Desire of all nations?  After all, as we look at the nations of the world, do they desire Him?  And have they ever desired Him?  Did they desire Him when He came in the flesh?  Do they now?

  In the prophecy of Christ in Isa.53:2,3 it says, “when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.  He is despised and rejected of men”.  Many men – most men, in fact – have throughout history rejected the Lord Jesus Christ, and they do to this day.  We do not see all men desiring Him, coming to Him, submitting to Him, worshipping Him.  Compared with those on the broad way that leads to destruction, there are very few on the narrow way that leads to life (Matt. 7:13,14).  How then are we to understand these words of Holy Scripture, that He is the Desire of all nations?

  When we preach Christ to lost men and women, the vast majority do not see the loveliness in Him that true believers see (Song. 5:16).  Here and there a soul is brought to salvation, seeing in Christ all that is desirable (Psa. 87:5,6); but the majority go on in their sins, along that broad way that leads to eternal destruction, rejecting Christ and saying, as in Jesus’ parable, “We will not have this Man to reign over us!” (Lk. 19:14).  How, then, is He the Desire of all nations?

  There are two ways in which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Desire of all nations. 

  At the time when Jesus was born, an amazing thing was happening.  Although the whole word was then lying in wickedness, just as it always has since sin entered, and just as it does now (1 Jn. 5:19), yet at that time in history there was a desire, in the hearts of many men all over the known world, for something, or someone, greater than the world’s problems: a deliverer, a saviour, someone who could right the wrongs in the world, one who could change things for the better.  They certainly did not have a clear picture of what they wanted.  The world was heathen, after all; it knew not God, it was in darkness.  But the literature of various nations at that time reveals that there was a longing in the hearts of many for a better state of things.  And this longing reached its height at the very time when Jesus was born into the world.

  Why this longing?  Why this desire?  It was because God Himself was preparing the world for the entrance of His Son into it!  The world was being prepared for that wonderful moment when God would be manifest in the flesh.

  In various nations there was a sense of expectation.  They did not have details, they could only dimly perceive what they were longing for, because the full revelation of these things was to be found only in the Scriptures of truth, and these were in the care of the nation of Israel; but there were Jews living scattered throughout the known world at that time, and wherever they went they built their synagogues and studied the Old Testament Scriptures; and these Scriptures were from time to time even read by heathens!  And thus certain truths about the coming Messiah were spread, by this means, throughout the heathen world.  In this way, then, the Lord saw to it that there was this sense of expectation.

  And the Jews themselves, of course, were, at this very time, expecting the soon arrival of their Messiah!  They knew what the prophecies said, particularly that of Dan. 9:24-27 which was extremely precise about when the Messiah would come into the world, and therefore they had a sense of excitement and expectation that the time was near; and this feeling of excitement, of expectation, was felt by many other peoples with whom the Jews had contact.

  But of course, although many men in the dark parts of the earth had this desire for a deliverer, this desire in itself did not, and could not, cause them to actually repent of their sins, forsake them, and turn to the Lord in faith.  It was not a desire for salvation from sin!  That desire is a desire given by God alone – and given only to His elect.  They desired a better world, they desired a good ruler and deliverer – but that was all.  They loved their sins, as all men do, and did not want to part with them.  They did not desire a Saviour from their sins! 

  And so, although this prophecy in Haggai has this fulfilment, we must also look for a greater, higher fulfilment: it refers, in the greatest, highest sense, to the desire for Christ in the hearts of God’s elect from among all the nations of the world!

  At the very beginning of the world, just after Adam and Eve sinned against God, the Lord God promised to one day send a Redeemer, a Saviour, the One who would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen.3:15).  And ever since then, the Lord’s elect longed for, desired, this great Redeemer.

  The Lord in eternity past chose – elected – some men, some women, some children from among all the nations of the world, to be irresistibly drawn to Christ, and to be saved from their sins by faith in Him.  This is why He is said to be the Desire of all nations!  It is not that He is desired by every single person in every nation.  In fact, most despise and reject Him.  But from among all the nations of the world, some are chosen of God to obtain salvation in Christ.  And in God’s perfect time, they (and they alone) are made to desire Him for their Lord and Saviour.

  And through all those long centuries before He came in the flesh, the elect of God waited for Him.  They looked for His coming.  They desired Him!  And they found Him, of course, in those ages before He came in the flesh.

  All men and women are conceived in sin (Psa. 51:5).  They have depraved natures.  And the Bible says in Rom.3:11, “There is none that seeketh after God.”  They do not, because they cannot!  They are blind to the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4), deaf to the Gospel (Jn. 8:43,47), and dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1).  No man , in his natural state, seeks after God.  In Isaiah’s prophecy of Christ the words are, “and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him” (Isa. 53:2).  The reason why they saw Him, but saw no beauty in Him, was because they did not see with the eyes of faith.  Understand well:

  Men saw Him with their physical eyes when He walked on earth in the flesh; but they saw Him merely as a Man, nothing more.  They saw no beauty in Him.  They saw only His external appearance, but they did not see who He really is.

  And many men, then and now, only see Christ intellectually.  They read about Him, they know something about Him academically and intellectually, but they do not see any beauty in Him as the Saviour from sin.    No man, in his unregenerate state, seeks after Christ.  No man even desires Him.  There is nothing about Him that is desirable to the man or woman who loves the world, and the pleasures of sin.  A person who desires sin cannot desire Christ.  For He came into the world to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).  And a person who desires the things of this world cannot desire Christ, for His kingdom is not of this world (Jn. 18:36), and He came to deliver His people from the love of this world (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

  Only God’s elect ever desire Him!  For only they are ever made, by the Lord, aware of their depravity, and of their desperate need for the Saviour.  The meaning, then, of the Lord Jesus Christ being the Desire of all nations, is that He was, and is, the Desire of the elect of God in all the nations of the world.  No others!  

  In the approximately four thousand years between the creation of the world and the coming of the Messiah into it, the elect desired His coming.  They were shown their sinfulness, and their need of Him; and, like Abraham, they looked by faith down through the centuries, and they saw by faith the fulfilment of the divine promise to send the Redeemer, and they embraced Him by faith.  They rejoiced to see the day of Christ’s coming; and they saw it by faith, and were glad (Jn. 8:56)!

  Yes, most of the elect of God during this period were from the Israelite nation; but there were always some Gentiles, also, who were among the Lord’s elect during this time, and in His appointed time in their lives He regenerated them, and caused them to desire Christ, to look by faith to Him, and to be saved by faith in Him.

  Think of Job, who with that faith which is the gift of God to His elect said, “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).  He had been brought by sovereign grace, and the work of the Holy Spirit in his heart, to desire Christ.

  Think of Ruth.  She was of the heathen Moabite nation.  She was raised in idolatry and did not know the true God.  But she was one of those chosen unto salvation from before the world began.  And there came a time when God’s grace wrought in her; she was enabled to call upon the Lord for salvation; and with God-given faith she said to her godly Israelite mother-in-law, “thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).  She had not sought the Lord, but the Lord had sought her, as the good Shepherd searches for the sheep that is lost, and He had found her, had opened her eyes and her heart, and made her willing to come to Christ for salvation; and she had now seen His beauty, desired Him as her Saviour and Lord, and come to rest under the shadow of His wings!  By faith she trusted in the Messiah who was to come, centuries later. 

  Think of Rahab.  She had once been a harlot, a prostitute, and of a heathen nation; she knew nothing of the true God, nothing of the Saviour who was to come one day in the far-distant future.  But she had been chosen unto salvation before the world began.  And in His appointed time, God drew her to Himself!  He opened her heart, and placed in her that desire for the Redeemer!  And by faith, that faith which is the gift of God to His elect alone, she saw the beauty of the Redeemer, and called upon Him for salvation.  “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not” (Heb. 11:31). 

  Thus there were these and various other Gentiles – God’s chosen from among various nations – who, even in those years before the incarnation of the Son of God, were brought by sovereign grace to repent of their sins, and to believe in the Saviour who was coming.  They knew that their Redeemer was a living Redeemer!

  And within the Jewish nation itself, the elect of God greatly desired the Lord Jesus Christ!  Just before He was born of Mary, there was a very pronounced longing for Him, in the hearts of the elect remnant among the Jews.  For they knew, from studying the Old Testament prophecies, that the time was near, and they were longing for the day!  And so they “looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Lk. 2:38).

  Two such chosen ones were Simeon and Anna.  Both were desiring the appearance of the Lord’s Christ in this world of sin and woe.  Their story is recorded for us in Lk.2:22-38.  Of Simeon it is written, “And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him” (v.25).  The “Consolation of Israel” was none other than Christ Jesus Himself!  For He alone brings consolation – comfort – to His people, when they mourn for their sins, and cry out to God for salvation.

  The Lord Jesus Christ is the Consolation of Israel!  But not of all the physical nation of Israel – for most did not receive Him when He came, and therefore received no consolation from Him (Jn. 1:11).   But He was the Consolation of all the chosen of God – the spiritual Israel of God (Rom. 2:28,29; Gal. 6:16) – those ordained to eternal life by the Lord!  People like Simeon, and Anna.  And others there were too – people who “looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (v.38).  Most did not look for redemption then, just as most do not look for it now.  But the elect of God looked for it!  They looked for the Redeemer who was coming.  They looked, they waited, they hoped – and in the fulness of the time, He came.

  And the elect of God look for redemption to this very day!  In their hearts the Lord places a desire for Christ; and to Him they turn, having been made willing to turn to Him, which they were not willing to do before, and having been given the power to turn, which they did not have before (Psa. 110:3); and to them the Redeemer comes, in love and mercy; He finds them, as a shepherd finds a sheep that is lost, and carries them rejoicing into His sheepfold (Lk. 15:3-6).

  “And it was revealed unto him [Simeon] by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (Lk. 2:26).  On that wonderful day, as He held the infant Jesus in his arms – and I imagine that tears were streaming down his cheeks – with a heart full of praise he “blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (vv.28-30).  He was ready to die now, for his eyes had beheld the Desire of all nations, the Consolation of Israel, the promised Christ, the Messiah, the salvation of God!

  Many, many long centuries before Jesus was born, the Lord told Abraham that in his (Abraham’s) seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18).  This prophecy meant that in JESUS, the seed, the descendant, of Abraham, according to the flesh, all nations would be blessed.  For some from every nation under heaven would be blessed with salvation in Jesus Christ!  And this wonderful prophecy has been fulfilled, and continues to be fulfilled: millions from across the world, through the centuries, have been enlightened by Jesus Christ, the Light of the world!  And being enlightened to see their sin, and to see the beauty of the Saviour, they have desired Him with all their hearts, fallen at His feet, and cried out for mercy and salvation.  And the Lord has saved them!

  Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, prophesied of the Christ who was to come many centuries later, when he said, “unto Him shall the gathering of the people be” (Gen. 49:10).  From all across the world, the chosen of God would be gathered to Christ.  They who never sought Him themselves, do so when the Lord enlightens them, places in them that desire for Him, and draws them to Christ for salvation.

  The Lord Jesus Himself, when He came, prophesied in Matt.8:11 and Lk.13:29 that many would come from the four corners of the earth, and sit down in the kingdom of God.  For the blessed Gospel of salvation was to be preached in all the world.  “Go ye into all the world,” Jesus said, “and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15).  And this is exactly what happened: the apostles and evangelists went forth and preached everywhere; and generation after generation, throughout these past twenty centuries, the servants of the Lord have gone forth with the glad tidings of salvation, and have preached the Gospel in all the earth; and the sovereign Lord places within each and every one of His elect, throughout the nations of the earth, that great desire for Christ – that hunger and thirst for Him – that is only satisfied when they receive Him by faith.

  Each and every one of the elect is brought, in God’s appointed time, to Christ.  Not one will be missing when Jesus returns the second time.  He died for a specific, predetermined number – for the elect of God from all nations and in all ages of the world – and He will see to it, by His sovereign power, that each and every one for whom He died will be gathered unto Him.

  If you are a child of God – if you know that you are saved from your sins – if you have repented of your sins, and received the Lord Jesus by faith – then know that this was all the work of the sovereign Lord alone.  You did not desire Christ Jesus of your own sinful self!  There was nothing in Him that would have caused you to desire Him.  That desire was placed there by God!  He it was who enlightened you, and made you see the beauty and excellency of Christ above all others.  To the world, there is no beauty in Him (Isa. 53:2).  But to the elect of God in the divinely appointed time, He is truly “fairer than the children of men” (Psa. 45:2), “the chiefest among ten thousand” (Song. 5:10), the One who is “altogether lovely” (Song. 5:16)!

  The Lord Jesus is the eternal Son of the living God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.  He had no beginning, and He will have no end.  All things were made by Him.  And He came into this world – the world which He had made – as a baby, born of a virgin, untainted by sin, holy, harmless, and undefiled; and in sinless perfection He lived, grew up, ministered, taught, and performed wonders; and then He died an agonising death on the cross, not for any sins of His own – for He had none – but on Him were laid the sins of all the elect of all time, from all nations of the world.  Perfectly innocent, holy and just as He was, He died in the place of the elect, suffering the penalty for sin which they deserved to suffer, taking their sins on Himself, and bearing the wrath of God for them.

  And then He rose from the dead, alive for evermore, and ascended back to heaven!  And from there He is coming again, to gather His people unto Himself in heaven, and to destroy all who hate Him and oppose Him.

  And I must address those readers who may not, as yet, be saved from your sins.  Are you burdened with your sins?  Has the Lord opened your understanding to know that you are a sinner, deserving nothing but the wrath of God?  And do you see in the Lord Jesus all that is lovely, and to be desired?  All your salvation, all your hope, all your consolation?  Are you enabled by grace to say, in the words of Psa.73:25: “Whom have I in heaven but thee?  And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee”?  Then flee to Christ for salvation!  Repent of your sins, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved!

  If you desire other things besides Him; if you desire to live for the pleasures of this world, for your idols, for anything but Him; then let there be no doubt about it, you are not yet in His kingdom.  Do not fool yourself.  Do not be deceived.  It is not, “I desire Christ and the world”, or, “I desire Christ and my sins”, or, “I can be a Christian and live as I please, and chase my sinful pleasures and fulfil my lusts”.  Oh no!  “There is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee”.  Do you desire Christ?  Christ alone, Christ all-sufficient?  Then come to Him – and come now!  He is able to save, to the uttermost, all that come unto God by Him (Heb. 7:25).  Able – and willing! 

  For here is the wonderful thing: the elect of God are His desire!  Yes, He is their desire – but they are His desire.  The Song of Solomon 7:10 says, “I am my Beloved’s, and His desire is toward me”.  Think about it: Christ desires His people.  And He desired them from eternity – which is why He chose them to obtain salvation.  He loved them from everlasting, He desired them from everlasting.  This is why He came into the world, and bled and died: it was for them.  It was because He wanted them to be with Him in the glories of heaven for ever.

  Over two thousand years ago, God Himself was manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16); Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23); Son of God and Son of man.  Over two thousand years ago, in a far-away land, a Child was born to a young virgin – the Saviour, who is Christ the Lord (Lk. 2:11).  And through the twenty centuries that have passed since then, He has conquered the hearts of multiplied millions of people from the four corners of the earth!  For His kingdom is a kingdom of the heart; it is a spiritual empire; and this kingdom will last when all other kingdoms have come to an end; his dominion will never end over the hearts and lives of His people (Dan. 2:44).  And this Man – Jesus of Nazareth – will reign unto all eternity over the people who are the objects of His everlasting love and desire.

  Fall at His feet, if you have never done so, and cry out for salvation!  And if you are one of those saved from your sins, one of the saints of God, the redeemed of the Lord, worship Him with glad and joyful hearts, now and forever!

  In the words of the hymn:

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,

Born to set Thy people free;

From our sins and fears release us,

Let us find our rest in Thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all Thy saints Thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart!

(There is also a recorded sermon by Shaun Willcock, entitled Christ the Desire of All Nations, available from Bible Based Ministries)

Shaun Willcock is a minister, author and researcher.  He runs Bible Based Ministries.  This pamphlet was first published in May 2016. For other pamphlets (which may be downloaded and printed), as well as details about his books, audio messages, articles, etc., please visit the Bible Based Ministries website; or write to the address below.  If you would like to be on Bible Based Ministries’ email list, please send your details.

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