Book of Haggai
1 On August 29th [520 BC] of the second year of King Darius’s reign, the Lord gave a message through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Jeshua [‘Joshua’] son of Jehozadak, the high priest.
2 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: The people are saying, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.’”
3 Then the Lord sent this message through the prophet Haggai:
4 “Why are you living in luxurious houses while my house lies in ruins? 5 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! 6 You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes!
7 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! 8 Now go up into the hills, bring down timber, and rebuild my house. Then I will take pleasure in it and be honoured, says the Lord. 9 You hoped for rich harvests, but they were poor. And when you brought your harvest home, I blew it away. Why? Because my house lies in ruins, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, while all of you are busy building your own fine houses. 10 It’s because of you that the heavens withhold the dew and the earth produces no crops. 11 I have called for a drought on your fields and hills—a drought to wither the grain and grapes and olive trees and all your other crops, a drought to starve you and your livestock and to ruin everything you have worked so hard to get.”
12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of God’s people began to obey the message from the Lord their God. When they heard the words of the prophet Haggai, whom the Lord their God had sent, the people feared the Lord. 13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave the people this message from the Lord: “I am with you, says the Lord!”
14 So the Lord sparked the enthusiasm of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the enthusiasm of Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the enthusiasm of the whole remnant of God’s people. They began to work on the house of their God, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, 15 on September 21st [520BC] of the second year of King Darius’s reign.
Imagine coming home and finding that your home had been looted… some buildings set on fire… a lack of law and order. Even the local church had not escaped the devastation
Worse still… the city defences are broken… rubble everywhere huge gaps in the wall… general chaos
- You want to sort out your living accommodation but your leaders urge you to concentrate on securing the defences first
- Enemies roam the streets… some of your people agree to act as guards while the work is being done…a spade in one hand, a sword in the other
- You set about clearing the mess, fortifying the walls… people work with a will… the job is completed in record time (see Book of Nehemiah)
- Then you set about rebuilding your home… it takes time and effort but there’s a good community spirit and gradually things stabilise and take shape
- The rebuilding of the Temple begins and you make good progress… but enemies report you to the King, accusing you of plotting against him… so the work grinds to a halt (see Book of Ezra)
A few years pass… your financial situation improves, business picks up and you settle into a routine
- You even manage some home improvements (DIY) and feel quietly pleased that things are turning out much better than you imagined
- God is certainly blessing you as He promised
THEN THE FIRST BOMBSHELL hits you…not an explosive one but a message from God through one of the two key prophets, Haggai …(the other prophet is Zechariah)…more about the message in a moment
- The book of Haggai is both narrative history and prophecy.
- It should be read in conjunction with Nehemiah, Ezra and Zechariah
- It is a post-exilic book, meaning it was written after (‘post’) the captivity (exile) in Babylon… the Jews had been allowed to return to their country from Persia
- It was probably written in the year 520 BC.
- It’s the most carefully and precisely dated books in the entire Bible …most of the messages from God via Haggai are recorded over 4 or 5 months.
- Key personalities are Haggai, Zerubbabel, and Joshua(Jeshua).
- Haggai was called by God to encourage the people tofinish constructing the temple in Jerusalem.
- The building had stopped because of fierce opposition from neighbouring countries and anti-Semitic elements… and the Jews were frightened that they might be taken back into captivity… or worse!These were dangerous times.
- In chapter 1, God called on Haggai to deliver His message.The Jews were living in their comfortable houses while the temple, the house of God as it was then, was unfinished…
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt” (v. 2).
So the people were stung into action…
- So often we need to be reminded of our priorities
- It’s easy to get too comfortable and forget God
They began working just 24 days after Haggai’s message (v.15).
- Then in chapter 2, Haggai motivated the Jews to continue building the temple, promising that God would bless them…
“As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, my Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!” (v. 5).
The building of the temple in Jerusalem was completed in 515 BC, some five years after Haggai’s first prophecy
WHAT ARE THE LESSONS FOR US TODAY? Here are ten of them…
- Circumstances may change but God is still the same
- Whether the Jews were displaced in Egypt, Babylon or anywhere else, God is still God!
- Whether you live at home or travel overseas… whether you are enjoying good times or enduring unhappy ones, He promises that He will never leave you or forsake you
Perhaps we need reminding of that fact… God might or might not change our circumstances…
- But he will give us the grace we need to cope with them
God is there all the time… Whether we are feeling spiritual or not… whether we are obeying Him or not.
- God works through non-believers, as well as believers…
- The people were sent back to Jerusalem to serve the political needs of the King… but he was unwittingly serving God’s purposes
- God is…God! He does what he chooses to be right
- He generally works through willing hearts… but can over-rule in the affairs of men and women
Perhaps we need to remember that God can use even the most awful person to achieve His purpose…
- The world is a turbulent place… wicked men seem to have the upper hand… Christians are being abused and victimised… but the Lord our God will have them in derision.
- He understands our physical and domestic needs, as well as spiritual ones…
- God knew that the people had to build the walls for protection
- They needed homes fit for habitation
- Service for God is not just about having a nice building… or holding services… or having a pleasant environment…
- Service begins with the everyday things… the warp and weave of daily life
Jesus told the disciples not to be anxious about food and clothing because your heavenly Father knows that you need them… but seek first the Kingdom of righteousness and all these things will be yours as well
We might be tempted to say that we’re too busy earning a living or raising a family to bother about spiritual matters…but the Bible gives exactly the opposite perspective… seek God first and the rest will follow
- Everyday work is important… not just ‘spiritual’ service…
- In Colossians 4 we read that when we give our best and honour God in our everyday work, he will reward us
- Sometimes we speak about ‘secular’ work and ‘spiritual’ work… but building a wall…serving in a shop…looking after children…selling cars… mowing the lawn should be done for the glory of God
- We know what we mean when we say “full time Christian work”… but the distinction between ‘Christian work’ and ‘secular work’ is a false one
- Whatever we do… we do it “unto Him”…
- God expects us to use our minds in making decisions… but when he says ‘move!’ we move!
- The important factor in any decision is… “Our aim is to please Him”
Imagine you are standing before the Lord explaining the reasons for a particular decision… What will you say? What is your motive? Is it primarily for His glory… or for your own satisfaction?
- The Bible clearly states that God weighs up our motives… that’s the key factor… not only what we do but WHY we’re doing it
- Even if time proves that we made a poor decision, if it is done with a sincere intention to obey God, we should never fear or have regrets
The Jews were faced with a serious dilemma in rebuilding their lives… how to stay true to God but also to ensure that they did not trigger the King’s wrath
- We often face such choices… The boss asks us to work on Sundays when we normally attend church… We have the opportunity for a promotion that will occupy more of our time or oblige us to move house… We are asked to be economical with the truth in our situation… A friend invites us to go on an a ‘once in a lifetime’ holiday that stops us attending the missionary conference…
The key question is this… Will my decision extend the Kingdom of God and bring Him glory?
- There is a consequence attached to neglecting God
- Haggai told the people that the crops were failing and they were struggling to grow sufficient food because of their disregard for the honour of God
- We can go our own way… do our own thing… pretend to be spiritual… but ultimately it is futile and will only bring distress
So we need to examine ourselves and ask some hard questions about our lives…our priorities… our decisions
AM I WALKING IN STEP WITH GOD’S SPIRIT or just going through the motions?
Samson thought he could carry on in his own sweet way… but when the crisis came, he was defenceless… the Spirit had departed!
The Holy Spirit will not “depart” from the Christian… because He resides within us… but we lose our peace and joy and find that life is hard going.
- There is a time for everything under heaven
- There was a time for the Jews to build walls… to create a home… to rebuild the temple
- There is a time for us to meditate on God’s word, pray, socialise, attend to domestic chores… relax… work until we drop…
We need wisdom in deciding what is important at any one time
- When we are younger, our lives stretch ahead of us…
- As we grow older, we realise that our lives will not go on for ever… the prospect of our own death becomes more prominent
But death rarely sends a calling card in advance… it just arrives… so let’s make sure that we belong to the Saviour, who has promised that there is room to spare in heaven for all who trust Him and confess him as Lord
- God’s promises do not fade over time
- God had made a promise when the people were in captivity in Egypt… the promise still applied
- But notice that God’s promise is sometimes conditional on our behaviour… He does not force his will on us… or oblige us to accept his offer of help and guidance
- We are in partnership with Him and have choices to make about the extent to which we accept our responsibility in the matter
- Jesus said take my yoke upon you and learn of me… it’s a shared responsibility… driven by (a) our willingness to obey, and (b) the power of God’s indwelling Spirit
- His Spirit “abided in their midst”… but we need to ensure that He abides in my life… not just ‘in our midst’
- Jesus promised the Holy Spirit for each person who believes
- We don’t need to “call down” the Spirit
- We don’t have to “break down the walls of heaven” with our prayers
- Only those who have the Spirit of Christ belong to Him
- He is closer than any human companion and speaks into our hearts as we listen, trust and obey
10. We all need a Haggai in our lives
So who is yours and mine?
- What is God saying to you and me about our lives, priorities and the way we spend our time?
- What promises has God made to you… perhaps some time past …that you have forgotten or neglected?
- Did you once serve God with enthusiasm… full commitment… passionately… wholeheartedly? But now your zeal has diminished…
As the hymn writer puts it… “Where is the blessedness I knew when first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view of Jesus and his Word?”
IT IS TIME FOR ALL OF US TO STOP and consider our ways
- To build God’s temple in our lives, our church and our community, for His glory.