Haggai 1:1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest.
Cyrus, king of Persia, conquered Babylon in 539 BC, and decreed that the Jews could return to their homeland. About fifty thousand went back, and promptly laid the foundation for a new temple. But due to opposition, the work ceased for over a decade (until 520 BC) when Darius reigned over Persia. Then the prophet Haggai began to preach that it was God’s will to finish the temple. It would finally be completed about five years later.
Haggai 1:2 This is what the Lord Almighty says: These people say, The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.
God’s people planned to finish the temple eventually, but not at the moment. They may have been waiting for a better economy, better leadership, or for others to go first. Instead of doing God’s work, they were making excuses. Instead of making the most of the opportunity, they were wasting their lives.
One man came to Christ near the end of his life, but instead of being joyful, he was filled with grief. His pastor assured him of God’s forgiveness, but that did not help. I could have spent my whole life for God, but I spent it on myself. . . . I have completely wasted my life, he said. The time is always right for serving God, and it should not be delayed.
Haggai 1:4 Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?
The primary building material was stone, but the wealthy could afford paneling. They built their own homes, but neglected the house of God. They dared to live in costly homes, while the house of God remained in ruins. Instead of putting God ahead of themselves, they put themselves ahead of God. This is the opposite of what Jesus taught. [S]eek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33), he said.
A college athlete loved God and football, and dreamed of being drafted by a professional team. But instead of putting God ahead of football, he started putting football ahead of God. Then football took the place of God. Then he injured his knee, and his football career was over. Then he understood that the only thing that lasts forever is the kingdom of God.
Haggai 1:5-6 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.
God’s people were putting themselves ahead of God, so God was not blessing them financially. In fact, he was actually draining their finances. You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away (Haggai 1:9). I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces (Haggai 1:11), said God.
God’s people neglected him financially, so he neglected them financially. We should not expect God to be generous toward us, if we are not generous toward God. If we are not doing well financially, we ought to evaluate how much we are giving to God. Sometimes there is a correlation.
But there is not always a correlation. The wicked often prosper (Psalm 73:3), and the righteous often suffer (Job 1-2). Jesus was rich in heaven, but so poor on earth that he had no place to lay his head (Matthew 8:20). We should not assume that financial distress is always the result of neglecting God financially. We ought to give sacrificially, and then trust God to provide for our needs.
Haggai 1:12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him.
God’s people responded to God’s word, and began to do God’s work. For many years the temple lay in ruins, but now it was being rebuilt. This was due, in part, to the regular preaching of Haggai. Satan understands that if he can separate the people of God from the word of God, the work of God will suffer.
Haggai 1:13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: I am with you, declares the Lord.
This is always the promise of God to his people, but especially when the task is great. Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt? And God said, I will be with you (Exodus 3:11-12). God said to Joshua, As I was with Moses, so I will be with you (Joshua 1:5). God said to Israel, Do not be afraid, for I am with you (Isaiah 43:5). And Jesus said to his disciples, surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
David Livingstone was a pioneer medical missionary and explorer in Africa. His achievements were extraordinary and he gave the credit to God. Would you like me to tell you what supported me through all the years of exile among a people whose language I could not understand and whose attitude to me was always uncertain and often hostile? It was this, I am with you always . . . . On these words I staked everything, and they never failed (slightly revised).
Haggai 2:3 Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?
Decades earlier, Solomon’s temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and some of the people could still remember it. When they compared the temple they were building to the one Solomon built, they were discouraged.
Haggai 2:9 The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house, says the Lord Almighty.
Their temple did not look like much at the time, but generations later it was given a renovation that made it one of the greatest buildings on earth. The first temple was glorious, but their temple would be even more glorious. It would also be important to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.
There he was presented as a baby (Luke 2:25-27), and there, as a boy, he discussed theology (Luke 2:41-50). There he was tempted by the devil (Luke 4:9), and there he taught the people (Luke 20:1). There he healed many (Matthew 21:14), and there he drove out the merchants (Luke 19:45). The temple was the place where God was worshipped, and Jesus was God in the midst of the temple.
The presence of Jesus Christ made the temple they were building the most significant building on earth. Likewise, he can take our humble service and use it for his glory. Instead of being discouraged by the smallness of our work, we should be encouraged by how God may plan to use it in the future.
Reflection and Review
Why is serving God our greatest opportunity?
Why should we give our money to God?
Why does the promise of God’s presence give us courage?