The prophet Haggai, along with Zechariah, ministered in Jerusalem during the time of the restoration. Judah had been in Babylonian captivity for 70 years. In 539 B.C. Cyrus became King of Persia and a year later allowed all people deported by the Babylonians to return to their homelands; this included the Jews.
The first wave of 42, 360 plus 7, 337 slaves returned under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, the first governor of Judah (See Ezra). After many years in Babylonian captivity the Jews had built homes, planted gardens, started successful businesses, married and raised families. As might be expected, many were reticent to leave a settled way of life and return to their troubled homeland. And so the first wave of returning exiles was relatively small. During the early stages of Sheshbazzar’s administration, the foundations of a new temple were laid. Remember the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar, had sacked and plundered the temple when they conquered Judah and Jerusalem 70 years earlier. But although the foundations were laid, the project was soon abandoned. The vision of a temple-state given the people by Ezekiel, during their captivity, faded in the reality of Persian domination, drought, and crop failures.
The second wave of people returned in about 522 B.C. under the leadership of a new governor, Zerubbabel, and Joshua, a priest. This is about the same time that King Darius began his reign in Persia.
The prophet Haggai was called to bring four messages to these two leaders, over a four month period. This was his entire recorded public ministry. His call was to restore the vision. The prophet’s four interrelated messages were designed to fulfill that commission by awakening the people of Jerusalem to the responsibilities, obligations, privileges, and promises of their covenant heritage. We will look at these four messages in series and make some contemporary applications for our own times.
The first message, “Haggai’s Challenge to Covenant Renewal,” is recorded in Chapter 1, verses 1-11: “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, (2) Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. (3) Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, (4) Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? (5) Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. (6) Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. (7) Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. (8) Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. (9) Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. (10) Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. (11) And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.”
In this first address, Haggai rebukes the returned exiles for their preoccupation with personal comforts (living in their paneled houses) while the temple lies in a pile of rubble. A key saying here is “Consider your ways.” Notice that the calamities Haggai lists here are revealed to be God’s hand against the skewed priorities of His people. The exiles that returned came back to hard conditions, for sure. They had high hopes of starting over, but forgot in their zeal to eke out an existence, to put God first. Matthew 6 comes to mind; seek ye first the kingdom and all the rest will be added to you. Well, it seems they sought first all the rest, and therefore the rest was not blessed.
This first message is also a call to repentance. In verses 5 and 7 the Lord says, “Consider your ways.” In other words, “Is the way you are doing things working well for you?” This sounds a lot like Paul’s admonition to the Ephesians: “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph 5:14-17 KJV). God’s will for the returning exiles, for the Ephesians, and as it is for, is for us to get our priorities straight. To wake up and grasp the vision.
The temple was the place of God’s habitation on the earth. It was where His glory resided and His governmental rule was to come from. It was part of the Old Testament covenantal framework which made Israel the people of God. Haggai prophesied of their calamities, and gave sound reason for them: “Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” They were laying up treasure for themselves on earth, yet neglecting God’s habitation. King David realized this in his own time and said in 2 Samuel 7:1-2, “And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and the LORD had given him rest round about from all his enemies; That the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains.” Although it was Solomon, David’s son, who actually constructed the first temple, in was in David’s heart to do so.
The temple is a beautiful type of the dwelling place of God that we, as New Covenant believers, are to be. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:9-10, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” This is where pastor Jan is going to be leading us in her teaching on the Feast of Tabernacles, another Old Testament type of the New Testament reality of God indwelling His people and His glory shining through us to a darkened world. As not all the Jews returned from exile, not all will want to follow on to full measure in Christ. But our message, as was Haggai’s, is to the remnant, who sense there is more, but as of yet, have not fully caught the vision for it.
We next see a response from the people in Haggai 1:12-15; “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king. “ So the people heard the word, were convicted, repented, and acted, and the Lord said, “I am with you.”
Chapter two begins the second message of Haggai to God’s people, “The Promise of Restoration”. “In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, (2) Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, (3) Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? (4) Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: (5) According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. (6) 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; (7) 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. (8) The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. (9) The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:1-9 KJV).
What a beautiful picture of what God can do when His people hear His word and obey His commandments. God is willing to do some awesome things on our behalf when we respond to him in faith. He tells the leaders, yes it looks bleak; not much to work with here. But because of my covenant with you I will do what I set in my heart to do. There is a time coming when God will once again shake all that can be shaken. And it will be those who house His glory that men and women will be drawn to for counsel, help, and comfort.
Haggai’s third message, “The Call to Holiness,” is contained in verses 10-19. “In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, (11) Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, (12) If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. (13) Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. (14) Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. (15) And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: (16) Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. (17) I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. (18) Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. (19) Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.”
God once again reminds them to consider; even before they begin to lay the stones. This speaks to me that holiness is the foundation upon which God desires to build. The temple they are rebuilding was sacked in the first place because of their idolatry and evil ways. The temple became a lucky charm to them before the exile. They thought as long as they had the symbol of God’s glory and God’s approval, and maintained the sacrificial system, that God was pleased. Yet in the midst of the external rites of religiosity they upheld, their hearts were far from Him. This was a reminder again for them to remember their former state and not go back again to a mere form of godliness, denying the power thereof. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
America is a great example of how outward signs and maintenance without a heart to match can bring God’s hand against her. God is gracious in His nature, and has been gracious to us as a nation. We know this, not so much because of the prosperity we enjoy as by the fact that the prophet is still sent to warn us. @ Chronicles 36:15-16 says, “And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” God is still speaking through the prophets. God reminded the remnant through Haggai, the church through Paul, and the remnant within the church now through the indwelling Holy Spirit and the prophetic and apostolic offices, do not go back.
Haggai’s fourth address, “Zerubbabel— Davidic Servant and Signet Ring, “ comprises the last four verses of the book; “And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, (21) Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; (22) And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. (23) In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts” (Hag 2:20-23 KJV).
God’s promise to set Zerubbabel as a signet ring in Zion rekindled Messianic expectations amongst the Israelites. The words “my servant” and “chosen” one have direct association with the messianic hope seen throughout the Old Testament. The signet was a symbol of royal authority, much like the scepter or crown, and Zerubbabel’s designation as such cancelled the curse spoken by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 22:24-30) on King Jehoiachin and his descendants, thus restoring a Judahite messianic lineage.
God desires us to be a signet ring, a scepter, a crown, representing His glory on the earth. As Zerubbabel’s designation looks forward in lineage, our position in Christ allows us to trace ourauthority back to Him. We are His lineage moving forward in time from the cross with a mandate to be His habitation in the earth. Our path is the same as the remnant of old: Hear His word, receive His conviction when we need it, repent of our sins when we heed it, and act on His word to see it accomplished.
In light of what I’ve just said, I believe we can revisit chapter 2, verse 9, with a renewed sense of vision for ourselves; “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.” The temple built with hands, the former house, was glorious, but, as God stated in chapter 2, verse 3, it will pale in comparison to what He will do in us; “is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? “
God wants to tabernacle us, reside fully in us and express Himself through us. Let us open our hearts to the truth of His word and be open to hear His voice. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
References include A Survey of the Old Testament Hill, Walton 2000 Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI