Scripture reading – Haggai 1; Haggai 2

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The book of Haggai falls chronologically after Ezra 4 and the commencement of Ezra 5. The dateline of Haggai is, as the opening verse states, “In the second year of Darius the king [of Persia], in the sixth month, in the first day of the month (Haggai 1:1).

Incredibly, eighteen years passed since Cyrus, king of Persia, declared, “The LORD God of heaven…hath charged me to build Him a house (Temple) at Jerusalem” (Ezra 1:2), followed by a proclamation freeing the Jews to return to their homeland (Ezra 1:3). As is often seen when significant works are undertaken, there was initial enthusiasm as the people erected the altar and set themselves to the task of clearing the rubble in preparation for laying the foundation for the new Temple.

The work on the Temple began under Zerubbabel’s leadership (also known by his Babylonian name, Sheshbazzar). He served as governor of Judah and was of King David’s lineage (he was also named in the lineage of Jesus Christ, Matthew 1:12-13). Sadly, the construction of the Temple was halted when adversaries opposed the work, and the people became discouraged (Ezra 4).

The LORD raised two prophets to minister in Judah at that time. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah mentioned in Ezra 5:1 were contemporaries in Judah. The Book of Haggai is only two chapters. However, it carried an important message for that prophet’s generation: “Get to work!”

Haggai’s Admonishment

Haggai 1


Haggai’s Reprimand (Haggai 1:1-2)

In the face of enemies and opposition, the focus and labor of the people had shifted from rebuilding the Temple to building their homes. When Haggai declared the word of the LORD and reminded the leaders and the people that the Temple was unfinished, the people answered, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built’ (Haggai 1:2).


Haggai’s Admonishment (Haggai 1:1-5)

The work on the Temple had been abandoned while the people labored in their fields and lived in the comfort of their ceiled houses (i.e., covered or roofed homes; Haggai 1:4). Yet, the people struggled, and while they labored and sowed much, the harvests were small and inadequate (Haggai 1:4-6).

Haggai revealed their failure to build the Temple had invited God’s displeasure, and therefore, He removed His blessings from their labor. They suffered poor harvests (“Ye have sown much, and bring in little”), ceaseless hunger (“Ye eat, but ye have not enough”), unquenchable thirst (“Ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink”), futility in seeking comfort (“Ye clothe you, but there is none warm”), and financial distress (“he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes,Haggai 1:6).

Therefore, declared Haggai, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:7). “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” (Haggai 1:9).

On a personal note, much is said today about weather and climate (e.g., “Climate Change”), and the blame for natural disasters is often placed upon men. However, Haggai 1:10-11 reveals that the LORD, the Creator, used extreme weather to judge His people for disobeying Him and failing to build His Temple (Haggai 1:10-11).


The People’s Response (Haggai 1:12-15)

Zerubbabel and Joshua, the son of the high priest, after hearing the Word of the LORD spoken by the prophet, “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God…and the people did fear before the LORD” (Haggai 1:12). 

The LORD’s Affirmation

The LORD’s Affirmation (Haggai 1:13-15)

When the people responded with humility, the LORD encouraged them, saying, “I am with you, saith the LORD,  14 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” (Haggai 1:13-14).

Meditate on this: You will want for nothing when God’s purposes and His glory are your priority. The author of Psalm 84 wrote, “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace [favor] and glory [honor]: no good thing [blessing] will he withhold from them that walk uprightly [blameless]” (Psalm 84:11).


Haggai 2

The Book of Ezra revealed that adversaries disrupted and hindered the rebuilding of the Temple. Some made a pretense of assisting in building the Temple; however, Zerubbabel refused their offer (Ezra 4:1-3). Those same enemies accused Judah’s leaders of sedition (Ezra 5:3-17). When Darius became king of Persia, the enemy charged the Jews with lacking the authority to build (Ezra 6).


Appearances Are Deceiving (Haggai 2:1-11) 

The LORD countered the voices of those opposed to rebuilding the new Temple. The elders observed that the new Temple’s physical appearance failed compared to Solomon’s. Haggai confronted the critics and asked, “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?” (Haggai 2:3)

Haggai encouraged the leaders of the people and said, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel (the civic leader), 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 (Haggai 2:4). The prophet assured the people that the LORD would fill the new Temple with His glory (Haggai 2:7). Haggai declared, “8The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. 9The 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” (Haggai 2:8-9).

Appearances Are Deceiving

How did the LORD fill the second Temple with His glory, especially since there is no record of such an event as it was with Solomon’s Temple? (1 Kings 8:10-11)

The second Temple lacked the beauty and splendor of the first; however, unbeknownst to the Jews, the LORD Himself would one day grace its halls with His physical presence. Jesus, the incarnate, virgin-born Son of God, would be dedicated in that Temple as an infant (Luke 2:25-38). As a boy, He would be found by His mother and Joseph in the Temple court, listening and questioning the rabbis regarding the Word of the LORD (Luke 2:46-52). As a man, Christ brought to the Temple a message of hope and peace for all men (Haggai 2:9; Luke 4:17-22).


A Question of Holiness and Contamination (Haggai 2:12-19)

Stirred by the messages of Haggai and Zechariah, the Jews were building the Temple with a zeal that finally saw it completed. A sermon was delivered two months after the prior challenge, and the subject was God’s stipulations for purity and holiness (as opposed to that which is unholy and “unclean,Haggai 2:12-13).

The implication was that the LORD does not accept that which is unclean (Haggai 2:14). When God’s people sin, they sacrifice His blessings and invite His judgment and afflictions (Haggai 2:15-19).


A Challenge and Blessed Assurance to Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:20-23)

The LORD came to Haggai and commanded him to deliver a final revelation to Zerubbabel, the leader and governor of Judah (Haggai 2:20-23). The LORD made a far-reaching promise to “Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth” (Haggai 2:21). Babylon had been overthrown. Persia ruled the world, but the LORD reminded Zerubbabel that He alone was sovereign of the earth.  

Nations rise and fall within His divine providence (Haggai 2:22). No king or kingdom is so strong that the LORD will not overthrow and “destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen” (Haggai 2:22). Haggai closed his message to Zerubbabel with a beautiful, Messianic prophecy (Haggai 2:23). The LORD revealed that Zerubbabel was chosen by “the LORD of hosts,” and that one of his lineage would bear the “signet” (typically a ring monarchs used to seal covenants or legal documents in wax).

Who was Zerubbabel? He was more than a leader of the tribe of Judah and the governor of Judah. More importantly, he was of the lineage of David (2 Samuel 7:12, 16) and is named in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Haggai 2:6; Matthew 1:12-13).


Closing thought

Let’s close today’s Bible study with a personal application. The Jews experienced hardships and a loss of God’s blessing because they failed to make the LORD’s priority (i.e., rebuilding His Temple) their priority. The problem was not what they had done (building homes for their families and planting crops) but what they had failed to do. They were guilty of neglect and procrastination (Haggai 1:2).

Does that sentiment remind you of someone you know?  Perhaps yourself?

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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