Summary: This sermon shows how the Lord used Haggai to encourage the people in the building of the Temple, and to rethink their priorities.
Consider Your Ways
Text: Haggai 1:1-15
Introduction: The book of Haggai is the second shortest book of the Old Testament and the first of the postexilic writings. In other words the last three books of our Old Testament were written AFTER the captivity of the Jews was passed and the people had begun returning from Babylon to Jerusalem. Haggai is a sister book to the book of Ezra. You will remember from our study in that book how Ezra the scribe told how, under the protection of king Cyrus, in 538 BC Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem with 50 000 Jews to live in the city again and to rebuild the temple.
Now although the project began well, in time its progress was hindered when their enemies petitioned a new king, Artaxerxes to prevent the work on the premise that Jerusalem and the Jews had always been a source of insurrection and trouble in the world, and for a time the work ceased. It was during this cessation in the effort that God raised the prophet Haggai, along with Zechariah to encourage the people to begin what they started. You it is easy to start anything. It is the finishing of it that is difficult, but nothing of worth was ever done for God that did not cost somebody something, and did not meet with obstacles and problems along the way. So Haggai was raised of God to spur the people on, to keep them focused and to help them set their priorities straight. His theme? “Consider your ways.” Haggai wanted these people to take a long hard look at themselves, and to ask themselves how it was and why it was that the work God gave them to do was uncompleted. He wanted them to consider the Lord, to remember His promises and His purposes, and he wanted them to finish what they started.
In relaying this message Haggai was direct and to the point. His prophecy consists of four messages, which were delivered in a matter of months.
I. Consider Why Their Progress Had Been Delayed – 1:3-7
A. Ezra tells how that when the people first arrived at Jerusalem there was an excitement and enthusiasm for the work.
1. It wasn’t long until they had cleared the ground and laid the foundation for the temple.
2. But then their enemies also got to work and from the moment they returned to Jerusalem and set the themselves to completing this task the Samaritans made numerous representations to the kings of Persia, both Cyrus and Artaxerxes calling for the work to cease.
3. And cease it did, with almost fatalistic resignation the Jews downed tools and for fourteen years or so nothing happened.
4. In time the foundation became muddied over and weeds began to grow.
B. Now, the Jewish people could explain this.
1. You see, they said it wasn’t the right time to build the temple, and their reasoning went something like this, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.” (vs 2)
2. “Well, the prophecies, predicted 70 years of captivity, and although we are in Jerusalem, we are still under occupation, and many of our people are still in Persia, so obviously this is not the time to build the temple. The time will come when the captivity is fully ended and we are free.”