Summary: We must put first things first.
[If you would like to receive free, weekly sermons by email, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org; you can also visit http://jonathan-mcleod.blogspot.com/]
INTRODUCTION TO HAGGAI
[Fill a large glass jar with fist-sized rocks] Is this jar full? [Dump in a jar of small rocks] Is the jar full now? [Dump in a jar of sand] Is the jar full now? [Dump in a jar of water] What’s the point? The big rocks represent God’s priorities for our lives. If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you may never get them in at all.
Today we are starting a new four-part series on the book of Haggai. The book of Haggai challenges us to put first things first.
[Read Haggai 1]
Let’s begin with an introduction to the book.
• Author: HAGGAI
(1) Haggai was a prophet of God.
“The word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai” (1:1). A prophet was both a foreteller and a forthteller.
(2) Haggai ministered during the post-exilic era.
“Post-exilic” refers to the time after the Babylonian captivity when the Jews were allowed to return to their homeland. There are three postexilic books of prophecy: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi and three postexilic books of history: Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
Ezra mentions Haggai twice:
“Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them” (Ezra 5:1-2).
“So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia” (Ezra 6:14).
(3) Haggai may have been in his seventies during his ministry.
“Who of you is left how saw this house in its former glory?” (2:3). Solomon’s temple had been destroyed 66 years earlier. Haggai may have been one of the older exiles who had seen the former temple.
• Date: 520 B.C.
Haggai’s messages are precisely dated. They were given during a four-month period in 520 B.C., “the second year of King Darius” (1:1).
1:1-11 6th month, 1st day: August 29, 520 B.C.
1:12-15 6th month, 24th day: September 21, 520
2:1-9 7th month, 21st day: October 17, 520
2:10-23 9th month, 24th day: December 18, 520
On August 29, 520 B.C., God spoke for the first time in the post-exilic era.
• Recipients: The EXILED JEWS who had returned to their homeland to rebuild the temple
In 538 B.C., Cyrus king of Persia (the conqueror of Babylon), issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:2-4; 6:3-5). The temple had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Led by Zerubbabel, about 50,000 Jews journeyed home and began work on the temple. About two years later, they completed the foundation (Ezra 3:8-11).
• Occasion: OPPOSITION and APATHY had brought the work to a standstill (Ezra 3:1-24)
• Purpose: To motivate the people to COMPLETE the rebuilding the temple
CONSIDER YOUR WAYS
1. Refuse to offer EXCUSES (1:1-2).
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built’” (v. 2).
God’s revealed His unhappiness with the people by referring to them as “these people,” not “my people.” Their excuse for not finishing the temple was that the time wasn’t right. “The time has not yet come.”
Have you ever used this excuse? “The time has not yet come.” “The time has not yet come to paint the house.” “The time has not yet come to clean the oven.” I’ve been saying this about staining my deck. (Hopefully I’ll get it done this week!)
The Jews had been saying, “The time has not yet come,” for sixteen years! Notice that they didn’t deny that the work should be done or that they should be the ones to do it.
Why didn’t the think the time was right? Maybe they were afraid of opposition from their enemies. Maybe they didn’t think they were financially able to take on the project. Maybe they were just discouraged.
What do we call this kind of behavior? Procrastination. Are you guilty of spiritual procrastination? You know God wants you to (fill in the blank), but you say, “The time has not yet come.” Too often the “right time” never comes.
The unwilling heart always finds excuses.
We usually see our excuses as “reasons.”
2. Set right PRIORITIES (1:3-6).
Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (vv. 3-4).