Summary: The first message from Haggai to the ruling politician, the religious priest and the returned people addresses the unfinished house of God. For eighteen years God’s work was delayed.
It’s Time To Build The Lord’s House
Scripture Reference: Haggai 1:1-15
In 586 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar invaded and overthrew Jerusalem. The city was raised to the ground and the temple was completely destroyed. God’s people were taken into Babylon as captives and there they remained for seventy years.
The exile was God’s judgment upon the people for their sins. It was a time of great sorrow for God’s people. Times when they felt cut off from God and could no longer worship him as they had formerly done.
Their mood is summed up in Psalm 137:
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept, when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs…they said “sing us one of the songs of Zion” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”
However although God punished them by means of the exile, he did not abandon them. He had promised that their captivity would not be permanent but would last for seventy years after which time they would be able to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple, offer sacrifices once again and restore Jerusalem.
About 50 years later Cyrus, the Persian, took Babylon, and brought the Babylonian Empire to an end.
The next year (538 B.C.) he allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. All of this was owing to the sovereign hand of God fulfilling the prophecies of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1).
Among the returning exiles were (probably) the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Ezra 5:1,2 sums up for us what these two contemporaries accomplished:
But there were prophets in Jerusalem and Judah at that time--Haggai, and Zechariah (the son of Iddo)--who brought messages from the God of Israel to Zerubbabel (son of Shealtiel) and Jeshua (son of Jozadak), encouraging them to begin building again! So they did and the prophets helped them.
So Haggai and Zechariah were sent by God to assist in the rebuilding of the temple. This work was begun, according to Haggai 1:15, on the 24th day of the sixth month of the second year of the reign of Darius, which in our dating is September 21, 520 B.C.
So you can see that about 18 years went by between the return of the exiles and the rebuilding of the temple. This delay is what brings forth the message of Haggai.
Haggai is one of the shortest books of the Bible and is included in that body of Biblical literature that is known as the Minor Prophets.
He is one of the prophets of the Restoration, the other two being Zechariah and Malachi and what we mean by that is he ministered to the people of God after their return from exile in Babylon.
As such he was one of the last prophetic voices to be heard before the coming of Christ. Unlike most of the prophets Haggai had the joy of seeing his ministry produce positive results among the people of God.
The way Haggai motivates the Jews to build the temple of God has a powerful application to our own efforts to build the house of God both spiritually and physically for 2002.
I want to focus mainly on the message Haggai delivers in 1:1-15. But since the book is small, we can get a quick overview of the two chapters to see how all of it fits together.
The book is clearly divided into four distinct messages from the Lord, each of which is precisely dated.
The first message, delivered by Haggai to Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the priest, is dated (according to 1:1) in the second year of Darius (king of Persia), the first day of the sixth month (August 29, 520 B.C.). This message extends to the end of chapter 1.
The second message is found in 2:1-9 and is dated (2:1) on the 21st day of the seventh month (October 17, 520 B.C.) and deals with the discouragement that comes from trying to rebuild the temple – the physical building.
The Key Verses:
3. ``Who among you can remember the Temple as it was before? How glorious it was! In comparison, it is nothing now, is it? 4. But take courage, O Zerubbabel and Joshua and all the people; take courage and work, for `I am with you,’ says the Lord Almighty.
The third message is found in 2:10-19 and is dated (2:10) on the 24th day of the ninth month (December 18, 520 B.C.) and it addresses the disobedience that comes from trying to rebuild the temple – the spiritual building.
The Key Verses:
11. Ask the priests this question about the law: 12. ``If one of you is carrying a holy sacrifice in his robes, and happens to brush against some bread or wine or meat, will it too become holy?’’ ``No,”’ the priests replied. ``Holiness does not pass to other things that way.’’