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.