Summary: Haggai & Zechariah came to challenge God’s people to restore God’s priorities in their hearts. The first message of Haggai emphasized four ways to renew their priorities & restore God’s blessings on their lives.
HAGGAI 1: 1-14
Following the revival under Josiah, God’s people fell back into the degradation and sin surrounding the 55 year reign of his grandson Manasseh. Thus since the people would not learn by responding to the Word of God they had to learn through harsh experience. Judah therefore spent 70 years in Babylonian captivity. Mercifully God would once again intervene by putting into the heart of the pagan king Cyrus to release His people as foretold by Isaiah nearly 200 years before it occurred (44:28).
Less than 50,000 Jews, which some estimate was one out of every six living in Babylon, returned. Even more discouraging was that this small group returned with little evidence of spirituality. They made some initial attempts at reestablishing worship but the demands, pressures, and expectations of life began to take all their time and energy and pushed out the work of God. Sixteen years went by with no visible productivity in the work of the Lord. Two God sent prophets suddenly burst on the scene. Haggai and Zechariah came to challenge God’s people to restore God’s priorities in their hearts (CIT). The first message of Haggai emphasized four ways to renew their priorities and restore God’s blessings on their lives.
I. STOP BLAMING GOD FOR YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES, 1-2.
II. SET PRIORITIES FOR THE WORK OF GOD, 3-6.
III. STEP UP TO THE WORK OF GOD, 7-12.
IV. SEIZE GOD’S ENABLEMENT TO DO HIS WORK, 13-15.
The prophet Habakkuk once prayed, “Revive O Lord Your work in the midst of the years ”(Hab. 3:2). The Lord was about to use two messengers to bring about the revival of God’s people. Haggai begins by challenging God’s people to face up to the weakness of their excuses.
On August 29, 520 BC, the Lord sent His word to Haggai to challenge the people of God. His is the first prophetic voice heard since returning from exile. The prophecy is dated as occurring in the second year of king Darius. No longer is a Jewish king used to establish dating. The time of the gentiles had arrived. [Walter Kaiser, Jr. Revives Us Again. Broadman & Holman Publ. Nashville, TN. 1999. pp. 147-150.]
The message beginning in verse two is simple and direct. “Thus says the LORD of Hosts, ‘This people says, “The time has not come, even the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.”’”
The distance that had come to exist between God and His people is suggested by one of the rare uses in the Old Testament of the expression “this people” to describe them. Surely it was a mark of the divine displeasure. Previously, even under the most difficult of circumstances, the Lord had referred to Judah and Israel as “My people,” yet these people had excessively strained their relationship with Him. The demonstrative pronoun indicated that there was a gap of major proportions existing between God and “this” people as a result of their sin that most certainly involved the lack of commitment to and participation in covenant worship.
The people’s excuse was that “the time had not yet come” to begin rebuilding the temple. Now the people had found time and resources to rebuild their own homes and businesses. But still after 16 years they delayed working on “the House of the Lord.” What the people were really saying is that if God wanted them to rebuild the temple He would have seen to it that they were better off than they presently were and had more time and energy than they presently did. These were the “reasons” they gave for being delinquent were more a pretext or justification for their selfish investment of time and energies and laziness toward God . Yes, some day they would get around to rebuilding the temple but not now. Other things needed to happen first. Relations with the Persians needed improvement. They had not yet made things as good as the Babylonians had them. They probably reasoned that they were in a period of economic recession or inflation, and finally that these things just took time.
Yet to the one who wants to do what is right the time, resources, and energies become available. But for those who are ingenious at inventing excuses or hiding behind excuses for failure to respond to God’s Word, the right time to obey God never seems to come. It is bad enough to neglect duty but to blame it on God not doing His part is worse. Yet, the time was more than ripe for doing the work of God, even as it is right now for us as well. We too must stop making excuses and begin to do what we know God would have us do. Benjamin Franklin wrote, “I never knew a man who was good at making excuses who was good at anything else.”