Summary: The inspiring words of the prophet Haggai; words that fill us with courage and challenge us to give ourselves fully to God’s purposes. A study.
1) Pre-Reading Introduction
The Bible is always the best commentary on the Bible. To get a clear picture of what is happening in Haggai, we have to know the events described in Ezra chapters 1-6.
About 50,000 people had returned from exile in Babylon; returned to Jerusalem with great faith that God would do great things. Indeed God HAD done great things by enabling them to return just as God had said through the prophet Jeremiah. King Cyrus himself sent them back with his blessing! God was at work! It was a new beginning! It all began so well. They first rebuilt the altar so they could resume worship and have God at the centre of their lives. They then began to rebuild the destroyed temple. They planned well. They had money and gathered materials for building. They carefully laid the foundations. And, to celebrate, they held such a wonderful, emotional worship service that people miles away could here it. It all began SO well!
But almost immediately there was opposition. (The devil is never happy when the work of God is progressing.) Enemies of Israel stirred up trouble to stop them rebuilding. And after some years these enemies obtained an official warrant from the new king of Babylon, Artaxerxes, that the Israelites must stop the rebuilding of the Temple.
The years passed by... 5, 10, 15, perhaps 18 years...and a sign stood over the unfinished temple that read: ‘Under Construction’.
The people seemed to have given up hope that the temple would ever be finished. And so they started building up their own houses instead...
[Haggai is read – it takes about 7-8 minutes!]
Have you given yourself FULLY to God and his purposes? Is there anything keeping YOU from giving yourself FULLY to the work of God? Haggai’s is a message to a discouraged people. A people faced with the harsh realities of living by faith in the real world. God uses Haggai to call Israel back to their main purpose in life: That is, to be about God’s work. In 5 prophecies, Haggai speaks to 4 potential hindrances to God’s work. Do you personally recognise any of these hindrances?
1. Believing a Lie
The people had believed a lie v2, ‘It’s not the time yet to build God’s house’. Who said so?!
The people themselves had put their heart and soul into building nice homes for themselves! v4. You can bet that they raised the money, put their back into it, obtained any legal documents and did all they needed to get their own homes sorted out. But dressed up in spiritual sounding words, a lie going around, that said, ‘It’s not time yet for the Lord’s house to be rebuilt’.
Now, before we condemn them too much, consider this: 10-18 years ago King Artaxerxes had issued a royal order that the work on the temple be stopped. No wonder they felt it wasn’t time for the temple to be rebuilt! But according to God, the Israelites had given in too easily. God didn’t care if some king had said stop. God was saying build my house!
I wonder what lies we have believed? Now isn’t the time for me to be involved in the things of God. First I’ve got to work and make some money....
But the main point is this: you care about your own home and work but you don’t care about God’s home and work. Is that true for us? Am I also more concerned about home comforts than I am about the work of God?
The fact is, this neglect of the work of God was having some terrible consequences on Jerusalem. They planted but didn’t harvest. They wore clothes but were cold. Their money was never enough to live on (does that sound familiar?!). They had returned from exile expecting great things and lots of blessing but it had all gone pear-shaped. Why? V9. Because they were busy with their own work and not busy with God’s work. Yes, their personal and national economy was in ruins because the work of God was in ruins. (Does that sound familiar too?!)
See, here’s a spiritual principle I’m not willing to surrender to the prosperity gospel preachers. If you put God and his work first he will always make sure you have all you need. If you give your all to the Lord, the Lord will meet your every need.
What did Jesus say in Matthew 6:33? “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (clothes, food, drink, etc) all these things will be given to you as well”.
Am I seeking first the things of God or seeking first my comfort, my wealth, my children’s education, my mortgage paid off, my leisure time? Haggai warns us that if our priorities are upside down it will have consequences for us as well as consequences for God’s glory.