Haggai 2 has the word of God coming to the prophet a second time. This time in October 520 b.c. There were celebrating the Day of Atonement and Feast of the Tabernacles and God tells Haggai to speak to His people. “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes”? We are 66 years after the temple was destroyed so there were likely some people who had been around then and saw the temple in its former glory. They were caught up comparing what they were building versus what they remembered of the former temple and it was taking them off course. It wasn’t going to match that which Solomon had built.
But that didn’t make it less important. It didn’t do the people of Haggai’s day any good to think of how magnificent Solomon’s temple was compared to their own rebuilding work. So Haggai urges them on – to keep on working. “Be strong….work….for I am with you….according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not”. They aren’t facing this task along. God is with them and gives the leaders and people of Israel three clear commands. Each of these three is essential to getting the work of God done. Great things are not accomplished without action.
While the building itself won’t compare to Solomon’s temple, this one will exceed the original in that God’s promise is to fill the temple with His glory. And as he does, “the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory….The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts”. Solomon had all the treasures as raw material and used them in building the temple. This time, what belongs to God will come later. They didn’t need to be discouraged if they didn’t have money for the building project. They had to boldly trust the God who owned every resource, and then give generously.
It really isn’t about the temple, but the relationship and what God promises. “But from this day on I will bless you….for I have chosen you”. God promised blessing to His people if they put their priorities back in order, with Him and His work first. He promises to also take care of them. “I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders”. Haggai reminds the people that God is in control. He encourages them to stay the course and walk in obedience to God!
Haggai 1 has this prophet getting after the remnant that has returned after their 70 year exile. His prophecy begins in 520 b.c. and is under the rein of Zerubbabel who was governor of Judah and Joshua who was the high priest. When Haggai speaks to God’s people, they have been back in Jerusalem for 18 years, but for the last 14 years, the work on God’s temple has come to a halt. The people had convinced themselves it wasn’t time to rebuild the temple – the work was too hard. “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord’.
There was a shortage of manpower and money. There were crop failures and their enemies resisted what they were doing. Life had actually been easier in captivity. But God speaks to them through Haggai. “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins”? God expects them to focus and get after building His temple. Haggai addresses the problem head on. “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes”.
Life hasn’t been so good has it? Haggai reminds them that their unwillingness to obey God’s desire is creating quite a mess in their life. And if once wasn’t enough, he reminds them even more strongly. “Consider your ways….You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house”. In case they didn’t connect the dots, Haggai does it for them. Their situation is because they have ignored God’s desire to rebuild His temple and put things back in place. It is about God’s timing, not what they feel it should be.
We too need to consider our ways. How we live matters. Haggai calls out the people of Judah and they finally listen and “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” But even more, “the people feared the Lord”. Haggai was able to touch their hearts and help them realize the God they serve and how important the work was. Through Haggai and his words, “the Lord stirred up….the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God”. The stirring of their spirit wasn’t just a spiritual experience but resulted in a stirring of action that caused them to restart the hard work of rebuilding God’s House!
Haggai 2 has the prophet receiving a word from the Lord to encourage Zerubbabel and the remnant to keep on building. He says “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory”? God is calling on history and bringing to remembrance the wonder of the original House of the Lord. There is much power in remembering, and we see it over and over in scripture as God challenges us to keep going back to recall His faithfulness and the greatness of His hand in the lives of His people.
Then there is a challenge. “How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes”? Look people. There is nothing here. The House has been destroyed. Do you see that? God is challenging the willingness to leave status quo the way it is. He is encouraging them to remember, and then look at reality. Things are not ok the way they are. God expects His House to be restored to its former glory. And He uses Haggai to challenge the people to look and see what reality is.
Then comes the order. “Work, for I am with you….My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not”. God tells His people that they need to get to work. They should not be content to leave things as they are, and the only way that changes is if they get in the game. God calls us to be part of His work. We are His hands and feet, and that is very true for the rebuilding of His House. But God gives them a promise. God promises His presence and tells them they can trust Him. There is no need for fear because He is with them.
Can God deliver? Well He makes it clear that “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts”. God has no resource constraints. He owns it all. He owns everything you and I have today as well. God is not only the source, but also the supplier. He is able – more than able – to meet any need or any resistance. And to top it off, Haggai gives this promise from God: “from this day on I will bless you”. That comes as the rebuilding gets going and God assures them that He will bless them going forward.
Haggai 1 captures the “word of the Lord by the hand of Haggai” to the leaders rebuilding in Jerusalem. You may recall from the story in Ezra that the enemies around the rebuilding of Jerusalem were challenging the effort. They first just tried to dissuade the people from doing it, but then followed up with a challenge to the king via a letter. But God speaks to Haggai about the situation as the leaders are trying to figure out what to do with the latest accusations. And “the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet”. It is written this way multiple times in this chapter so we don’t miss the fact that this was from God, not man.
The prophet level sets everyone asking some hard questions. “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.” Things haven’t been going so well. You work hard, but have little to show for it. Others have taken your work and effort. Time to stop and evaluate what is going on.
So God through Haggai says “consider your ways”. Get up and get after building the temple. Stop worrying about what others say, and get to work restoring the relationship with God. Haggai tells them “the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce”. This is the result of sitting back and leaving God’s house in ruins. There is a price for allowing the relationship to go dormant and cold. The people have moved away from God, and as a result there is little good happening.
But the leaders listen to Haggai and get back to work. They are focused once again on rebuilding the city and the temple. And God says “I am with you”. Those had to be awesome words for the people to hear. And as they worked in obedience, “the Lord stirred up the spirit of all the remnant of the people”. He moved them from discouragement and frustration to excitement and obedience. They are back on track and working together to complete the task ahead.