Haggai Chapter One

 

Introduction:

 

            As we had studied in the book of Habakkuk just a few weeks ago the Chaldean nation of Babylon would shortly be brought down and punished for her sin.  As we continue our chronological study of the Minor Prophets we now come to Haggai.  Babylon has fallen to the Medes and Persians.  The Persians took a completely different approach to the subduing of conquered people than the Chaldeans had.  One of the first decrees of Cyrus, the Persian ruler, was to allow captive peoples to return to their ancestral homes.  This decree was given in 559 BC and is recorded in scripture:

 

Ezra 1:1-3 “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,  2Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem

 

We also find virtually the same words in II Chronicles 36:22-23.  This is the first return of captives.  Just as there were different groups of captives carried to Babylon; there were three different groups who returned at three different times, the first occurred in 536 BC.  The prophecy of Haggai, through the dates that the Holy Spirit gives us through inspiration, occurred in 520 BC.  He is writing and speaking 39 years after the decree for them to return was given and 16 years after the first group returned for the purpose of rebuilding the temple of God.

            Darius I followed Cyrus as king of the Medo-Persian Empire, his activities, decrees are very precisely dated in secular history.  Consequently by following the years of the rule of Darius given by Haggai we can date his prophecies very precisely as well.

            Within the two chapters of the book of Haggai there are a series of four discourses, spoken in much the same manner as the discourses of the speakers in the book of Job.  Haggai had returned to Jerusalem in the first wave of returning captives with Zerubbabel and that is about all we know about this man. The re-construction of the temple had been begun but not finished and neglected for many years.  The enemies of Judah had been at work delaying these building plans just as they also opposed and delayed the building of the walls of Jerusalem as is described in the book of Nehemiah.

            As we frequently do today within most congregations that I’ve been part of they made a good beginning.  When they arrived at the site of Jerusalem they:

 

“Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God Ezra 3:2

 

Again as is common to the congregations where I’ve been; the spark, the zeal to work, fails to catch fire and eventually it just sort of dies away.

 

Ezra 4:24 “Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia

 

Because of their complacency and their failure to carry out the decree of their king and the will of God that the Jerusalem temple be rebuilt this prophecy is written to the rulers and people of Judah.

 

Read Haggai 1:1-6 – Reproof of Their Neglect

 

v.1 “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of She-al-ti-el, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jos-e-dech, the high priest, saying

 

            So in order to try to stir them up again for the completion of this work, God sends them prophets:

 

Ezra 5:1 “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them

 

So the first of these prophets was Haggai, who prophesied in the year 520 BC and then Zechariah, who lived at the same time and began his prophecies at the end of that same year.

 

v.2 “Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built

 

            The people are saying that it is not time yet for the house of God to be rebuilt.  What has happened?  They have become complacent.  They are procrastinating.  The fire that burned in their souls and caused them to go back to the land of their fathers has gone out.  They really don’t have the zeal to do this work so they start looking for excuses.  Does this sound familiar?  It seem that they have had plenty of time to establish themselves and rebuild their lives; after all, it’s been 16 years since they left Babylon and returned to Jerusalem.

 

v.3-4 “Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying,  4Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste?

 

            It’s been sixteen years and God’s patience and longsuffering has been exhausted.  The Judeans that have returned from captivity have built houses for themselves, have established businesses, in general have started their lives over again and have become comfortable in their situation.  But the house of God, the temple that they were sent to Jerusalem to rebuild still lies in the waste of it’s destruction.  Jesus said:

 

Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  34Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

 

Seek first the Kingdom of God, put God first in and all of these other things will be added.  David wrote:

 

Psalms 37:25 “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread

 

Judah had forgotten David’s words.

 

v.5 “Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways

 

            So God gives Judah some very good advice; stop what you are doing and consider your ways.  Jeremiah wrote very similar words to Judah before their captivity, including the remedy for any situation we find ourselves in today:

 

Lamentations 3:40 “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD

 

So in the words of Haggai and Jeremiah we find advice that we all should follow from time to time.

 

v.6 “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes

 

            While the Judeans had built themselves houses, had a roof over their heads, i.e. they dwelt “IN THEIR CIELED HOUSES” they were still poor in many ways because they were neglecting God.  Jesus had said that his disciples must “seek ye first the kingdom of God” in order to enjoy God’s blessings.  The same situation exists with Judea in the time of Haggai.

            The curses spoken against Israel by God under the Mosaic Covenant if they chose to disobey him were recorded for them by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 28.  Some of these were:

 

Deuteronomy 28:38-40 “Thou shalt carry much seed out into the field, and shalt gather but little in; for the locust shall consume it.  39Thou shalt plant vineyards, and dress them, but shalt neither drink of the wine, nor gather the grapes; for the worms shall eat them.  40Thou shalt have olive trees throughout all thy coasts, but thou shalt not anoint thyself with the oil; for thine olive shall cast his fruit

 

And this is what is happening to them.  They sow a lot of seed but the harvest is poor.  They have enough to eat and to drink to sustain life but they are not filled.  They have enough clothes to cover their bodies but not enough to keep warm.  Their earnings are so poor that it seems as though their bag or pocketbook has holes in it.  God is refusing to bless them because they are neglecting him.

 

Read Haggai 1:7-11 – Build God’s House

 

v.7-8 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.  8Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD

 

            Some commentators consider that one of the reasons that the people of Judea were not building God’s house was that they could not rebuild the temple in the splendor of that built by Solomon.  Even though the king of Persia had given them an allocation of funds to do the work they were still very limited.  God again encourages them to consider their ways, consider their lives; consider that what they are not doing is not only affecting their physical lives but their relationship with him as well.  They are instructed to gather the material and build His house.  God did not require a temple in the splendor and beauty of Solomon’s he simply wanted a place among his people:

 

 “For the LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation.  14This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired itPsalms 132:13-14

 

He wanted a simple place where his people could worship him in keeping with the covenant that he had made with them.

 

v.9 “Ye looked for much, and, lo it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house

 

            God, through his prophet, repeats his description of why they are in a condition of want and worry.  We can understand that these people, returning from 70 years of captivity, being restored to the place where God wished to dwell with them would now expect that everything would be wonderful.  But such is not the case.  They looked for much but found little.  When their crops did prosper and they brought home enough, God blew it away.  And he tells them why.  They have houses to live in, each one runs to his own house; but God has no place, no house, because it still lies in waste.  Judea’s compliancy, her apathy, her failure to work in God’s kingdom doing what God required is the root of their trouble.

 

v.10-11 “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit.  11And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands

 

            Therefore, because of their neglect, these things will happen to them.  The promises that God made as part of their covenant with him will be brought to fruition.

 

Deuteronomy 28:23-24 “And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.  24The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed

 

            The dew will cease to fall from heaven; the earth will cease to provide her bounty.  God has called for a drought for the land of Judah, their crops, vineyards, and groves will fail to yield.  The efforts of men to provide enough for themselves will fail, their herds and flocks will cease to prosper and even the labor of their hands will be cursed.

 

Read Haggai 1:12-15 – Judah Hears and Repents

 

v.12 “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD

 

            The preaching of Haggai had the effect that God wanted.  In the days of Moses the commandment was given for the people to gather to hear:

 

Deuteronomy 31:12-13 “Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:  13And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.

 

Perhaps Zerubbabel and Joshua, the high priest, call the people together to hear the prophesies of Haggai or perhaps they heard them from other sources, we don’t know.  But we do know that Judah not only heard the word of God but heeded His warnings, repented of the compliancy and obeyed the commandments that God gave them.

 

v.13 “Then spake Haggai the LORD's messenger in the LORD's message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD

 

            Haggai preached and prophesied, the people and their rulers believed and made preparation to return to their task of rebuilding of the temple of God.  Due to their obedience, their willingness to take on the work that God wanted done; Judah is now assured that God will be with them.  Jesus made a commitment to his disciples that is very similar in nature:

 

Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen

 

Do the will of God and He will be with you.  Simple enough isn’t it.  But do men follow that advice?  Very few comparatively speaking, for:

 

“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14

 

v.14-15 “And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,  15In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king

 

            The spirit of the people and their rulers was stirred by the words of God.  They listened and they heeded.  In his history of post-exile Judah Ezra records the events that followed.

 

Ezra 5:2 “Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them

 

They went to work for so much zeal that their pagan neighbors began to complain to Darius about the progress on the temple of God:

 

Ezra 5:8 “Be it known unto the king, that we went into the province of Judea, to the house of the great God, which is builded with great stones, and timber is laid in the walls, and this work goeth fast on, and prospereth in their hands

 

How many people today are working at building the spiritual house of God to the extent that others are complaining about them?  Don’t you think that we might be missing something?  Is it because our zeal has failed?  Is it because we have allowed the world to absorb our time and talent?  Is it because that the church today is just as complacent and apathetic as Judah?  Think on these things.

 

William L. Schwegler; Sunset church of Christ, Shreveport, Louisiana; July 12, 2009