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Haggai

June 3, 2009

Background

I. Your Priority and Purpose Haggai 1:1-15

II. Stay Focused Haggai 2:1-9

III. I Will Bless You Haggai 2:10-19

IV. You are Mine Haggai 2:20-23

Background

Haggai is one of two published prophets to the returning exiles from Judah.
The other prophet was Zechariah [see Ezra 5:1-2]. Haggai’s prophecies occurred
in the year 520 BC, the second year of Darius’ rule over the Medo-Persian Empire.
Haggai contains four prophecies/proclamations; one in the 6th month, one in
the 7th month, and two in the 9th month.

Haggai is best studied together with the book of Ezra which is a written history
of this time period. Haggai prophesied but in today’s culture he would be in
demand as a motivational speaker or trouble shooter. His major purpose and priority
was to encourage the Jewish people to finish building God’s temple.

Scholars speculate that Haggai was a young boy when exiled and saw the destruction
of Solomon’s temple or at least heard people tell of its’ glory [Hag. 2:3].
If he was young at the time of its’ destruction during the third exile in 586
BC, he would be in his 70’s at the time of this writing. He obviously wanted
to see the temple completed in his lifetime. Thus, he was a natural choice for
God to use as a motivator to the returning exiles to complete the task they
had been assigned. The temple altar and foundation had been completed in two
years or about 535 BC so work on the temple had been idle for approximately
15 years or more.

Your Priority and Purpose                                        Haggai 1:1-15

Haggai is prompted by the Lord to meet with Zerubbabel, Governor of Judah,
and Joshua, the High Priest, concerning the delay in building the Lord’s house
which was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The Lord’s complaint is that
approximately 50,000 Israelites returned to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding
the temple per the decree of Cyrus in 537 BC. They completed the altar, the
foundation, and held a celebration in 535 BC. Now 15 years later, in 520 BC,
nothing has happened because of opposition from non-Jews or the mix of races
between the Assyrians and remaining Jews [Samaritans] living in the area. Evidently
it wasn’t just external opposition that caused the work stoppage. Work stopped
because the Jews lost sight of their priorities. They began to remodel and upgrade
their own houses beyond what was needed instead of working to complete the temple
[vs. 4].

The Lord through Haggai challenges Zerubbabel and Joshua to take inventory.
They have worked hard but have little to show for their effort. Their efforts
have not been blessed by God because their priorities have not been in line
with God’s Will. They have wasted much time and money too [vs. 6]. The Lord
exhorts them [and us] to get busy and harvest timber to finish His House so
He can be properly honored and worshipped. God states that He is the reason
they have experienced poor crops. Worshipping God brings His blessing whereas
hard work for your own greed and excess in personal comfort does not bring His
blessing [vs. 9-11].

Zerubbabel and Joshua get the message including the remnant who returned.
They “connect the dots” and commit to obeying the Lord. The people
feared the Lord [vs. 12]. In other words, they repented of their self-centeredness
and worshipped the Lord God. As a result, God’s Spirit moved among the people
and in Zerubbabel and Joshua such that they came together as one unified people
committed to finishing the rebuilding of the Lord’s Temple.

This message from the Lord is very appropriate for we Christians living in
today’s culture. We are constantly bombarded to seek comfort and possessions
beyond our needs. We work hard and long hours but what have we attained? Money?
Perhaps. But what has it cost us in relationships with family, children, spouses,
God etc? Has it brought us happiness and joy? I think we also need to take inventory
and see if we are off track in our priorities and purpose. As believers in Christ
Jesus, we are to serve Him as ambassadors of His Kingdom, engaged in being a
Kingdom-Builder. Sharing God’s love with others and placing Him first in our
lives breaks forth God’s blessings of peace, joy, and grace enabling us to worship
Him with praise and thanksgiving. Our God is an awesome God, the Lord God Almighty.

Stay Focused                                                       Haggai 2:1-9

Work on finishing the temple has begun again and the Lord sends another message
to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people through His prophet Haggai. His message
begins by asking the people if they remember the glory of the previous temple
and to comment on how it looks now. The truth of the matter is that this temple
still looked like a barren slab. Work had begun again but for less than two
months. Much of that time had to be used to gather timber and other materials.
At best, the people were looking at the foundation which was completed at least
15 years earlier and piles of building materials being brought to the site.
They are probably able to start constructing and the Lord’s message to His people
is:

  1. Be strong and work.
  2. I am with you.
  3. Do not fear.

In other words, stay focused. Ignore any and all opposition to the task at hand.
I, God, and My Spirit are with you just as we were with your descendants when
they left Egypt for this Promised Land. They are to stay focused on their work,
the rebuilding of the temple, and on the Lord God Almighty Himself.

The next verses, 6-9, have been and continue to be the focus for much of the
scholarly commentary on Haggai. God has just told the people He expects them
to stay focused. Now He motivates them by telling them why they should stay
focused and why it is so important to complete the rebuilding of this temple.

God is going to shake the heavens, earth, sea, and dry land once again. He
shook it at creation in the beginning. He shook it during the flood [Noah].
He shook it at Mt Sinai [Moses]. In a little while God is going to shake creation
again with the coming of the “desired one”, the Messiah. The stars
shook and were aligned at the birth of Jesus Christ. God’s glory filled the
temple in a special way when Jesus was dedicated by Simeon. The earth shook
when He died once and for all our sin. God owns everything, all the silver and
gold and all creation. All belong to Him but all do not honor and worship Him.
Some scholars write eloquently that the translation of verse 9 from Hebrew into
English emphasizing the greater glory of the present should actually describe
God’s glory and not his house. Therefore, the translation is inaccurate. In
other words, God’s glory will soon be expanding beyond His people Israel and
into the whole world. It will no longer be able to be contained within the Holy
of Holies. With Christ’s death and resurrection, the veil is torn and the New
Covenant replaces the Old Covenant, granting peace to all who believe.

And, of course, creation will shake again at Christ’s Second Advent and His
temple [not this one] will become His throne. Then all the earth and all His
creation will be at peace with one another.

To God be the Glory and may our total being be focused on Him and the building
of His Kingdom so that peace may reign in the lives of all who place their faith
in Him.

I Will Bless You                                                    Haggai 2:10-19

The building project is now about 3 months old and visible progress can be
seen by the people. God sends Haggai to the priests and asks them questions
regarding what activities will cause the consecrated to become defiled or unclean.
The priests answer correctly. The consecrated do not have the power to consecrate
things that are not consecrated but the defiled have the capability to defile
others. So it is with His people, Israel. They do not possess the power to consecrate
[only God does] but they do have the capability to defile others.

God further explains that he was the source of their loss of prosperity. He
was their disciplinarian. Judah/Israel was and is defiled. They have not fulfilled
the purpose for which God chose them in Abraham. They have not bore fruit for
God, glorifying His Name above all names. But God is going to change that. He
has the power to consecrate them as His chosen people and in doing so, He will
bless them.

The remnant of Judah has rediscovered their priority and purpose, they have
begun to focus their eyes on God, and now God promises to bless them, to build
them into the people of faith He had chosen them to be.

You are Mine                                                           Haggai 2:20-23

This final message of God through Haggai is a personal message for Zerubbabel.
It is a message of forgiveness from God given to Zerubbabel for his failure
to keep the temple rebuilding on schedule. Because of his rededication to the
project, God is going to accomplish great and wondrous things. Zerubbabel’s
faithful obedience is going to be used to bring glory to God. Zerubbabel is
God’s servant, God’s representative, and God’s example of obedient service.
Zerubbabel is special. Zerubbabel is valued and loved by God. Zerubbabel is
assured he is a child of God, an heir in God’s eternal Kingdom.

Summary

The message of Haggai is clear. We are to:

  1. Take inventory of our lives and make sure our priorities and purpose are aligned with what God intended.
  2. Recognize and acknowledge God’s Will. We are to stay focused on our assigned task.
  3. Live assured that God is always with us and will bless us.
  4. Understand that God comes to us personally to assure us that we are special in His sight.  When we faithfully commit to obeying His Will, we will have assurance we are His children and are members of His Kingdom.

What more do we want or need as His children? Let these words of our Lord
God through Haggai motivate us to be an example to others of a valued, loved,
and assured Kingdom worker; a stockholder, and heir of God through His Son,
Jesus Christ, and through the power and presence of His Holy Spirit. Amen!

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