For an introduction to this series, click here.
Nov. 20, 2006
If there is one word that summarizes the book of Haggai, it is restoration. Up until this point, all of the prophets have either predicted the captivity of Israel or lived through the captivity. The last three prophets - Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi - came after the Jews had returned to Israel, at least in small numbers. Haggai prophesied about the same time as Ezra was priest over Israel.
Haggai begins with a very simple message: Build the temple. The people are building houses, setting up businesses and generally getting on with life, while the house of the Lord is an empty foundation. They built the foundation years ago, but had never bothered to actually construct the building. The book of Ezra gives us a clue that part of the problem was that the older people who remembered Solomon's temple were so despaired that the new temple would not be as grand as "the original" that they couldn't even bear to start building it.
But Haggai tells them that their land has been cursed because of their neglect of the temple. This in itself is an important lesson. It reminds us of the passage that Jesus quoted to Satan: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4) Serving and worshiping God is not something nice that we can add on to our lives if we get a chance. Worshiping God is essential. I don't know how many of us actually view worship of God as important as it really is.
In the second half of the first chapter, the people respond to Haggai's message. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, they begin to work on the temple again. And so Haggai comes back to tell them that because they have honored God, God will honor them:
“Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundations of the LORD's temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.” (2:18-19, ESV)