Haggai — Realigning Priorities for God’s Blessing
One of two prophets commissioned by God to encourage the builders of the second temple in Jerusalem, Haggai delivered four sermons in 520 B.C.—the second year of the reign of King Darius II of Persia [Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts, p. 274]. This record of those messages is the second shortest book of the Old Testament (after Obadiah). Other than in the book that bears his name, the prophet is mentioned only in Ezra 5:1 & 6:14.
Haggai Chapter 1
Haggai wasted no time identifying himself, but launched right into his first message. In the first verse of this book, he gave us the date and the intended audience of His message: “In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest…” (Hag. 1:1). According to Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts, this would have been the first day of the month, Elul (August or September) in the Hebrew calendar.
The Lord objected that the people were telling themselves the time wasn’t right to build the temple (v. 2). They had their priorities all wrong—living in fine houses, while the house of YHWH continued to lie in ruins (3-5). Consequently, they were missing out on the blessings of God, as attested in verse 6:
“You have planted much, but you harvest little.
You eat, but you do not become full.
You drink, but you are still thirsty.
You put on clothes, but you are not warm enough.
You earn money, but then you lose it all as if you had put it into a purse full of holes.” (NCV)
In a call to action, the Lord commanded the people to “Go up to the mountains and bring wood” to construct His house, “that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified” (8).
He connected the Hebrews’ lack of provision to their neglect of the temple, saying He blew everything away, because the people were running home each day, rather than rebuilding like they were supposed to (9). He claimed to have “called for a drought” and withheld the rain, so that the crops and livestock couldn’t grow properly (10-11). Success and prosperity were impossible, so long as the people were more concerned about their own comfort than reestablishing a proper worship center.
In response, Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the people “obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet…” (12). Seeing their reverence return, the Lord encouraged the remnant that He was with them (13). This “stirred up the spirit” of the governor, the high priest, and the rest of the people sufficiently to resume the project by the 24th day of that same month (14-15).
Haggai Chapter 2
On the 21st day of Tishri (September-October) according to the Hebrew calendar [Nelson’s Complete Book, p. 278], Haggai delivered his second message to the two leaders and the rest of the returnees (Hag. 2:1-2). This time YHWH was concerned about how the older men and women, who were familiar with the temple of Solomon, perceived the new worship center. In their opinions, the new building was nothing compared to the old one, which had been so glorious to behold (v. 3).
He encouraged them to be strong and work hard, assuring them all that He was with them: “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (4-5). A day was coming when the Lord intended to “shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land,” as well as all the nations (6-7). YHWH Sabaoth promised that even non-Jewish people would “come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory.”
In verse 8, He asserted, “The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine.” Then YHWH promised “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former…And in this place I will give peace” (9). No doubt, this referred to the fact that Jesus, the Son of God, was one day going to worship in that very building, and that His crucifixion just outside Jerusalem would be the act that would bring peace to all mankind.
Haggai’s third and fourth sermons were delivered on the 24th day of Kislev (November-December) that same year (10). The Lord told the prophet to consult with the priests about what ceremonial law would say about a couple of instances:
- “If one carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and with the edge he touches bread or stew, wine or oil, or any food, will it become holy?”
- “If one who is unclean because of a dead body touches any of these, will it be unclean?”
According to verses 11-13, the priests’ answer to the first question was: “No”—the mere touch of something holy could not make something common holy, too. However, the touch of an unclean person could make any object unclean. In the same way, these people—who were unholy in God’s eyes—were making unacceptable offerings, since “every work of their hands” was unclean in His sight (14).
Again, the Lord went into detail about how He had deprived the Hebrews—sending blight, mildew and hail to strike their crops—so that they were constantly producing less than they planted (15-17). God intended to humble them, so they would turn to Him, but they didn’t. But from now on, He meant to bless them (18-19).
God’s final message through Haggai was directed to Zerubbabel alone (20-21). He vowed to shake heaven and earth, overthrowing non-Jewish kingdoms and all their armies from within (22). But Zerubbabel, God’s servant, He meant to establish as a ruler in Israel. YHWH told the governor, “I…will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you” (23).
The heart of this short book seems to be that God wants to bless His people, but we have to make sure our priorities and our conduct are lined up with His. If we are constantly falling behind financially, it may well be that we are not doing what the Lord told us to do—we’re so busy seeking to enrich our own lives, we are neglecting to minister to YHWH our God. Once we do what He tells us, we will begin to experience both the presence and provision of the Lord. He always rewards those who faithfully seek and serve Him.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.