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The Book of Haggai reminds us of God’s commitment to leftovers! Like other books of the Old Testament, this book was “written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).
Haggai was written during a time when thousands of exiles were returning from captivity in Babylon, coming to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple of God (Is. 45; Ezra 1:1). The people could have been content to remain in the comfort of Babylon, but they were determined to rebuild “God’s house” in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:3-6).
The temple foundation was laid but no work was done for more than ten years. After completing the foundation, the people gave up because of external opposition and internal discouragement. No temple made the Temple Mount look barren and that was remarkable, both to the people and and to God. I wonder how the people felt during every festive season when they would normally bring their offerings to offer to God at a glorious temple, but there was only a barren foundation!
The people seem to have forgotten the Lord They had become indifferent toward the initial desire and purpose to honor God. Instead they set about living their own lives. The Lord never forgets His promises. After the people had neglected the rebuilding of the temple for many years, He spoke to the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to revive the people from their indifference.
Many lessons can easily be gleaned from this book, such as:
- The importance of putting God first (Hag. 1:2-4)
- The need for every one to work, not just leaders (Hag. 1:12-15)
- The danger of letting evil contaminate our service to God (Hag. 2:11-14)
- The need to focus on being built together as “a holy temple of the Lord” (Eph. 2:19-22; 1 Pet: 2:5)
As we read the book of Haggai, we notice that disobedience to God led to natural discomfort. They were experiencing both spiritual and physical poverty (Hag. 1:5-6). This should have reminded them of the curses in Deuteronomy 28 but it seems like their spiritual indifference had taken root. Perhaps they thought God had forgotten them but in reality they had forgotten God.
Please notice how the Lord rebukes them and then revives their hope when He:
- Explains their situation – why it was happening and reasons for dissatisfaction (Hag. 1:2-6)
- Gives helpful directions – where to go and get materials (Hag. 1:7-8)
- Gives them understanding of their selfishness: “You expected much…” (Hag. 1:9-12)
- Encourages: “I am with you,” reminding them of His faithful provision in the past (Hag. 1:13-14)
- Shows compassion: He knows what they think and how they are feeling (Hag. 2:3)
- Cheers them on in their discouragement: “Be strong…” (Hag. 2:4-5)
- Reminds them of His presence and His Spirit among them: “I am with you…” (Hag. 2:4-5)
- Tells them not to fear, roots His promise again with His past faithfulness and covenant (Hag. 2:5)
- Gives His perspective of hope for future glory (Hag. 2:6-9)
- Promises prosperity and directs finances (Hag. 2:10-19)
- Reasons with them – teaching and pointing out their sin of negligence (Hag. 2:10-16)
- Tells Zerubbabel His plans, promises blessing, then chooses him to fulfill God’s over all plan of redemption (Hag. 2:21-23)
The remnant who left to rebuild the temple did have good intentions initially but they failed to persevere, which led to growing indifference. Good intentions are not enough. We may start out well, but do we persevere and continue?
The remnant had become discouraged – from the persistent opposition and from discouragement within. Remember the mixed response from people when the foundation was laid – some shouted for joy and others wept for disappointment (Ezra:3:10-13).
The Lord knew their hearts so He gently rebukes, exhorts and encourages the remnant through the words of these minor prophets. We notice that God has always kept His eyes on the faithful remnant. He chose Israel instead of any other world power that existed during that time. He chose a bunch of slaves, made them a nation, and commanded them to be a light among nations of the world.
What we notice in Haggai is that after God wakes them up and revives their spiritual senstivity, they begin rebuilding the temple. The flimsy temple that they were about to build was nowhere near the excellence of Solomon’s temple. The clear point the Lord is making to the remnant is not to focus on the physical size of the temple, but to focus on their obedience. When Solomon dedicated the Temple, he said the Temple would not contain God.
But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19). The splendor of Chrisitianity is in Jesus and the church not in any physical building.
Haggai spoke of a shaking that was going to occur (Hag. 2:6). The New Testament quotes this passage from Haggai (Heb. 12:25 with Hag. 2:6-21).
We read in Hebrews about future shaking; and then we are encouraged to be grateful that we have received “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28). The point that Hebrews makes over and over again is that we have received a superior covenant that cannot be shaken.
The Glory of the Temple therefore was first fulfilled in Jesus and later in us. We are His temple.
We are the temple:
- God’s glory dwells in us (1 Cor. 6:16).
- God reveals His great glory through His temple (Hag. 2:9).
- God’s glory is in Jesus and in us (Heb. 2:9-10).
- God’s glory dwells in us (Rom. 8:18; 2 Thess. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:6).
- Believers together become a holy temple (Eph. 2:21).
- We are built to become a dwelling in which God lives (Eph. 2:22).
- Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple?(1 Cor. 3:16-17).
- Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).
- We are the temple of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16-18).
- Like living stones we are being built into a spiritual house (1 Pet. 2:4).
- The house of God is the church of the living God (1 Tim 3:15).
Reflection & Application:
God takes you and me, saves us by His grace, makes us a part of the church to bear witness in His name, matures us into His likeness; what an honor ! We are God’s building project… His workmanship to bring glory to His name. So don’t lose heart or become distracted like the people in the Book of Haggai.
If you forget the ultimate, you will become a slave to the immediate.
Activity does not always mean accomplishment; motivation is important too.
If you don’t evaluate, you will stagnate.