Haggai, one of the shortest books in the Bible, is not short on advice and encouragement for God’s church today. Haggai, according to one commentary, was the only prophet in the Bible who referred to himself as “the Lord’s messenger”, and it is speculated that he was possibly quite advanced in age, due to his remarks in the second chapter about seeing the glory of the former temple.
In any event, we see here a promising picture of what can happen in a short time, when a church unites and moves forward with a program to glorify God. Haggai may be viewed as a very successful prophet, if the measure is the response of his listeners and followers. These people listened to their prophet, united their forces, put into action all that he recommended, and rebuilt the temple in record time.
Memory Text: “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty.” Haggai 2:8 NIV
This one statement is vital in setting the tone for the message Haggai tries to get across to God’s people. Even today, Christians have their priorities confused. One doesn’t have to be wealthy to see people whose focus is on silver and gold, rather than on the owner of it all, our Lord and Maker. Whether you own material wealth, or just crave owning it, you may have a problem with your priorities. We must trust God, the owner of it all. It never belongs to us anyway, as this verse proclaims.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV
Just twenty years after the return from Babylonian captivity, God’s children were concentrating on building their own houses, instead of the temple. And temple-building was the main reason for their return to Jerusalem in the first place. After some initial setbacks, their focus turned to their own families and building their own houses, rather than the “family of God”. No one is saying that taking care of your family should not a priority in your life, but it should never be our first priority.
“He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:37 KJV
God wants and deserves first place in our affections, and our actions will indicate that allegiance.
Personal Thought Question: What has first place in my life? How do I spend the majority of my free time–or do I have any free time? Do my prayers begin and end with the blessing of each meal, or is my mind on Jesus all day, with each thought tied to His presence in my life?
Sunday: Planting Much, Harvesting Little
Read Haggai 1:1-11.
How disappointing to plant and nurture a summer vegetable garden and have it eaten up by rabbits or insects, or dry up due to no rain and soaring temperatures. This may have happened to you at some time and you felt very frustrated. But it would be utterly devastating if your family’s survival through the winter depended on the yield from your garden or field, wouldn’t it?
We are willing to accept good things that come our way as blessings from God, but it isn’t as easy to recognize setbacks as experiences that God has not blessed. And we seldom want to admit that the lack of blessing may actually point to something in our life that may need attention. But that’s just what Haggai pointed out to the Jews. God reminded them through Haggai that they should “consider their ways” for an explanation of their lack of blessings.
“…he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways.” Haggai 1:6-7 KJV
I love this illustration: putting our money in a bag with holes. Doesn’t it describe how our hard-earned cash disappears every month? One or two trips to the store and you wonder where it all went.
God had an answer to their lack of blessings though. He advises them in the next verse to “Go 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.” Haggai 1:8 KJV
This reminds me of the story of Elijah, when the Lord sent him to the widow of Zaraphath. Elijah felt impressed to ask her for water and then food. Her decision to honor the prophet’s request, even though she and her son were about to starve themselves, resulted in her being sustained throughout the drought. What a lesson in priorities did she teach us, as the story of her sacrifice spread!
What was so important about rebuilding the temple?
- The tabernacle, and later the temple, symbolized God’s presence among fallen humanity and taught them the plan of salvation.
- God could not be properly honored and worshiped, when His house was in ruins.
- Their witnessing to other nations and people would be reduced.
- Their attitude toward the temple revealed the loss of their divine mission as God’s remnant.
Monday: God’s Greatest Promise
Read Haggai 1:12-15.
Notice the unity of forces at work when the building started up again. Zerubbabel, or Sheshbazzar in Ezra 1:8, a descendant of David, was the governor who led this small group of exiles back to Jerusalem. There was also Joshua, the High Priest. But most importantly, the remnant people themselves took up the restoration call and joined in one purpose to rebuild the temple. They started work immediately and their mission was accomplished in just five years.
God’s message to them after their willing labors had begun was simply, “I am with you.” (v. 13) How encouraging those words have been to God’s people throughout all time. Is there really any more we need to hear from God than to know that He is with us?
Here are some examples of God’s promise of His presence that are still blessing and encouraging people today:
- Genesis 26:3 (God told Abraham, “Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee…”)
- Exodus 3:12 (God told Moses, “…Certainly I will be with thee;…”)
- Numbers 14:9 (God told Joshua, “…and the Lord is with us; fear them not.”)
- Matthew 28:20 (Jesus told us, “…and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”)
Thought Question: How united are we in working out the purposes of God? Are we sometimes more concerned with our own purposes and desires?
Tuesday: Do Not Fear!
Read Haggai 2:1-5.
Haggai must have sensed that there were some who were discouraged about the progress of the work. They knew that their final product would never match the splendor of Solomon’s temple, which had previously stood on the site where they labored so hard.
Once again, God told them not to fear. Like in times past, He would be with them. His presence, not the outward splendor, was what made the temple what it was.
We are reminded of Joshua of Moses’ day and the struggles facing the Israelites when they first returned to the Promised Land years before. They faced many obstacles then too. Seemingly insurmountable ones, but God told them repeatedly through Joshua that they had nothing to fear, that He was with them.
I love Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” KJV
We can hold on to that promise, no matter how hard the trial we are going through. God promises never to let go of our hand. He will see us through our worst experiences on this earth, if we ask Him to.
Wednesday: The Desire of All Nations
Read Haggai 2:6-9.
This passage has Messianic implications. This is the only time in the Bible Jesus is referred to as “the desire of all nations”, a fitting description of the world’s need of a Savior and our longing for His presence. The author of a well-known book, called “The Desire of Ages”, considered this verse in choosing the title.
Verse 9 says: “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Thought Questions: How did Christ’s presence make the glory of the rebuilt temple greater than Solomon’s temple? How do we have balance when it comes to building and decorating God’s physical churches today? Are we putting more effort into the physical structures than we are the spiritual building of God’s church?
Thursday: The Lord’s Signet Ring
Read Haggai 2:20-23.
Although the beginning of this passage refers to Zerubbabel, the governor who worked tirelessly to accomplish the temple’s rebuilding, it ultimately refers also to the Messiah, who would “shake the heavens and the earth” at a later time.
A signet ring showed authority and ownership. Like a seal, it was a guarantee and a signature. Zerubbabel and the Messiah, both descendants of David, were God’s representatives and authority on earth.
Summary from The Great Controversy, p. 24:
“The second temple was not honored with the cloud of Jehovah’s glory, but with the living presence of One in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily–who was God Himself manifest in the flesh. The “Desire of all nations” had indeed come to His temple when the Man of Nazareth taught and healed in the sacred courts. In the presence of Christ, and in this only, did the second temple exceed the first in glory. ”
Personal Thought Question: In what ways am I personally active in my church–in fulfilling its mission of spreading the gospel to all the earth?
Next two weeks–we’ll be studying Zechariah!