Lesson 8 - Hag.1:1-11; 2:5-9 - CONSIDER YOUR WAYS
LAST WEEK: In Hab. 3:1-6, 11-13, 16-19, we heard from this prophet again, this time in the form of a prayer or psalm that was intended to be sung to music so it would be easy to remember like a hymn. Previously (in Chs. 1 and 2), the prophet had received revelation from God that He was going raise the Babylonian army as a rod of judgment on Judah, then softened the blow by also revealing that Babylon would ultimately be destroyed for its sins, while Judah's punishment would only be temporary. This insight led Habakkuk to write a prayer (or a psalm or song). in which he asked God for a new demonstration of His wrath and His mercy, such as He demonstrated so powerfully when He led His people Israel out of slavery in Egypt and helped them vanquish their opposition in the Promised Land. Even though Habakkuk feared the consequences of the impending Babylonian invasion to the point of being physically debilitated (3:16); and despite knowing that he and his people were potentially facing starvation and/or death, the prophet could still declare, "yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation" (3.18). Out of that powerful lesson, Habakkuk teaches us: (1) to face our doubts, fears, and questions honestly, (2) to take them before the Lord with reverence and humility, (3) to wait for His Word to teach us, and (4) then worship Him no matter how we feel or what we see around us. This lesson is a great encouragement to people who feel discouraged and defeated by their present circumstances, so that they can see nothing good coming in their future. It helps us adjust our attitudes from one of pessimism (gloom and doom) and even hopelessness to an attitude of optimism and rejoicing. The critical issue is whether or not we're willing to listen to God and believe in Him; specifically, to step out in faith.
THIS WEEK: In Hag.1:1-11; 2:5-9, we are introduced to Haggai, who is listed as the first among the three post-exilic Minor Prophets. His name in Hebrew means "festal, " which suggests that he was born during a festival or possibly that his name was meant to encourage the restoration of Israel's great festivals within a rebuilt Temple. Other than being a Jew from Judah, nothing else is known of Haggai's background. In regard to the timeline, it's been over 80 years since the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and took its inhabitants into captivity. In 538 B.C., after annihilating Babylonian Empire, King Cyrus of Persia allowed the exiled Jews (42,000+) to return to Jerusalem, which was little more than a pile of rubble. The returnees were led by Zerubbabel, who, as the grandson Jehoichin, the last king of Judah, had been appointed governor of the Persian province of Judah (Ezra 3). In 536 B.C., under Zerubbabel's leadership, construction of the Temple began, but due to opposition, work stopped after only two years. The main part of Haggai's prophecy contains two oracles that warned the returnees of the consequences of allowing the Temple to remain unfinished.
Read Haggai 1:1 - THE WORLD OF THE LORD CAME BY HAGGAI
1 In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,"
v. 1: When converted from the Babylonian calendar, God gave this prophecy to Haggai precisely on August 29, 520 B.C. It's noteworthy as being the first prophetic revelation that God gave to the exiles following their return from captivity, and it coincided with the occasion of the Israelite's traditional New Moon Festival, when most of the exiles would have been present in Jerusalem. And notice, too, that the revelation of God came to the Prophet by "word" and was given by him directly to Zerubbabel, the leader of the exiles mentioned above and Joshua, who was the high priest of the exile community and a Levite descendant of Aaron.
Read Hag. 1:2-6 - HAGGAI'S FIRST CHALLENGE
2 "This is what the LORD of armies says: This people says, 'The time has not come, the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.'" 3 Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 "Is it time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses while this house remains desolate?" 5 Now then, the LORD of armies says this: "Consider your ways! 6 You have sown much, only to harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but there is not enough for anyone to get warm; and the one who earns, earns wages to put into a money bag full of holes."
v. 2: "This is what the LORD of armies says: This people says, 'The time has not come, the time for the house of the LORD to be rebuilt.'" - Haggai announced that this message was coming from "the LORD of armies"(Heb. YHWH tsaba [tsaw-baw]), a title which underscored the almighty power of God. God informed the addressees, Zerubbabel and Joshua, that the people were claiming that this wasn't the right time to rebuild God's Temple. By referring to the returned exiles as "this people" as opposed to my people, God conveyed a strong sense of disapproval. Construction of the Temple had begun 16 years earlier but had halted two year later due to opposition from the local population, who were mostly Samaritans, the descendants of ex-Northern Kingdom Israelites who had inter-married with Assyrians and adopted their pagan gods, so that they lost their heritage as a people of God. The exile's refusal to complete the YHWH's Temple was like saying that it didn't matter whether or not the LORD was present with them. Principle: Delayed obedience is the equivalent of disobedience.
v. 3: "Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying" - Haggai is now addressing the proclamation of God's revelation directly to the whole exile community, not just their leaders.
v. 4: "Is it time for you yourselves to live in your paneled houses while this house remains desolate?" - This is a rhetorical question, the implied answer to which is no! It rhetorically asks the exiles whether it was right for them to build their own houses but not rebuild one for their LORD. "Paneled houses," described well-built structures with good, solid roofs. According to Ezra 3:7, King Cyrus had given the Jews money to buy quality lumber, which strongly suggests that they had used it to build their own houses rather than to rebuild God's house. This applies to Christians today who penny-pinch on maintaining their churches while sparing no expense on their own houses.
v. 5: "Now then, the LORD of armies says this: "Consider your ways!" - Again, the prophet commands the people to drop everything they're doing and listen to God Almighty's message to them. The expression, "Consider your ways," is a Hebrew figure of speech which essentially asks the exile community to stop and consider the direction in which their lives were headed and whether they really wanted to keep going that "way." They needed to reassess and make the right decision.
v. 6: "You have sown much, only to harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but there is not enough for anyone to get warm; and the one who earns, earns wages to put into a money bag full of holes." - Haggai is calling the people to reevaluate their priorities in light of recent experience, e.g.: (1) Although they've sowed more than enough seed, the crop yields at harvest have been poor; (2) their supplies of food and drink are barely achieving subsistence levels; (3) the fibers they use to weave cloth aren't plentiful enough to make warm clothing; and (4) any profits or wages earned from their labors are so meager that it's like putting money in a bag full of holes. Why is this happening?
Read Hag. 1:7-11 - HAGGAI'S SECOND CHALLENGE
7 The LORD of armies says this: "Consider your ways! 8 Go up to the mountains, bring wood, and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be honored," says the LORD . 9 "You start an ambitious project, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the LORD of armies. "It is because of My house which remains desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on mankind, on cattle, and on all the products of the labor of your hands."
v. 7: "The LORD of armies says this: "Consider your ways!" - Once Again, YHWH push s them to re-think their priorities in life and examine why prosperity has eluded them thus far.
v. 8: "Go up to the mountains, bring wood, and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be honored," says the LORD ." - God's offers them a very explicit solution to their problems: Go to the mountains, cut lumber, and come back and rebuilt the Temple to simply honor Him.
v. 9: "You start an ambitious project, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?" declares the LORD of armies. "It is because of My house which remains desolate, while each of you runs to his own house." - The exiles had been looking for a blessing, but they had been looking in the wrong direction. And God provides a clear reason for the absence of blessing: By neglecting the temple, they had, in effect, completely turned their backs on Him and focused all of their efforts on things that only benefited themselves. Pretty one-sided, would you say?
vv. 10-11: "And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on mankind, on cattle, and on all the products of the labor of your hands." - In their selfish neglect, the people allowed themselves to ignore the Creator of all life, who sprouts every seed and causes every drop of rain to fall. So, in turn, God simply 'forgot' to provide all the things they needed to prosper. On these verses, one commentator said that "Those who plan to give to God once they have enough for themselves never seem to have enough for themselves." This attitude puts God in last place. Do you see the folly in that, the sin?
APPLICATION 1: Haggai's message teaches us that we must "consider our ways" by honestly evaluating our priorities in life. A very objective measure of our spiritual priorities can be found in our time schedules and our bank statements. These two things show what we are doing with our time and how we are spending our treasure. So, are we making God and His plans a priority in our lives or are we simply just giving Him what's left over?
Read Hag. 2:5-9 - MY SPIRIT REMAINS IN YOUR MIDST
5 "As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit remains in your midst; do not fear!' 6 For this is what the LORD of armies says: 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. 7 I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the Lord of armies. 8 'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of armies. 9 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of armies, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of armies."
v. 5: "As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit remains in your midst; do not fear!" - YHWH never breaks a promise, and reaffirms the promises He made to the children of Israel at Sinai nearly 1,000 years before this time (Ex. 19). Many of the returnees must have feared -in view of the fact that they had lost the original Temple and the Ark of the Covenant-that God had written them off, left them. But Haggai informs them hat YHWH, who had been with them as a pillar of cloud and fire, was with them right now, waiting for them to rebuild His Temple.
v. 6: "For this is what the LORD of armies says: 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land." - Speaking for Almighty God, the prophet promises that the LORD GOD of Israel would do again in the future what He had done at the Red Sea and at Sinai. That He would "shake the heavens and the earth," describes supernatural intervention, and "in a little while" looks to when Christ returns to establish His kingdom on earth. The writer of Hebrews quotes Haggai and describes Christ's coming where he says, "And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, "YET ONCE MORE I WILL SHAKE NOT ONLY THE EARTH, BUT ALSO THE HEAVEN" (Heb. 12:26). This prophecy awaits fulfillment and looks to the cataclysm in the universe as reported in detail in Rev. 6-19.
v. 7: "I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of armies." - This verse looks to the fulfillment described in Matt. 25:32 and Rev. 19:19-21, referring to the subjugation of the nations by Jesus Christ as Messiah and the establishment of His Kingdom which will have no end. The nations will bring their wealth to this kingdom like the Egyptians gave their treasures to the departing Hebrews (Ex. 12:35-36).
v. 8: "The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of armies." - This verse pertains to concerns over money-in this instance, what it would cost to complete the Temple and outfit it once the structure was finished. God is telling these returnees that he created and controls all of silver and gold in the world and in reality, owns all of it. So, they needed to stop worrying about the cost of God's plan and step out in faith that God would provide everything they needed. This did in fact happen: Ezra 6:1-12 reports that the ultimate cost of rebuilding God's Temple was not only paid-in-full by the royal Persian treasury, but that the king of Persia personally ordered that all of the gold and silver items stolen from Solomon's Temple by Nebuchadnezzar be returned to Jerusalem.
v. 9: "The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of armies, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of armies." - Even though the rebuilt Temple wouldn't be as grand as the original, the prophet tells them that it doesn't matter, that the final glory of the rebuilt Temple would be greater than its former glory. The LORD also promised to bring "peace" to Jerusalem, the site of the Temple. This pronouncement is eschatological (end-time), because neither of these thing has yet to happen. Because of the sin in the world (then and in the present), lasting peace will only come when the Messiah King, Christ Jesus, returns to rule and reign.
APPLICATION 2: Haggai's message teaches us that God's discipline towards His believers (in our case the modern church), is always for the ultimate purpose of restoration. In the exile's case it was the restoration of God's house, the Temple. In our case, the church, it refers to all of our efforts-our evangelistic outreach, support of missions, local, national, and international-in building of God's kingdom on earth in anticipation of Jesus' return. We can't do this by sitting in our comfortable pews-our "paneled houses"-we need get up out of them to seek and to save. All of this work-what we are called to do-entails a committed investment of our time and our money.