Here we go … For reasons I didn’t know at the time, “from out of nowhere,” God laid it on my heart to study the book of Haggai. Haggai? Who???
So, I started to read the book of Haggai. I had read the book many times, as I have read through the Bible, but, somehow, the richness of the book had eluded me. Why Haggai? Why now? As I read, I kept thinking, “Why didn’t I see all of this before?”
What I discovered was a remarkable book of Scripture, and what really surprised me was how many “Major” lessons there were in this little book of only 2 chapters. Lessons that are just as real and meaningful and helpful today, as they were when they were written. Which really explains how wonderful the Bible is, how remarkable it is, and how important it is for us today. Haggai is considered one of the “Minor” prophets, but the lessons we learn from the book are “Major.”
Haggai has been called “The Prophet of the Temple,” and we’ll discuss that shortly. He was a colleague of the prophet Zechariah, as we read in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. In brief, Haggai proclaimed the word of God to the Jews, and as happens today … when we heed God’s word … “they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai” (Verse 14).
The time is 520 B.C. As God’s spokesman, Haggai encouraged the captives who had returned to Jerusalem to complete the reconstruction of the Temple. Yes, this was “Solomon’s Temple,” which had been destroyed, and was still in ruins in Jerusalem. The work on the Temple had started after the first exiles had returned from captivity in Babylon, but the work was soon abandoned-because of discouragement and oppression. Things haven’t changed. How often do we begin a great work for God-including His greatest work-that of restoring/re-building us … when we get discouraged or oppressed, and the restoration/re-building stops?
Within the 2 chapters of Haggai are 4 distinct messages just as real for us today:
1. To rebuild the Temple (what God wants to do inside of us).
2. To remain faithful to God’s promises.
3. To be holy and enjoy God’s great provision.
4. Keep their (our) hearts set on the coming of the Messiah, and the establishment of His Kingdom.
These 4 messages haven’t changed.
See if this sounds familiar: The Jewish people were held captive by a foreign power. Then, they were released from captivity. At first, they worked diligently at rebuilding the Temple, but, soon, they grew tired of the work-the effort involved-and, they gave up the work altogether.
Just as now, when we get discouraged, get tired, and want to quit … God will send someone to encourage us to “get back to work.”
I am reminded again that we are “the Temple.”
God is still in the restoration business! Just as Haggai exhorted the people to re-build the Temple, God is still exhorting us to restore our Temple. And, just like Haggai, God offers sharp rebukes for the neglecting of our Temple. It takes work! And, just like with Haggai, God offers promises to those who will “work at it.” Once again, It Takes Work!
Have things changed since Haggai’s time? How about since the Apostle Paul’s time? Don’t you know, don’t you remember … have you forgotten … have I forgotten …that you … yes you … and me … are the Temple? What??? Me???
Point-blank from Paul: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Ouch! But … that may explain a few things. But, it can’t explain why we often forget just who we are “in Him.” In this case, we often forget who He is that is “in us.”
Oh, No! Here’s Paul again: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Think about this: In speaking of the physical building, the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus said “That in this place is one greater than the temple” (Matthew 12:6). So, if Jesus dwells in us, lives within us … then one “greater than the temple” is inside of us! Wow! The question still begs to be asked, just as it was in Paul’s time … what foundation is your temple built upon? “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). It’s still true: A building, any building, even a Temple, is only as good as its foundation.
In Haggai’s time, there was work to be done. But, guess what? The people were more concerned with their own affairs than with the Lord’s work (Haggai 1:4). Did I say in Haggai’s time? Or, in my time? Ouch again!
Before I close, I must address the “Three Words” of which I wrote, which make up what I think is the major lesson I got from the book of Haggai. Those three words are “Consider your ways.” To me, this was the life-changing message which I got-immediately-upon beginning to read the book. I got the message early, and often. These 3 words contain the real “secret” to success or failure: “Consider your ways.” We’ll write more about that later. These 3 words, “consider your ways,” would be echoed often by Paul in his letters, with Paul using the phrase “take heed,” as in “let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Corinthians 3:10).
For now, we close with this message of hope, aimed at us, just like it was the audience in Haggai’s time. If we will just do the work … the hard work which is required … and, not give up … stay focused on what God wants to do, especially within us, to our Temple, we have this promise: “Be strong … be strong … be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:4).