Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Three

Next to Obadiah, the book of Haggai is the shortest book in the Old Testament. With a total of 38 verses, it is the only book which contains a total of 2 chapters.

God always provides a way-regardless of the national political circumstances-for His will and purposes to be accomplished. Haggai was the first of the prophets to minister to Israel following the Jews’ return from captivity by the Babylonians. The Persians had defeated the Babylonians, who had destroyed Solomon’s Temple (under Nebuchadnezzar), in 586 B.C. The Persian king, Darius, was kind to the Jews, allowing them to return to their homeland, and then, allowing them to rebuild the temple.

Here is the situation the Jews were in: Because of their lifestyle, they did much … but had little. Haggai said it this way: “Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes” (1:6). Nothing they did worked out. Why? “Consider your ways” (1:7).

When we understand God’s Word, and His will for our lives, it will always bring action. It will always motivate us to do something. We often read that the first word in “Gospel” is “go.” As we see from Haggai 1:8, when we “go,” when we do God’s work, when our motivation is right, when we are obedient to God’s Word, “I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified.”

In 1:9, we see why God wasn’t pleased: Because the Jews were more concerned with their own will, their own wants, than with what God wanted. Their focus was their own will, not God’s will. The same battle which rages today, which Jesus overcame in the Garden, was the same battle and struggle in Haggai’s time: Their will, not His. If God is not the head of your house/home, then your home is not a sanctuary. This explains why so many people are miserable “at home.” Haven’t we all experienced that co-worker who always arrives at work miserable … and whose intent seems to be to make everyone else miserable around them? Here is the way I always explain it: “They were miserable when they got here.” If God is not head of your home, it won’t be the calming sanctuary it was meant to be … and which your workplace was never meant to be. Haggai explains that “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it (blew it away). Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that is waste (in ruins), and ye run every man unto his own house” (1:9).

The result? “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from (withholds) dew, and the earth is stayed from (withholds) her fruit” (verse 9). When we don’t seek and do God’s will for our lives, the result is drought and famine.

It is remarkable to me how the people responded to this message from Haggai. They listened to God’s Word, spoken through His prophet, and obeyed God’s message! Verse 12 says that “all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.” We all know what happened when they did their own will instead of God’s … but, what happened when they listened, then responded to God’s Word, and began to do the work which God called them to do?
“I am with you, saith the LORD” (1:13). What a great encouragement to us today! When we obey the Word of God, and do His will-and not our own-“I am with you.”

As we read the book of Haggai, we see that it was not only the citizens who responded to God’s message … it was also the government and religious leaders! Wow! We see this throughout the book, and in the verses (1:1, 12,14) we’ve already studied. Want real change? Need we say more?

To close, here is more encouragement for us: When we submit to God’s will … He will “stir us up” and allow us to do great things. Understanding and obeying God’s will for our lives will always bring action. Verse 1:14 says that “the LORD stirred up … the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.”



Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part Two

Haggai urged the people to put rebuilding the Temple at the very top of their list of priorities. When we “consider” the 3 important words of Haggai’s message, “Consider your ways,” I think of how important these three words are to us today. Where are we going? Why are we going? And, perhaps the most important question we can ask ourselves … “How did we get here?” “Where we are” just doesn’t happen by accident. “Where we are” is a result of a series of decisions, tied together in succession, all leading us to “where we are” today. I believe that when our priorities change … our lives change. Unfortunately, it is only after we do things our way, that after we “mess things up,” that we then, and usually only then, “Consider our ways.” We look at “what happened;” what actions we took, which resulted in “where we are.” And … it is usually … only then … we start to examine our priorities … and, start to change them. As our priorities change … our lives change. As we see from the example in Haggai, and as we look at our lives, and the lives of others, we plainly see that changing priorities can be either good, or bad.

When Haggai urged the people to put the Temple at the very top of their list of priorities, this showed the importance of worship, and gives us the same message: To put worship at the top of our list of priorities. Of all the things which God desires for us, it is to have an intimate, personal relationship with Him. We can’t have this relationship with God without worship. Worship begins with recognizing God for Who He is, and What He is. When we fully realize Who He is … What He is … we will then begin to realize who we can be-through Him … the natural reaction to this realization is for us to worship Him.

Notice also that the first step for the Jewish people, upon returning to their native land after being released from Captivity, was to build the Temple … their place of both worship and sacrifice. When Haggai arrived on the scene, he had a clear, distinct message, which is just as true today as it was in Old Testament times: Ready for this? National adversity is the result of national disobedience to God. Yes … that does explain-fully-a lot of things …

Two times, in chapter 1, God gives us the best advice for “turning things around:”
“… Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways” (Verses 5, 7).
Of all that I have gotten from this study of the book of Haggai, this was the major lesson for me, and I “got it” the very first time I read the first chapter. When things aren’t going well … when everything we do turns out wrong …nothing, and I mean nothing good seems to be happening … THIS IS THE ANSWER: “Consider Your Ways.” Chances are the reason things have changed is because our priorities have changed. And, the way to bring change in those circumstances, is to first “Consider our ways,” and then change our priorities.

When we “Consider our ways,” I’ve learned that, often, it is what I don’t do which is just as important as what I do. Sometimes, that “peace which is beyond all understanding,” which I have at the end of the day, has as much to do with what I didn’t do today-as what I did do today.

We learn that blessing from God depends upon obedience. We must put ourselves in a position to be blessed. In just 2 chapters, Haggai has the “Consider” command 5 times. We read it in 1: 5, 7, 2:15, and two times in 2:18.

Here are the definitions of the word “Consider:”
1. To think about (something or someone) carefully especially in order to make a choice or decision.
2. To think about (something that is important in understanding something or in making a decision or judgment).
3. To think about (a person or a person’s feelings) before you do something in order to avoid making someone upset, angry, etc.

Yes, I did go back and read # 3, and how it pertains especially to obedience.
Because of the consequences, Haggai 2:15 and 2:18 both make this statement: “Consider now from this day and upward (forward) …”

It is interesting to note that Jeremiah, who warned against the coming captivity, and then became a captive, said this in Lamentations 3:40, a thought that continued to echo throughout the pages of both the Old and New Testaments: “Let us search and try (examine) our ways, and turn again to the Lord.”



Haggai: Two Chapters, Three Words, Major Message: Part One

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.
Sound familiar?
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.”
Enter Haggai.

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).