Sometime around August of 520 BC Haggai spoke for the first time to those who had returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian exile. Haggai’s last words were spoken sometime in December of that same year. Haggai was no Jeremiah and Isaiah. He barely had sixteen weeks of prophetic activity but it was enough to get the job done. Because of his words the people started work of rebuilding the Temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BC. In five years the work was completed.
The pre-exilic prophets (Those who preached before the exile and while Solomon’s temple was still standing. This would include such prophets as Jeremiah) cherished the Temple but reprimanded for relying too much on temple attendance and on the religious rituals practiced there—including animal sacrifice and festivals—while ignoring the weightier matters of justice and mercy. Jeremiah, as an example, warned the people, “Amend your ways and your doings . . . this is the temple of the Lord” (Jeremiah 7:3-4). Haggai, on the other hand, urges the people to get serious about rebuilding the temple.
If Haggai had lived during the time of Jeremiah, he probably would have agreed with Jeremiah. But Haggai lived in a different time. The situation was different. His people had spent 50 years in exile and had returned to Jerusalem and a very difficult situation where there was a lack of food and other resources. The people were unorganized, weary of their neighbors, and desperate in their everyday survival needs. The people of Jeremiah’s time were taking God for granted, treating the temple like a good-luck charm. The people of Haggai’s day were acting as if God had little importance or didn’t exist. So Haggai’s advice was different that Jeremiah’s. For Haggai’s contemporizes, rebuilding the temple needed to take precedence over being comfortable. They needed the temple to help build community and also to help the people be aware of God’s ongoing presence in their lives.
There are only 38 verses in the Book of Haggai, the second shortest book in the Old Testament. Compared to Isaiah’s 66 Chapters and Jeremiah’s 52 this is not much but it is enough. As someone has so aptly said, “A Pebble gets an avalanche started.” Haggai does what he has to do and it makes all the difference.
Questions for the Week
Consider journaling your responses to these questions:
When the people of Israel began working on the foundation of the temple (Ezra 4; The Story, 265) they met resistance. What kind of conflict and opposition did the people face? When we seek to follow God’s will with a passionate heart, what resistance might we face?
Eventually the people got sidetracked from rebuilding God’s temple. It was sixteen hears before Haggai got them back on track (Haggai 1; The Story, 266-267). What slowed down their work and what got them up and moving again?
What are some of the consequences we face when we do our own thing and forget to follow God?
What did God promise the people if they moved forward rebuilding the Temple? (Haggai 2; The Story, 267-268)? How can walking in obedience to God bring you hope?
God called the people to action through prophets such as Haggai who told them to get busy rebuilding the Temple. What next steps do you need to take in order to start working God’s plan for your life?
As you take time to pray, here are some ideas to get your started:
· Confess where you have made God’s big thing a secondhand concern.
· Pray for strength to do what it takes to follow God’s will for your life.
· As God to be present in your life so that the world can see Him alive in you.
Haggai called the people to “give careful thought to their ways” and to wake up to the reality that God wanted to be in their lives. During the week think about these questions:
· Is God’s big thing my big thing?
· Am I building my house or God’s house?
· Are my priorities in order?
· What can I do to make sure God is first in my heart, schedule, and actions?
Haggai called the people to go up to the hills and gather timber (the supplies they needed to build the temple). Spend a few minutes listing some things you need to “gather” so that you can serve God with all your heart. It might be a new attitude, an altered schedule, a tender heart, or a generous lifestyle. Then commit to “gather” these things so that you can build a new future with God.
Read for Next Week
Read Chapter 20.