About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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My Commentary On The Book Of Haggai




This commentary is based on the 1984 edition of the New International Bible.  The chapter titles in the book correspond with those in the NIV Bible to make for easy study purposes.


Haggai was one of two  prophets that spoke the word of the Lord to post Babylonian Jews to encourage them to start rebuilding the temple.  Zechariah was the other prophet.  Their message was to be an encouragement to keep building the temple of God in Jerusalem, which they had stopped building for a period of 15 years.


Haggai had a brief ministry. Some say it only lasted 4 months.  It began in Aug., 520 B. C..  We know this from the dates he mentions in his writing.


A Call To Build The House Of The Lord (ch. 1:1 - 15)


Verse 1 tells us that the Word of the Lord came to Haggai in the second year of king Darius’ reign.  It was also the first day of the sixth month. That’s our August.


We learn in verse 1 that Haggai spoke this word to two men, Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the civil leader. This is important.  When God speaks to his people, the leaders must hear in order to lead the people of God in the direction that God wants them to go.  Often times the leaders don’t hear the prophetic word, and at that point, God’s speaks to the ordinary person who takes the lead in doing His will.  This has taken place many times throughout the history of God’s people.


The way in which God speaks through Haggai is the same way in which He spoke through the prophet Malachi.  It’s conversational in style.  In verse 2 God says that His people say, “the time has not yet come for the Lord’s house to be built”.   We must realize that God’s house was already partially built when this prophetic word came.  Israel stopped building about 15 to 18 years earlier.  So something changed in the people’s thinking.  They clearly believed that it was the right time to build less than two decades earlier.  That’s clearly seen in the book of Ezra.  But now, they don’t think it’s time.  So what happened in their thinking? 


It’s clear from Ezra that pressure from the world around Israel stopped the building of the temple.  They caved into this pressure and got discouraged.  From this place of discouragement, they felt that it was not God’s will after all.  Discouragement and pressure from the world often gets to the people of God. It still does today.  Just because  there are problems, doesn’t mean it’s not the will of God.  The Jews simply let the situation determine what the will of God was, not God Himself.


Verse 3 says that “then the Word of the Lord came through Haggai …”   The word “then” either suggests another time, or right after what was previously stated. But it does suggest to me at least a brief distinction in time. 


God asks the Jews the following question.  “Is it time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains in ruins?”  Look closely at the wording of this question.  God says “you yourselves” and “your paneled houses”.  This is surely emphasizing the Jews.  They have their own homes.  They spent much time and effort building their own house.  Paneled houses are specifically mentioned because they were houses made of wood, and there wasn’t a lot of wood around Jerusalem.  The wood had to have been transported from the hill country, quite a distance away.  This suggest, time, money and effort went into building their own houses. 


God didn’t really say that he was against their paneled houses, but what He was saying is that while they were building their own homes, they were neglecting the temple of God, which was to be the centerpiece of Jewish society.  God was not happy with this.


We can easily do the same today.  We don’t put the Body of Christ as something that is central to our lives.  Our own homes and our own lives are more important than the Body of Christ for us today.  The Body of Christ is the New Testament temple of God.  If we neglect this New Testament temple, then God will feel the same way towards us as He did towards these  Jews.


One thing we should understand is that much of what we call church today, is not the Body of Christ, or the New Testament temple as seen in the New Testament.  We’ve let the New Testament temple fall into disrepair, just as these Jews had back then. 


In verse 5 God says to Israel “to give careful thought to their ways”.  This reminds me of what Jesus often said. He told those who wanted to follow Him to count the cost of discipleship.  Counting the cost is similar to giving careful thought of one’s ways.  The point to be made here is that God wanted Israel to sit down and think about things.  He would have us do the same today.  In some parts of the Christian community people don’t give much thought to giving thought.  They think that thinking things through very carefully is not important, but it is.


Verses 6 and 7 tells us what the Jews were to think about.  God says, “you have planted much but have invested little …”   How true that is for many of us. We plant, we work, and we spend and we don’t invest.  “you eat but never have enough, you drink but never have your fill.”  We, like these people live from day to day, hand to mouth.  People are the same no matter what day and age they live in. “You put on clothes but are not warm.”  It’s like they just have a hard time getting by.  The money is spread too thin.  “You earn wages, only to put it in a purse with holes in it”. How true.  Once again, such economics don’t change no matter when or where.


In verse 7 God says once again to give careful thought to these things.  In verse 8 He then says that once giving this careful thought, go up into the hills an bring back wood to build my house.  These people had already gone up into the hills to build their own paneled homes, now God is saying that it’s time for them to do the same for Him so “He can have pleasure in His house”, just as they have pleasure in their houses. 


In New Testament times we understand that God does not live in buildings made by men.  This temple was symbolic of something better to come.  That something better is the New Testament temple, that is the New Testament people of God.  If God asked these Jews to consider their ways, and if He wanted to take pleasure in their temple, the same would apply to us today.  God would want to take pleasure in us, His temple.  He’d also want us to consider our ways.  We’ve put much time, money and effort into building our own lives. Have we put the same time and effort in building and maintaining God spiritual house today, or is it in decay like this temple was back then. 


In verse 9 God says that the Jews “expected much, but you see, it has turned out to be little”.  No matter what wave of people who left Babylon for Jerusalem , they all had great expectations.  That’s why Ezra was so sad, so appalled when he arrived in Jerusalem.   He did not see what he expected to see.  All the expectations of the exiles that left with Ezra came crashing to the ground because their brothers living in Jerusalem failed to put their God first.


God continues in verse 9 by telling the Jews what they brought home, he blew away.  It was God who was causing them to live from hand to mouth.  And He was blowing their prosperity away because of their neglect to take care of God’s things, the temple unparticular.


God once again points out that these Jews were busy with their own homes while His house “was in ruins.”   This is one of the most important messages to Christians in our day.  We’ve spent way too much time on our things and not the things of God.  Jesus said the same as God.  He told us to seek first His Kingdom, and if we did that all the rest would fall in place.  Now in context, Jesus wasn’t suggesting that we’d all be millionaires.  The early church was mostly poor but they were seeking God’s things first.  The “all things” that would come our way once we put God’s Kingdom first are the necessities of life.   These Jews were struggling over the necessities. 


It’s also important to understand what “seeking God’s kingdom first” really means.  It does not necessarily mean that you spend all your time, effort and money in your local church, that might not even be demonstrating kingdom principles. We need to see God’s temple today as people joined together in functioning relationships in the Body of Christ.  The organized church is not necessarily the same as the Body of  Christ these days.


In verse 10 and 11 we see because of Israel’s unfaithfulness to their God, He called for a draught to come on the land.  This is why they were living from hand to mouth.  It is thus clear that God does cause bad things to happen to His people.  We also know from Malachi and elsewhere that God causes bad things to come on nations of the world as well in the form of judgment.  Here in 2009 I believe many nations of the world are experiencing such judgment. I also believe that in many areas of the church God is judging as well.


In verse 12 we see both Zerubbabel, the civil leader of Israel, and Joshua the priest accepted the Word of the Lord that came from Haggai and led the whole Jewish community back to fearing their God.  Notice that the change first came to the Jewish leadership who in turn led the people into change.


In verses 13 and 14 we see that once Israel repented, God responded immediately and told them the He was with them, and He did more than that. He stirred the spirit of Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the rest of the people to do His will.  It is clear.  Once we repent and believe, God will stir our spirits.  We need to note that the Holy Spirit was not actually given to those in the Old Testament.  The Holy Spirit only came to live within God’s people at Pentecost and onward.  Nevertheless the principle is the same.  Repent, believe, and receive the Spirit, and have our spirit’s stirred to do the will of God. That’s why we receive the Spirit.  We don’t receive Him for the high that we might experience at times.  We receive Him in order to do God’s will.


Verse 15 tells us that this took place on the 24th day of the 6th month, of the second year of King Darius.  That’s our July 24th.


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