Haggai In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” 3 Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with 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 feared the LORD. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.” 14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
2:1 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: 2 “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’”
10 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, 11 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: 12 ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” 13 Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” 14 Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. 15 Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the LORD, 16 how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. 17 I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD. 18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
20 The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”
Good morning, if you don’t know me, I’m Mike one of the elders here. We have had so many new people this summer that I know I haven’t been able to meet everyone. Pastor Dave and family are on vacation this week. Pray that they would have a restful, safe and joyous time on their road trip out west. We also wanted to provide more time for him to work on projects and tend to other duties without the weekly deadline of preaching. So he will have the next two weeks off from preaching in order to handle some other projects, catch up on meetings and have a rest from the regular grind of preaching. If you know Dave at all, you know what a gift he is to the church when he can really dive deep into a topic or project and produce something that we hope will benefit the church for the long term.
So that’s why I’ll be preaching the next three weeks. I wanted to preach through a book of the Bible but do it in three weeks. So that narrowed my options down a lot. Since we are working through Malachi in Sunday School, I thought about preaching that book, but it’s just too rich to force into three sermons. Our High Schoolers had studied Haggai this past spring, so it was fresh in my mind. So I landed on Haggai.
My hope is that despite it’s small stature-it’s fewer verses than John chapter 9-we will see how glorious this book truly is. And even as we try to squeeze as much as we can out of these 2 chapters, know that we will still be leaving plenty in the ground that you will have to mine later. So read the book, you saw how quickly you can get through it in a sitting. And let’s see what the LORD would be pleased to do through our quick journey through Haggai.
But first let’s ask the LORD for help to understand this text and apply it well to our lives, our families, our churches and our world. Would you pray with me?
Gracious Heavenly Father, you are the giver of good gifts. We praise your goodness. We praise you for your plan of salvation and that we see more of its unfolding than even the prophets and angels. We thank you for your Word. We thank you for all of it. So this morning and the next few weeks, I ask that you would bless our time in Haggai. May it be filled with glory, may it point us to Christ. May it motivate us to seek you and your kingdom. Your Word can do so many things at the same time, I ask that through your Spirit it would comfort, convict, encourage us and glorify you.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Haggai. It’s that book you probably fly through in one sitting in your Bible reading plan. It’s that one you mix up with other minor prophets like Hosea and Habakkuk. I know I’ve read it, but I don’t really remember what it’s about. Well our hope this month is that we would know what it’s about. We would slow down and sit in the small book and squeeze more out.
We will look at the background of Haggai and chapter one this morning. Then we’ll break up chapter 2 over the next two weeks. The big idea of Haggai is maybe best summarized in 2:9: The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’”
We will expand on this idea over the course of the book, but for today, let’s begin with chapter 1.
The big idea in this chapter is that seeking God’s priorities and presence brings blessing. The returning remnant has neglected their covenantal priorities, so the LORD calls them to consider their ways. They experience drought and futility because they have neglected the right priorities, focusing on their own houses while the temple lay in ruins.
The first verse gives us a chance to expand on the background of the book and help set the context for the book. Anytime we open a book of scripture, we must first understand the original context to understand what the author meant to say to the original audience. So that’s where we’ll begin. What’s the situation Israel finds herself in? What are the most important things to the people? What are the most important things to God?
The outline of the chapter has the LORD speaking through Haggai to call the people to evaluate their priorities. So the LORD calls them to repentance in the first half of the chapter and then we see how they respond to the prophecy in the second half of the chapter.
Before we get too far in the book, we need to get our bearings. Haggai occurs during the time known as the Post-exilic era. It’s a part of the Bible that we aren’t as familiar with compared to the Pentateuch or Samuel and Kings. So I want to take a little deeper dive into the background for Haggai and the postexilic age. Understanding the background is crucial to understanding what Haggai is speaking about and why that matters.
To get the background we have to go back in redemptive history. Back to Exodus. When God rescued his people from slavery in Egypt, God made a covenant with them. He promised land to them. He promised that they would be a blessing to the nations. And He promised to be their God and dwell in their presence. This was something God had done in the garden with Adam. He had made other ways to dwell with the patriarchs, and now he would provide the tabernacle for the people to meet with the LORD. But you don’t casually walk up to a holy God who is a consuming fire. There were stipulations and commandments. They needed to go through the high priest. And he would offer sacrifices before the LORD. And the tabernacle was where this took place.
Further, if the people were to represent this glorious God, they needed to be holy as well. So God gave them commandments and statutes and rules for how to live and remain in God’s presence. They were to look and act differently than the surrounding nations.
And if the people obeyed, they would be blessed. They would have prosperity and peace. And if they disobeyed, they’d be cursed. There would be famine and war. And one of the most significant curses was to be removed from the land and taken into exile. The people were warned before they even took the promised land.
When they did conquer the land, the LORD commissioned them to build a permanent temple. And the LORD was pleased to dwell there, accept their sacrifices and offerings, and observe the festivals like Passover and the feast of booths.
Then they were continually warned by prophets about violating the covenant. And then this prophecy about exile was fulfilled. God sent the Babylonians to invade and conquer Israel. They took away all the holy vessels, destroyed the temple, and took away the people. This was done during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. Now Israel had no way of dwelling in God’s presence. They had no way to offer sacrifices or keep the feasts. Had God abandoned them forever?
Over time, Babylon was conquered by the Persian empire. And it was during this time, after 70 years in exile, that Israel was allowed to return to the land. We’re not quite to the time of Haggai, but we’re almost there. Here’s a few more pieces to keep in mind. A lot of this background is found in Ezra, so I’m going to use that for a more thorough summary of Haggai’s world.
Chapter 1 of Ezra has Cyrus as king of Persia. And he gives this interesting commission: v2
Cyrus grants the Israelites to return to the land and rebuild the temple. He sends them back and even finances this work. So the Israelites do return. And they do begin rebuilding. First, they rebuild the altar, which is important to at least begin offering sacrifices to the LORD. Then they set to work on the foundation of the temple. Ezra 3:10-11
So far so good. They are rebuilding, offering sacrifices and even observing the feast of booths. But then the Israelites get resistance from the Samaritans. Without getting into too much detail, the rebuilding stops. The people were threatened and even bribed to stop working. And then the King Artaxerxes orders the work to cease. Ezra 4:23-24. We don’t know the exact time between the building under Cyrus and how long it took before the rebuild under Darius, but it was probably at least 10-12 years.
This brings us to the begging of the book of Haggai. So let’s return there and pick up in verse 1.
Let me note a few additional pieces of background through looking at these characters. Darius is now the king of Persia.
While Darius is favorable to Israel and the rebuilding efforts, things are still not great for Israel. They are now an occupied nation, under Persian rule. In addition to Haggai, Zerubbabel and Joshua are mentioned. These are significant characters in Haggai as well and we’ll have more to say about them in future weeks. For now, just know that Zerubbabel was in the line of Judah, he’s actually in the line of Christ in Matthew’s genealogy. But he’s not a king. Zerubbabel is merely the governor of a territory. Israel has a kingly line, but no king. And Joshua is a high priest in the line of Aaron. But he has no temple to minister within. Things are not as bleak as exile, but they aren’t the glorious and prospering nation described in Deuteronomy or Ezekiel.
It’s at this point that we can look at what Haggai the prophet says. Verse 2.
Consider your ways
The people are not rebuilding the house of the LORD because they say it’s not time yet. Remember, it’s been at least a decade since the rebuilding ceased. But then Haggai flips that thought in verse 4 by rhetorically asking, is it time for you to build your own houses? You can’t build the Lord’s House, but you have time for your own? The idea of paneled houses shows that they weren’t’ merely functional houses, but were fancy houses. They were paneled with cedar. Meanwhile the Lord’s house has a foundation, but no further progress. We’ve all seen abandoned construction sites. After a decade of neglect, you can image the picture. Weeds, rubble, maybe animals have overrun the site.
Notice that the LORD isn’t condemning building nice houses. He’s condemning their priorities. They’ve neglected the LORD’s house, which was supposed to serve as the center of their world. It was where worship happened, feasts were held and sacrifices offered. And where God promised to dwell. And now, in their reluctance to rebuild, have occupied their time with their own houses.
Verse 5 continues with this key phrase, ‘Consider your ways’. It’s used 5 times in the book and it is a repeated call for the people to think and live intentionally. Another way that the Bible says the same thing is ‘take heart Israel’. This is more than a mere intellectual exercise. It requires a deeper heart commitment to properly prioritize our lives.
Our lives and families can fall into similar ruin and disrepair that Israel experienced. If we don’t carefully and continually take heart and consider God’s priorities we will end up drifting into other areas. Have you ever vacationed at the ocean? You are playing in the waves and it doesn’t feel like you are moving, but after awhile of splashing in the water you look back at shore and you are 50 feet away from your beach chair. That drift happens without much effort. If we don’t take the initiative to keep priorities the same as the Lord, we will easily drift.
Remember that Israel was forced to stop building by the Samaritans and the king. There might have been a mix of legitimate and illegitimate reasons to cease. It’s the same for us. There are lots of things in life that can throw us off course. Health issues, either short term or chronic. Unexpected bills get you behind budget. It can simply be a major life change like graduating from high school or college. And there are other times when it’s a slow drift. Maybe you accept a new job and on paper it looks like the longer commute or the extra hours will work out. Or adding another activity for the kids is only one more night. These all test our priorities. And like the Israelites, there is a mix of legitimate and illegitimate. You can’t help but deal with whatever curveballs life throws at you. But how do we keep the right priorities? What happens when your priorities get thrown off?
The answer is that we will struggle and flounder if we are going against the Lord’s priorities. Look at what Haggai lists in verse 6. It’s all the basics of life: food, drink, clothing, money. And for Israel, none of these things are going well. The food and drink are not satisfying and drying up. The clothing is insufficient. And the money they are earning is going into a purse and out the bottom. This is not a picture of flourishing. And they should and can serve as warning signs to check our priorities. Maybe we’re not starving or lacking warm clothes. Maybe it’s a lack of joy. Maybe it’s frustration that things don’t seem to be coming together. Maybe you don’t even recognize the drift you are in. But when we lack flourishing, when we lack the joy we’re meant to have in Jesus, let them serve as chance to examine yourself.
Israel is not flourishing because they have the wrong priorities and not living intentionally according to God’s purposes. That’s what got Israel sent into exile in the first place. And now they are repeating the errors of their fathers. There is often a reason why we are struggling, and that’s what Haggai is pointing out in this passage.
What an image Haggai gives us: putting money into bags with holes. Consider your ways, Grace. Our government is modeling for us what it means to put money into a bag with holes. It prints money, and spends beyond her means. Our banks loan far beyond what it has in reserve. It’s not sustainable. It’s theft. Our nation, like almost all nations, is putting money into a bag with holes and it hurts all of us. Our children will feel it even worse someday. We all feel the effects of inflation: our money doesn’t go as far as it used to. And while we can’t really affect things at that level, it serves as a warning sign for us. Because we are not immune from getting priorities off track. So consider your ways. Are you putting money into a bag with holes? Instead of budgeting well, do you put it on the card? Do you spend beyond what bring in? Have life events caused you to drift away from God’s priorities? Has it caused you to stop tithing and try to keep up?
I hope it’s clear that as a church we want to help in any ways we can. So if anyone is struggling financially we want to help. But it’s also important to recognize that if our priorities are wrong, short-term help won’t ultimately solve the problem.
Look at Israel. Apparently, they had enough resources to build their homes with cedar and they were still feeling the futility of it all. So Haggai continues in verse 7-11.
Again he calls the people to consider their ways. Here’s the solution to futility: go up and get wood to rebuild the temple. That’s the first step for Israel to match the LORD’s priorities.
And this is where we get more insight into God’s view of things. Why were the people struggling and floundering? Because God himself caused it. Look at verses 9 and 10. Their food and clothing shortages are the direct result of the LORD’s actions. We see that whatever meager harvest they wrought; the LORD blew the rest away. Why? One more time the people are reminded of their ignorance of the LORD’s house. So God shut up the heavens and brought a drought on the people. And once again we’re talking about the covenant. Disobey and God will curse, obey and God will bless. This is exactly what Deuteronomy 28 warned against:
38 You shall carry much seed into the field and shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it. 39 You shall plant vineyards and dress them, but you shall neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm shall eat them. 40 You shall have olive trees throughout all your territory, but you shall not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives shall drop off.
Not only was their food and drink not enough, but there was a greater significance to this drought. Grain, wine and oil were all necessary elements for offerings at the temple. Even if they desired to honor the LORD with offerings at the altar, the drought ensured that they would come up short. Their flourishing, like anyone else’s flourishing is dependent on the LORD.
So the call is to consider, repent, and rebuild. And the promise from Haggai is that the LORD will take pleasure in right sacrifice and right priorities. This was what the LORD said when he made a covenant with Israel in the wilderness. This is what he told Solomon at the dedication of the temple: (I Kings 9). ‘I have consecrated this house that you have built, by putting my name there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.’
When we seek the LORD and put him first, the LORD is pleased. Even more, he is glorified. And the LORD will remove curses and replace them with blessing.
The People’s Response
The LORD has challenged the people to consider their ways. They are floundering in their return to the land. How would the people respond? This moves us to the final part of chapter one. Led by the leaders Zerubbabel and Joshua, the people respond well. Verse 12 says they obeyed the voice of the LORD. Before they could obey, the first had to hear the voice of the LORD. This is the kind of language that is all over Deuteronomy: Hear and obey. This is the fundamental duty of man before God. This was Israel’s responsibility to fulfill their end of the covenant. And now, after being called to repent, the people do.
Here’s another little piece to the story. The people didn’t wait for another authority to give permission. Remember that the work on the temple stopped because of outside authorities telling them to stop. This time, they don’t wait for Darius or someone else to speak a decree. They begin work on the temple because of the LORD commanding them to resume. This is again found in the book of Ezra. Darius will make a decree supporting the continuation of the work, but under the leadership of Haggai, Zerubbabel and Joshua, the people feared the LORD above all.
It is tempted to rely on other voices and authorities to tell us what to do or give us permission to do something. But we must obey God’s voice alone. The authorities of our lives likely won’t tell you to seek God’s priorities and do them. But don’t wait. Fear the LORD and take action.
What is the result of their obedience? They receive blessing. In verse 13 Haggai confirms the Lord’s pleasure with Israel. It says, I am with you. God did not cast them off forever. The people violated the covenant countless times over their history, and this generation had neglected the covenant once again. And yet the LORD, through Haggai, pursued them. And then graciously restored them. He had never abandoned them.
This is the whole point of the temple, the whole point of redemption is that God would be with his people. That was the grand purpose all the way back at creation. And now Haggai tells the remnant that God is indeed with his people. Even before the temple is rebuilt. God calls them his people, but that hasn’t been the case throughout this chapter. Notice in Haggai’s first prophecy in verse 2. Haggai simply calls them ‘these people’. But now, as they fear the LORD and walk in obedience, the relationship has changed. Verse 12 says that the people obeyed the Lord, their God. And Haggai confirms that God is with them. Fellowship with the triune God is the greatest blessing. There are more blessings than that, but this is the foundational blessing.
God’s plan has always been to dwell with his people. It’s why he sent Immanuel-God with us. And because of Jesus, we don’t have to offer animal sacrifices. Christ became our sacrifice, once and for all. He grants us the kind of access to the Father that is greater than even the high priest had at the temple. Jesus became the greater, more glorious temple, who is now ascended to the Father. And in gathering in a local congregation, we ascend into the presence of Christ today.
For us in the New Covenant, we no longer gather at the temple. But the principle about gathering before the LORD does remain. Just as there was a unique and special manifestation of God’s presence at the temple, the same is true now when we gather on the LORD’s day. That’s why we gather this morning. We dwell in the presence of the triune God.
And This must be our priority, because it’s the LORD’s priority. Neglecting gathering with God’s people on the LORD’s day is not only risking curse, but it also misses out on true blessing. We sing, pray and hear the Word of God together. WE partake in communion with the God of the universe. So, you are here this morning and you get to experience all these blessings. Now commit to return next week and the next 50 weeks after. If you’re out of town, find a local church to worship at. This is not for my benefit, to make sure you attend weekly. This is for your benefit. This is pleasing to the Lord.
And the LORD didn’t stop there. Verse 14 says that he stirred up the spirit of the people and they went and worked on the temple. The people repented and got to work putting things right again. The spirit, another indicator of God’s presence was with the people, empowered the people to work.
Here’s another blessing from God. When we seek after His priorities, we will get help in the hard work of recalibrating. If you are trusting in Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit. Ask the Spirit to stir you up to good works.
Now it might sound as if this is all on man to obey, work and then God will bless us. And we do have a responsibility to uphold. But notice that God initiates everything in this chapter. The people are busy building paneled houses when he sends his prophet Haggai. The people would have kept right on in indifference without God speaking. Then even before they begin the work, God speaks again and says I am with you. And then he stirs up the people to work and receive blessing. All of this is because the LORD keeps his covenants to his people and even stirs the people up to keep their side.
Connecting it to us
So knowing that God is faithful to his covenant people, How do we get back on track if our priorities have drifted? That might seem overwhelming. You might have several areas of life out of order. Start with the biggest things first. For us it means committing to being here on Sunday mornings to worship in God’s presence. If you are not here on a weekly basis, why not?
Consider your ways. Where have you gotten off track? Are there areas you need to make changes? Have someone else help you evaluate your life. Pray and seek the Spirit to reveal the areas you are out of step.
Then repent. Turn away from your own ways and resume seeking God’s priorities. Christ has atoned for our sins, and is pleased to forgive when we have wandered off.
And then get to work. The remnant continued rebuilding the temple in order to dwell in the presence of God. They feared God and strove to keep his commandments. They worked hard to put the right priorities in place. And we should do the same. Beyond Sundays, begin looking at other areas of your life and consider if you and your family have the same priorities as the LORD.
That’s one example. The most important, but there are plenty of other ways we can get off track. But the process is the same: consider, repent, and get to work rebuilding. Here’s one other way the Bible talks about priorities. On the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells people no to be anxious. And then he gives the remedy: proper kingdom priorities.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
If you are struggling with food, drink, clothing and money, seek the kingdom and his righteousness. If life events have caused you to get off course, let Matthew 6 reorient you.
At the beginning of the chapter we found Israel in ruins. While they lived in nice houses, their priorities betrayed God’s priorities. But when they were called to consider their ways, by the grace of God they repented and worked to seek after the LORD’s priorities. And the call is the same for us today. Seek after the Lord Jesus Christ and orient our lives around His life. There are times when our routines and priorities will be challenged. They will get thrown off. And the call is to return to the LORD, seek his glory and presence and build for His kingdom. Amen.
As we turn to the Lord’s table now, we are reminded that we do have grain, wine and oil. We have not been cut off, we have not suffered drought. The LORD has provided the means to commune with Him today. Praise the LORD!