“Eighteen years had passed since Cyrus’s decree in 538 B.C. had allowed the Jews to return from exile to Jerusalem. Because they were busy building their own homes, the people still had not finished building God’s temple.
Haggai’s message was that the time had come to build the house of the Lord. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua and with Haggai’s prodding the temple was rebuilt during the years 520—515 B.C.
Haggai told the people that the glory of the temple they were building would be greater than that of the former temple, even though the building itself would be less to look at. This temple would be greater because God would fill this house with his glory.” Taken from the Introduction to Haggai, NIV Bible.
Haggai’s (and Zechariah’s) contribution in motivating the people to build the temple has been made mention of in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14. Haggai’s sermons were delivered sometime between August and November in 520 B.C. He preached to a small, struggling community of nearly 50,000 people who suffered poor harvests and partial crop failures. They were trying hard to make both ends meet; quite clearly a dispirited community. It was to such a people that Haggai preached his message. Haggai’s name means “my feast,” suggesting that he perhaps might have been born during a festive time.
The Call to Build (Chapter 1)
Some fifteen years had passed since the foundation stone of the temple was laid (Ezra 3:10). Then work had come to a standstill since enemies had opposed it. But now Haggai brings them God’s message. God told that the people were saying it was not yet time to build the Lord’s house. God asked, “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” (1:4). God asked the people to: “GIVE CAREFUL THOUGHT TO YOUR WAYS!” Then He described their plight: They had planted much but harvested little. They earned wages only to put them in a purse with holes in it! (see more in 1:5, 6).
God wanted them to start building the temple immediately. God said that national calamity (see 1:10 and 11) was a direct consequence of national disobedience. He said, “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” God Himself gave the answer: “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (1:9 NIV).
The leaders, priests and the people then obeyed the voice of the Lord and they feared Him. So God sent the message, “I am with you.” And they began the work on the temple in 24 days’ time since Haggai had preached to them.
The Greater Glory (Chapter 2)
In another 27 days’ time the next message came through the prophet Haggai. At that time work was progressing and the faint outline of the structure of the temple was taking shape. God wanted Haggai to ask the people, “Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory [destroyed in 586 B.C.]? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” (2:3 NIV). But God wanted them to be strong and not be discouraged. He wanted them to work because He was with them and His Spirit remained among them. He wanted them not to fear.
God then spoke to them saying that in a little while he was once again going to shake the heavens and the earth. Then the desired of all nations would come and that God would fill this temple with glory. He also added, “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of former house,” “And in this place I will grant peace.” (2:9).
Comment: “This is distinctly a Messianic vision. Haggai’s mind was on that Temple, which he was helping Zerubbabel to build. But his words were God’s words; and God’s mind, in a sense deeper perhaps than even Haggai himself realized, was on Another Temple, yet to be, of which Solomon’s Temple and Zerubbabel’s Temple were but dim pictures: the Church, built not of stones, but of Souls of the Redeemed. The Church, of Fadeless, Endless, Ineffable Glory, the Consummation of all God’s wondrous works, is the Temple of God, I Cor. 3:16—17; II Cor. 6:16: Eph. 2:21, of which Haggai, here dreamed.
`Shake the heavens and the earth,’ (6:7). Though this may have had immediate reference to political convulsions, it is quoted in Heb. 12:26 as the fading of earthly things in the dawn of Heaven’s Eternal Kingdom.
‘The desire of all nations,’ v.7 may refer to the Messiah. Or, more likely, as R V [Revised Version], “precious things of all nations,’ which would go into the construction of God’s House, that is, precious Souls saved by the Messiah.” — Halley’s Bible Handbook.
Blessings Promised (2:10—17)
Through a question and answer method, three months after the work on the Temple was started, Prophet Haggai convinced the people of their defilement and impurity. God said, “Whatever they do and whatever they offer there is defiled” (2:14). But now God wanted them to give careful thought to the condition as it was before one stone was laid on another in the Lord’s house. Till then all their labour was lost. God caused that to happen so that they would turn to Him, but that did not happen. But now they had begun to build the temple. So God said, “From this day on I will bless you” (2:19b).
Comment: “Priorities: Life is hard, with food and clothing in short supply, and prices soaring. Why? Because the people have their priorities wrong. Every man is wrapped up in his own selfish concerns. God is neglected. And so the very things man works for evade him. For all the good things of life are God’s to give or withhold. (Lion Bible Handbook)”
Haggai closes with a word of encouragement to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. He was promised that even though God was about to shake the heavens and the earth, Zerubbabel would be made like God’s signet ring, for he was chosen of God. Zerubbabel represented David’s family and through him is traced the kingly ancestry of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1:12).
“Zerubbabel ((his name means `Seed of Babylon’) was a descendant of King Jehoiakin, and was with the first party to return from the Exile in 537 B.C. He was the dependable sort: he both began the task of rebuilding the Temple and finished it. His special designation is `The signet ring’ (Haggai 2:20—23), an indication that as Governor he ruled on behalf of God.” Taken from The Bible in Outline published by Scripture Union.
Life Lessons from Haggai
This prophecy teaches us about priorities in life. God’s priorities should become our priorities. His priority is clearly stated in John 3:16. He is a sending God who sent His Son to save us. We should also hold missions central to our hearts, if at all we dream of holding dear to our hearts what is dear to God. Today, Christians are busy building their own kingdoms. But Jesus clearly said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV). To put it simply, GOD FIRST! From the day you put God first; from that day on God will bless you!