Today we are going to be reading through the ENTIRE book of Haggai.
Now, don’t freak out since it’s a really short book.
A quick history recap to help us understand Haggai’s message:
The people of Israel had been united under King David, but after David’s son Solomon died, the country split into Israel (North) and Judah (South).
Israel strayed almost immediately from God, and around 720 BCE were taken over by the Assyrians and disappeared from history.
Judah, on the other hand, had the occasional kings that would bring about reform to the country and appease God’s wrath.
At least for a while.
Because around 590 BCE, Judah is taken over by the Babylonians and the temple in Jerusalem in destroyed.
Thus begins the Exile.
The people of God were living in Babylon, far away from their homes and mourning their homeland.
But all was not lost.
Prophets were sent to them in Exile with messages of hope (like Ezekiel 37:1-14 – dry bones coming back to life).
And as they turned back to God for help, God answered in the form of Cyrus (king of Persia) who let them go home to Judah and Jerusalem.
So we pick up our story with the return to Judah.
And as anyone who leaves home for an extended period of time (years or decades) will tell you, it’s nice to go back and yet struggles exist.
The people of God are home and yet face issues of what it means to be back from exile.
The people are home and have taken up residence in buildings.
But God doesn’t have a building to call home.
God’s home had not only been destroyed (ransacked) but also desecrated, which means every imaginable unclean activity and object was brought in.
The message includes a comment that the heavens withhold dew (no rain) and the earth withholds produce (no crop). Only God has that power to stop the heavens and earth from providing, and he does so until he gets a new temple built.
Why would God be upset if his people have shelter but he doesn’t have a building?
Think of the history of immigrants to the USA. How many of them build crude shelter for themselves then immediately built a place to worship?
The remnant (which is the portion that survived the fall of Judah and the Exile) follows their leaders and begins to build God’s temple.
Haggai brings a specific message as the building begins: I am with you.
For a people who had felt abandoned and forgotten during exile, this would be a word of comfort.
But also, this is a great promise from God as they begin again in Jerusalem: I am with you.
Can you imagine the emotions they were feeling as they begin to rebuild with the promise giving strength and hope?
The current House of God is not much to look at in comparison to it’s former glory.
Solomon had built a House adorned and stocked with treasure; the exiles had nothing fancy to contribute.
Not only does God promise that the rains will come and food will once again be abundant, but also that treasure will be brought since all belongs to God anyway.
Have you ever seen a church be destroyed only to be built with more beauty and riches than the original building? Why would God help the people to make the new even more spectacular?
This is a message that does two things:
1. Reminds people that God has the power to punish those who do not follow God (living in unclean ways).
2. Promises abundance now that the temple has its foundation
Zerubbabel rules over Judah and the message for him is simple: I have chosen you and other nations will fall.
Being chosen and given the signet ring lets Zerubbabel know that God will be with the leadership once again.
And when God is in favor of the Kings of Israel or Judah, good things happen to the people.
Once again, God shows favor on his chosen people.
Haggai is a short book.
As a summary, what is the overall message you heard God speak to God’s people?
What do you hear in this book that applies to life today?