Commitment

Explore the Bile Series

July 8, 2007

 

Background Passage: Haggai 1:1-2:23

Lesson Passage: Haggai 1:7-9, 12-15; 2:15-19

 

Introduction: God sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to challenge the backslidden conditions of Post-Exilic Judah in the late Sixth Century B.C.  As we shall see, the exiles had returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple (under the leadership of Zerubbabel and, later, Ezra) and the city walls (under the leadership of Nehemiah).  Sadly, after an initial period of energetic progress, work on the Temple had come to a standstill.  Two factors contributed to this unfortunate situation. First, the builders met with significant, threatening opposition to the work.  Samaritan and Persian government officials, led by the ungodly Rehum and Shimshai, vigorously resisted rebuilding the city of Jerusalem, and their opposition resulted in sinister schemes and violent threats (See Ezra 4).  The Jews, apprehensive of their powerful opponents, discontinued the work because they feared these adversaries.  Second, affluence seduced the Jews into spiritual indifference, and, while they lived in paneled houses, reconstruction on God’s house languished.  Haggai and Zechariah addressed this disgraceful circumstance and urged the people to renew their commitment to serve the Lord.

 

Authorship: We know little personal information about the prophet Haggai.  His name, which means “festal”, indicates that he may have been born during a season of religious celebration, perhaps during one of the feast celebrations of the Jewish calendar.  It seems reasonable to surmise that Haggai, born in Babylon, returned with the 50,000 exiles during the reign of Cyrus (c. 538 B.C.).  The prophet began his work during the second year of the reign of Persian King Darius (c. 520 B.C.).

 

Date: After early progress on Temple renovation the work had discontinued, and the Jews abandoned their work, devoting themselves to creating comfortable lives for themselves.  Haggai was a contemporary of Zechariah and predated Ezra and Nehemiah by about seventy-five or eighty years. The book takes great pains to date the prophetic oracles of Haggai, and it is interesting that the prophet used secular, Gentile time markers to date these oracles.

 

Organization and Message:  Though this is one of the shortest books in the Bible, the Prophecy of Haggai provides a storehouse of valuable information and instruction.  The book falls into four, clearly-identifiable sections. Haggai delivered these messages in a four month period, 520-519 B.C., and the oracles were intended to correct and encourage a religiously distracted people. For almost two decades the work on the Temple had remained incomplete.  The people had not fallen into willful, outward rebellion against God; rather, they had lapsed into cold, negligent, indifference.  They lacked moral courage and steadfast determination to complete the task assigned to them by the Lord.  Thankfully, the people listened to the prophet’s message, and they completed the Temple within a few years.

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   The First Address: The Command to Reconstruct the Temple (1:1-15)

A.    Introduction (v. 1): Haggai had a sense of the historical significance of his work, and he took great pains to date his messages.  The prophet addressed this oracle to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel and Joshua. 

B.     The invalid excuses of the people (vv. 2-6): The Jews contented themselves that they had viable reasons why they had not rebuilt the Temple. They had the best of intentions, but the timing, as they reasoned, was not right.  Waiting upon the Lord is a vital part of Christian character, but these people, eighteen years before, had a clear directive from the Lord. Haggai uncovered the real reason for the indolence of the people (See v. 4). They lived in the relative luxury of finely crafted homes while the Temple remained in ruin.  As a result of the misuse of their affluence the Lord had removed his blessing from their lives. 

C.     God’s instructions for his indolent people (vv. 7-11): If the Jews wanted the Lord to reverse this state of affairs then they needed to gather their building materials and get back to work. 

D.    The repentance of God’s people (vv. 12-15): Zerubbabel and Joshua immediately organized the people to resume the Temple construction.  Haggai’s message alerted the Jews to their duty, but God stirred the hearts of the people to get back to work (See v. 13).

 

II.                The Second Address: The Latter Glory of the Temple Greater than the Former (2:1-9)

A.    The Lord’s commands:  Haggai addressed this oracle to a broader audience than the first message.  This time, in addition to the religious leaders, the prophet spoke to all of the people (See v. 2).  Jehovah issued a series of commands to rekindle the Jews’ resolve to reconstruct the Temple.

1.      “be strong”: Notice the three-fold repetition of this injunction. God called them to resolute steadfastness to overcome their reluctance to complete the work.

2.      “work”: Their strength would be manifested in their willingness to work hard.  Kingdom-building always stirs men to work hard.

3.      “fear not”: Fear of the Samaritans had engendered the failure of the people to complete their task. 

B.     The Lord’s promises

1.      “for I am with you”: Jehovah had not forgotten his covenant, and he pleaded his presence and power to those who would labor faithfully.  The fullness of this promise culminated in Jesus, Emmanuel, “God with us.”

2.      “I will shake the nations”: The Jews, at this time, seemed weak and desperate; yet, the Lord promised that he would shake the nations and fill the temple with glory, a glory that would outshine the splendor of Solomon’s Temple.  The riches of the courts of heaven belong to the Lord, and he would pour out his riches on his faithful, obedient children.

3.      “I will give peace”: This promise certainly pertains to military and political security, but it must also include spiritual peace that comes to the Lord’s elect. 

 

III.             The Third Address: God’s Promise of Blessing (2:10-19)

A.    Haggai’s address to the priests (vv. 10-12): The prophet again addressed the leaders of Judah, in particular, the priests.  They, above everyone, should have understood the Lord’s message about spiritual purity. 

B.     The principle of moral cleanness (vv. 13-18): The Law of Moses explained the serious consequences of moral corruption.  The people, as long as they remained morally unclean, could never expect the blessing of the Lord.  Their present circumstances indicated that God’s hand of blessing did not rest on his defiled people.  

C.     The Lord’s promise to bless the faithful (v. 19b): This oracle concludes with a wonderful promise, from this day forward, God would bless the Jews of Jerusalem.  This blessing, of course, issued not from the merit of the people but from the grace of the Lord.  This promise certainly centers on the coming of the Lord Jesus.

 

 

IV.             The Fourth Address: Haggai addressed this oracle to Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel and governor of Judah. This man was a descendant of King David, and the Lord, in this section, promised to reestablish the royal Davidic line.  The kingdoms of the earth could not resist the power of God’s Chosen One (reminiscent of Psalm Two). Again, the promises of this section point forward to the coming of the Son of David (See Matthew 1:1).