The prophets Haggai and Zechariah joined forced in 520 B.C. to encourage the rebuilding of the temple following Babylonian captivity. After the Persian king, Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem in 538 B.C., work on the foundation of the temple was completed by 536 B.C. But opposition arose, and no further progress was made until God intervenes with the prophets. Through their effective preaching, Zerubbabel (the governor) and Joshua (the high priest), were able to encourage the people to finish the second temple by 515 B.C. Once again, the Jewish people of God had a center of worship that bound them together as a people.
Haggai was among the Jewish colonist who returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14). The four messages, which the Lord gave Haggai were directed to specific people. The first was directed to Zerubbabel and Joshua (Hag. 1:1). The second was to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people (Hag. 2:2). The third was directed to the priests (Hag. 2:11). The fourth and final message was limited to Zerubbabel (Hag. 2:21).
A key phrase in Haggai is “consider” or “consider your ways” (Hag. 1:5, 7; 2:15, 18). The purpose was meant to awaken them to their spiritual responsibilities to God.
Throughout the book, Haggai reminds the people that the reason their lives are difficult, and they are never getting ahead is because God is punishing them (Hag. 1:6). They have allowed their own personal desires for success and comfort to replace their responsibilities (Hag. 1:3-4). They are so focused on their own homes and livelihood that they are neglecting God and as a result, He is blowing away any and all success (Hag. 1:9) they could have enjoyed. Within this important section, God uses the challenging phrase “and he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes” (Hag. 1:6). God point is clear! Get your priorities in line and He will bless them. But if they continue to refuse to take this seriously He will continue to strip them of all success and hold back everything good in their life.
As such, Haggai is a very practical book, much like “The Sermon on the Mount” or the book of James. It gets right to the heart of our service to God and reminds us that until we put Him first, we will never get ahead.
The best part of Haggai is not the strong words of rebuke, but the complete change experienced by the leaders and the people. The sting of Haggai’s words caused the people to repent of their lethargy and caused them to get back to God’s work (Hag. 1:14). Even though they had been suffering severely (because of their disobedience) with very little food and empty barns. God promises that, because of their repentance, He would bless them from this day forward (Hag. 2:19). Therein lies one the great lessons of Haggai. Obedience to God will always bring blessings, no matter how long it has been. God is gracious and kind; doing good to all who are faithful. The people’s willingness to put God first in their life and focus would bring material and spiritual blessings for them. Life would once again be filled with the blessings of God.
Just as God had been with the previous Joshua as he led the people into the promised land (Josh. 1:1), He promises that He would be with them as they worked (Hag. 1:13) to rebuild the temple. With the same words given to Joshua (Josh. 1:1-9), God encourages them of His presence as they strive to do His work.
Let me encourage you to give this little book a serious read and let the power of God’s word drive to get focused on Him, let it help you embrace His grace, mercy, and the promise that He will be with you and bless you.