Haggai urged the remnant returning from exile to rebuild "The House of the Lord"
Practical and Pastoral Observations on the Book of Haggai (please read each chapter slowly and meditatively before reading observations below):
Introduction: Darius I became ruler of Persia in 522 BC and appointed Zerubbabel (v.12) governor of the Persian province of Judah in 520 BC. Haggai, the first prophetic voice following the exile, spoke to the governor and remnant who had returned to Jerusalem immediately after his appointment about the need to complete the rebuilding of the house of the Lord. Though cedar wood has been purchased from Lebanon previously (Ezra 3:7), the materials appear to have been used for the people's houses (v. 4) rather than the house of the Lord, for wood was again needed (v. 8).
Putting ourselves ahead of God has broad consequences: Haggai reminds us that God, rather than our own efforts, is the ultimate source of our success or economic provision. This truth brings us to a fork in the road regarding this realty:
God withholds blessing in response to direct disobedience (v.6, 9, 10). (example)
When we obey (v.12) God declares Himself to be with us (v.13), stirs up our spirit (v.14) and empower us to greater obedience.
Sermons are not simply to be heard, but the will of the Lord is to be discerned and obeyed. The remnant of Israel heard God's Word through Haggai, and 23 days later (cf. v.1 and 14) began work to restore the Temple. There is frequent disparagement of preaching or "sermonizing" and while some sermons are weak due to human factors, God's intention is that His Word through prophets and teachers be strong, compelling and that His people not so much "rate" the sermon or preacher as set their minds and heart to pursue whole-hearted obedience and response to God.
v.14: "So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel...and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and the came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God."
My Prayer: How precious are you Lord, to warn us when we go astray and are blind to the effects of doing so. Thank you Lord for your prophets who hear your voice and speak it, and for the work of your Spirit to stir us to draw near and obey. Help me Lord to miss nothing of Your Word, either to myself or that which I should speak to your people. May your Word bear fruit in me always.
The Work of Restoration: God is creator of all (Gen.1-2); and by His grace since the fall (Gen. 3) God has also continually been in the redemptive process of restoration to counteract our sin. Our disobedience hinders His gracious work of restoration but His restoration will come (v.9) and will be complete (Revelation 21-22).
Flow of Influence: Haggai points to an interesting and critical truth impacting the work of restoration. Cleanliness (sanctification) is not automatically transferred to those nearby (v.12), however but uncleaness is more easily transferred (v. 13). (We see an analogy in that fact that health is not automatically contagious, but disease can be.) Restoration to holiness cannot come from our sinful nature but from the Lord's grace which we must then protect from contamination by sin. For this reason, as Carol and I raised our children, we asked as they befriended those who didn't share our values, "Which way is influence flowing; are you influencing your friends towards the Lord or are they influencing you away from Him.?"
Responding to Discouragement: There are times of discouragement as when the harvest was small (Hag. 1:6,11) and the second temple emerged smaller and plainer than the first (v.3; Esra 3:8-13). Yet God speaks courage (v.4) in His presence (v.4-5) and hope for the wonders of His final restoration (v.6-9).
The promise to Zerubbabel of v.20-23 may have come to the ear of his Persian overseers resulting in his disappearance from the historical record. But the Word of God is sure and will be fulfilled in the consummation of God's purposes.
Pointing Ahead: The scope of much of this chapter points to a fulfilment at the second coming of Christ when a great shaking (v.6,22) will be followed by the nations worshipping the True Living God (v.7) and finding His peace (v.9).
My Prayer: How great and certain are your promises, Lord, and how great is our hope in You.