1. Introduction

The book of Haggai consists of two small chapters near the end of the Old Testament of the Bible. Despite being small in size, it contains material that is of significant relevance to all ages. One of the primary messages from this book is that God must be put first in the life of a believer. As well as that, it is shown that God is quite specific in his requirements and does not allow re-interpretation of them. Instead the encouraging warning is given to “consider your ways”.

2. Background to Haggai

The prophecies of Haggai were given during the time of the return of Israel from the Babylonian captivity in about 520BC. Israel had been a very strong nation around 1000BC, under the rule of the kings David and Solomon, but since that time had been in a decline. The Bible attributes this decline to their departure from following the ways of God correctly. Finally, at about 600BC, God declared that the nation was to be punished for their wickedness. He spoke this many times through his prophets. The prophet Jeremiah recorded this,

Jer 1:15.: For behold, I am calling All the families of the kingdoms of the north," says the LORD; "They shall come and each one set his throne At the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, Against all its walls all around, And against all the cities of Judah. 16. I will utter My judgments Against them concerning all their wickedness, Because they have forsaken Me, Burned incense to other gods, And worshiped the works of their own hands. NKJV

The punishment was that they were to be taken away in a captivity to the nation of Babylon, which is in the modern Iraq. This captivity, however, was to only last seventy years, as Jeremiah again recorded,

Jer 25:11.: 'And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. NKJV

At the conclusion of those seventy years, they were to again rebuild the nation of Israel. It was to be, however, a weaker nation than it was originally. In 539BC the Babylonian kingdom fell to the Persians, which opened the way for a return of the Israelites to their homeland. At that time a small number of captives returned, but they found it a difficult task.

The book of Haggai was set sixteen years after the first return of captives. This was before the reconstruction of the temple or the walls of Jerusalem. It was a time when the Israelites were strangers and pilgrims in their own land. The words given to Haggai urge the people to consider their ways and strengthen what they had.

The Structure of Haggai

There are four prophecies contained within Haggai. These divide the message as follows:

  1. Haggai 1:1-15: There is a call to “consider your ways” and rebuild the temple as a warning against working for self and neglecting God.
  2. Haggai 2:1-9: A promise of the temple to come is given to console the people who remembered the far greater glory of the previous temple.
  3. Haggai 2:10-19: An analogy of uncleanness is used to show that dedication to God must be complete.
  4. Haggai 2:20-23: A promise of the future overthrow of heathen.

History of the period

The following are some approximate dates of events of the time.

Desolation of the land for 70 years

During his ministry, Jeremiah gave two prophecies about the length of the Babylonian captivity. The first of these was in the 25th chapter.

Jer 25:11: And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.

This was a prophecy to say that the land would be desolate for seventy years. The date of this prophecy is set by the writings of Daniel,

Dan 9:1: In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, ... 2. ...I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.

Daniel understood the end of the 70 years of desolations to be in the first year of Darius. This would place the start of the period at about 590BC. This was the time of Nebuchadnezzar's third invasion of Jerusalem which led to the final downfall and destruction of the temple. The end of the period marks the rebuilding of temple at the time of Haggai. The period here is about the desolation of temple (cf the Dan 11:31 “the abomination that maketh desolate” which referred to the pollution of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes in 167BC).

The other prophecy regarding the length of the captivity was given in the 29th chapter of Jeremiah,

Jer 29:1: Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon; ...10...For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

This prophecy was specifically regarding the captivity, not the desolation. The captivity first started in 605BC when the first group of captives were taken off to Babylon. The seventy years from that time elapsed in 535BC which was when the Jews were starting to return under Cyrus of Persia.

--time period stuff inspired by the 1290 yeas in Revelation-- It can be difficult to deal with time periods that apply to more than one time interval. We are used to being able to solve problems by elimination. This means that given a time period, we first try to find that period in history and then fit the events around it. This is perfectly valid reasoning, but it does complicate matters if the time period has more than one start and end time. It is easier to apply the concept by considering the period to indicate the time between two processes and not two events. Consider the seventy years of captivity and desolations decreed by God on the people of Judah.

3. The Call to Rebuild (Haggai 1:2-5)

The prophecy of Haggai was given during the second year of the reign of Darius of Persia.

Haggai 1:1: In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, (saying,)

The prophecy opens with a condemnation of the people who had returned and were living in the land of Judah. The main issue of the first prophecy is the construction of the temple. This is raised in verse 2,

Haggai 1:2: Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built. 3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.

The central issue of this chapter is the rebuilding of the house of God. In these few verses, the people are condemned for not working on rebuilding the house of God. They appear to be content to be building and living in their own houses while the house of God is forsaken. They did have an excuse for their actions, however, as they said, “The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built.” To understand this excuse, it is necessary to look back into their recent history.

The Previous Attempt

Sixteen years earlier, these same governors had initiated the reconstruction of the temple and had laid the foundation:

Ezra 3:8: Now in the second year of their coming unto the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, began Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the remnant of their brethren .... to set forward the work of the house of the LORD.

At the time of the first return from exile, the people immediately started the work of rebuilding the temple. Unfortunately, by the time the foundation was laid, the neighbouring nations were frustrating the construction efforts, and then during the reign of Artaxerxes they were able to convince the Persian king to call a complete stop to the efforts. The opposition of their neighbours at the time halted the progress, and since then no more work had been done. Apart from the physical impediment to construction, this would also have had an effect on attitudes of the constructors.

It would have been very difficult for them, being enthusiastic with the best of intentions, but being frustrated by the heathen about them. Presumably, after this setback, the people saw that the seventy years of desolations was not fulfilled and they were content to wait. The real problem was that they waited longer than necessary before attempting to rebuild again. They had originally become disillusioned because they had been unable to do the work of God in rebuilding the temple. This disillusionment prevented them from beginning construction when the time was right.

There appears to be a common theme through scripture that enthusiasm needs to be sustained. On many occasions people have had to wait before their commitment is tested. It is often necessary to have a lasting enthusiasm that is strong enough to overcome delays and difficulties. One example of this is Abraham. He was offered the promises reasonably early in his life, but it wasn't until much later that he was given the son through which the promises would be carried out. Another example is in King David. After the initial anointing and then the defeat of Goliath, it was a long, hard struggle before he finally gained control of the throne of Israel. During the time he was being pursued by Saul, it would have been very tempting for him to give up the ways of God. Consider also the life of Joshua. In his youth he was given the dreams showing his future importance, but it was a long time after that before he saw success. In the meantime he had to endure slavery, imprisonment and the threat of death.

In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter was ready to cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, but shortly later he denied even any association with Jesus. The excitement of the original situation had provoked him to fight for Jesus regardless of the cost, but over the subsequent hours his temperament changed. By the morning he was no longer a fighter, but instead chose denial. Regardless of whether Peter was right in his actions or not, It shows that there is a tendency for enthusiasm to degrade with time.

The scriptures also show examples that apparently fruitless labour can have its rewards in the long term. Early in his association with Jesus, Simon was shown not to abandon the hope of success.

Luke 5:3: And he (Jesus) entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. 4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. 5 And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. 6 And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. ... 10. ... And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men.

After the fruitless night, Simon expected failure in the final fishing attempt. Despite this, he was rewarded in making the attempt.

Initiative

The criticism in this section of Haggai suggests that despite the earlier setback in building the Temple, the people should have tried again later without a direct commandment. God is a great rewarder of faithful initiative. At many times during his ministry, Jesus was greatly sought after to perform miracles. In many cases it was the people who had the faith to persevere who were rewarded.

Luke 5:17: And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. 18. And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him. 19. And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus. 20. And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee. ... 25. And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.

In order to obtain a cure for their patient, the four bearers had expend effort. Apart from the physical work involved, there was a lot of risk involved and only the hope of success. The owner of the house may not have been impressed with a new hole in the roof. Even after a successful entry, there was no guarantee of healing. Nevertheless, the faithful perseverance through adversity was rewarded.

In the time of Haggai, the people needed initiative in re-starting the temple construction. For this, they needed to know the time when construction was supposed to start. At the time of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, the Jews needed to know the time to leave the city. Some forty years earlier, Jesus told the people this.

Luke 21:20: And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. 21. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. 22. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 23. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. 24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.

In this case there is no suggestion of Angels appearing in Jerusalem to drag the faithful out before its destruction. Instead, they are given this warning and the sign for when it was to happen. The responsibility was placed entirely on the listener to watch for the signs. In modern times, believers have been given the Bible, and are expected to watch for signs and evidence.

In the light of these examples, it may appear to be an very daunting task to be sufficiently prepared. Fortunately God has not left the faithful without assistance. One example of direct assistance is in the Ethiopian eunuch.

Acts 8:26: And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28. Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.

The eunuch was not able to understand sufficient from the scriptures, but he did what he could in search of the truth. As a result he was rewarded by receiving the help he needed for a fuller understanding. If he had not searched, Philip would not have been sent to give him that assistance he needed. The lesson from this is that the work of God can become easier and more effectual than what would be expected objectively.

Life in Cieled Houses

The main argument that God uses against the peoples' actions in Haggai is the state of their own houses. He is quite specific about the advanced state of the houses. Being cieled (covered), they were not just tents but substantial dwellings. The difference between their attention to their own houses and to God's was an indicator of their level of commitment to God. In the sermon on the mount Jesus was very clear on priorities, where he said,

Matt 6:31: Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

On the positive side, this passage in Haggai suggests that success in personal pursuits should be used as motivation in working for God. The people should have seen the state of their own houses and realise that the temple could be rebuilt. It urges the hearer to look at previous achievements and work out how to apply these in service toward God.

Reasons for the Condemnation

There were three main reasons why the people were criticised.

  1. They were living in cieled houses while the temple was unbuilt. The problems they cited in working for God did not prevent them in their own work.
  2. They allowed an earlier setback to prevent them from doing the work once it could be done.
  3. They did not take the initiative to start building themselves, but waited for the commandment. Instead they were expected to know when the 70 years were finished.

4. The Penalty for Inaction (Haggai 1:6-15)

Haggai 1:6-9 describes the penalty the Jews suffered for not rebuilding the temple.

Haggai 1:6: Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands.

This passage shows that God inhibited the prosperity of the Jews that had returned to the land because they had not completed the temple. They had been given poor harvests and drought “because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.” Before considering the severity of the penalty, it is first worth considering the difficulties in proceeding with the construction.

Construction Difficulties

The reconstruction of the temple was a very hard job. As an indication, they had to first go up into the mountain to get the wood, before transporting and then building. However, the hardship was far more than just the work in the construction. The neighbouring nations were still opposed to the temple being built and could be expected to become militant when the construction resumed. Note that at this time they were still subject to a command from the Persian administration to stop construction. To defy the Persian command would be dangerous and was likely to jeapordise their freedom. When the construction did commence, Ezra shows that the governor was very quick to question their activities.

Ezra 5:1: Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. 2 Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them. 3 At the same time came to them Tatnai, governor on this side the river, and Shetharboznai, and their companions, and said thus unto them, Who hath commanded you to build this house, and to make up this wall? 4 Then said we unto them after this manner, What are the names of the men that make this building?

This provoked an inquiry, where the Jews stated their case.

Ezra 5:11: And thus they returned us answer, saying, We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and build the house that was builded these many years ago, which a great king of Israel builded and set up.

The positive response of the Persian authorities is given in the following chapter,

Ezra 6:7: Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God in his place.

Note that it wasn't until after the construction resumed that the king (Darius) of Persia gave permission for the activities. A the time when construction was recommenced, there was no indication that the result would be so pleasing. This is consistent with the remarks above concerning the Ethiopian eunuch. After the people did what they could, God was willing to give them the additional assistance they needed to make the project a success. They had to make the effort before they were rewarded.

Severity of the Punishment

The punishments mentioned in this chapter are quite severe. After having recently entered the land, they would still be in an establishment stage and probably quite subsistent on agriculture. Under these conditions drought conditions and poor harvest have a severe effect on livelihood. At first glance this punishment may appear unjust. Modern moralists may say that He should have warned them first and then given them the opportunity to change while giving them counselling to help them achieve it.

This incident, however, is consistent with God's principles in dealing with His people. The parable of the rich man and Lazarus shows that repeated warnings should not be necessary, and are likely to be ineffectual in shaping peoples' character.

Luke 16:19: There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

In the parable, after they die, the rich man talks to Abraham,

Luke 16:25: But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. ... 27. Then he (rich man) said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

This passage shows that God's people have to be aware of His previous commandments and be actively searching for an application of them in their lives. In Jesus' day they were expected to have seen the role of Jesus through the prophets. In the day of Haggai, they were expected to know that they had to rebuild the temple and that construction was to start as soon as the seventy years were complete. The penalty that they experienced had already been laid out in Deuteronomy,

Deut 11:13: And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 That I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil. 15 And I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full. 16 Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them; 17 And then the LORD'S wrath be kindled against you, and he shut up the heaven, that there be no rain, and that the land yield not her fruit; and lest ye perish quickly from off the good land which the LORD giveth you.

The punishment of the Jews at that time emphasises the importance of knowing the commandments and principles of God even if they don't seem relevant at the time. The Jews here would have been concerned with many other things and it could be easy to dismiss the temple until the time when they really did needed to know about it.

This passage is a good example of the overall purpose in God's punishment of His own people. The principle is set down earlier in Deuteronomy,

Deut 8:5: Thou shalt also consider in thine heart, that, as a man chasteneth his son, so the LORD thy God chasteneth thee. 6 Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.

This shows that the chastening is an aid in following the ways of God. The statement of this principle also contains a warning about prosperity,

Deut 8:11: Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: 12. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; ... 14. Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage;

While this warning was specific to the first time the Israelites entered the land, it is exactly what happened again after the return from the Babylonian captivity when they built their cieled houses.

The punishments of God are dealt with in detail in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. In this passage, the writer associates chastisement with the sonship of God.

Heb 12:5: 5. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

There is more to being a son of God than simply enjoying the benefits. It's not an easy road, the easy road is the broad way that leads to destruction. (Matt 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: ) The writer to the Hebrews then goes further to say that if we don't receive chastisement, there is something wrong.

Heb 12:7: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

So if you find life easy, then you are not a son of God nor an heir according to the promise. There are three states to be in,
  1. Faithfully working for God on his temple (physical or spiritual). This option requires the hard work of construction and the threat of opposition.
  2. One of God's people, but not actively working on the temple. This is what the Jews were doing in Haggai's time. People in this state should expect chastisement in their life to push them in the right way.
  3. Everyone else is heathen and a stranger to God.
The worst thing in life then is to have no hardship. The believer will have difficulties, and so must establish where the problems are coming from. If they are not directly caused by active work in the truth, they are a chastisement and a message from God to “consider your ways.”

This may make the sonship of God sound a difficult task, but the writer to the Hebrews continues, and puts it into perspective.

Heb 12:11: Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. 12 Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

As the Jews said in the time of Nehemiah, “rise up and build.”

If ever there was an example and inspiration to persevere with the work of God, it is in the life of His son, Jesus. The twelfth chapter opens with a reference to this.

Heb 12:1: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

consider troubles as a warning unfortunately the punishment does not appear to be directly linked to the crime. God is the controller of the heavens, so it could be assumed that it related to him, but what aspect did it point to? illusion of prosperity

The Importance of the Temple

Given the difficulties in the construction of the temple, it is worth considering just how important it was. There are a number of passages which show that God is far above needing a temple made with hands.

Acts 7:48: Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things?

On these grounds, it is quite easy to rationalise away the need for a temple. It could be said that the construction did not achieve much physically, but its construction would cause significant hardship. The observations made about the temple construction have been:

These aspects combined suggest that there was an importance to the temple beyond the purely physical. Looking closely at Haggai 1, one aspect is shown, “1:8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. ” In building the temple, the Jews would be glorifying God. The glory of God is an important concept, as Paul reminded the Corinthians,

1Co 10:31: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

In order for the glorification to occur a specific thing had to be done. While “wise” men could show that the temple was not really necessary for the livelihood of either God or man, this wisdom is folly with God. The Jews could have been doing everything else right --- obeying the commandments and offering the correct offerings but that was not enough, they had to meet the commands that God laid down.

God's requirements are quite specific and must be followed correctly. Some of them may appear unnecessary or unwarranted to the wisdom of man, but this is the folly of man, not of God. As an example, by modern political correctness, God could be degraded as being sexist, homophobic and potentially racist.

Many things that seem unreasonable only appear that way because of a restricted viewpoint. In the first century AD, meats offered to idols represented such a case. There was no logical reason why they couldn't eat meat that had been offered to idols, as idols mean nothing to the true believer. Paul agrees with this in his letter to the Corinthians,

1 Cor 10:27: If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and ye be disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake. 28 But if any man say unto you, This is offered in sacrifice unto idols, eat not for his sake that shewed it, and for conscience sake: for the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof:

He says here that sometimes meats offered to idols should not be eaten despite the logic. In this case the reason is obvious (causing others to stumble), but in other cases the underlying reason may not be obvious to human reasoning. For this reason we have to faithfully obey the commandments and principles of God regardless of whatever logic we may have to dilute them with.

Many modern Christians subscribe to the theory that “it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you are good”. This is tantamount to living a good life, but ignoring the temple completely. They are not glorifying God and hence not doing His will.

The next step is to learn and accept God's ways and principles. The preaching of these principles to other people then constitutes the building of the temple of God. This glorifies Him and builds up the spiritual temple.

There was, however, more to the temple than just the construction. Consider this part of the specification of the original tabernacle,

Ex 27:18: The length of the court shall be an hundred cubits, and the breadth fifty every where, and the height five cubits of fine twined linen, and their sockets of brass.

Not only was the temple to be built, but it had to be to a certain design. Similarly, the offerings that were to be offered were specific. The rejection of Cain's offering shows that this has been true from the very beginning. “Gen 4:3 ... Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD ... 5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” By analogy the principles and doctrines that support the spiritual temple must be specific. There is no room for deviation, ambivilance or dilution of these principles. As Paul said to the the Galatians,

Gal 1:9: As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Consider Your Ways

The Hebrew phrase that is translated “consider” in Haggai is quite rare in the scripture. It is “suwm (soom) lebab (lay-bawb')”, which means “to set/make” your “heart / determination / thinking” but with emphasis is if a command under fear. Apart from Haggai, the closest usage of this phrase is in Deuteronomy where Moses, at the end of his life, urges the people of Israel to consider the words of the law.

Deut 32:45: And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel: 46 And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law. 47 For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.

The length of time between the two writings indicates that the quotation of the same phrase is more than just a linguistic coincidence. It is as though Haggai is referring back to this passage to remind the people where they came from and the hope they could have. Those words in Deuteronomy were meant for the Israelites when they first came into the land. The motivation for the contents of Deuteronomy 32 is given in the previous chapter:

Deut 31:19: Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel. 20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant. 21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.

The warning under Joshua the son of Nun was just as applicable under Joshua the son of Josedech. (the high priest during the return). Similarly, the life of Joshua the son of God was a message to “consider your ways.”

Note: Joshua the Son of God is the man we know as Jesus. Jesus is the English translation of the Greek translation of his original Hebrew name. The Hebrew name is usually directly translated as Joshua, as in the Son of Nun. Just as people have ignored the warnings from the Johsuas of old, so it is possible to ignore the message of Jesus.

Response to the Call (Ch1:12-15)

Haggai 1:12: Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD. 13 Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. 14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.

While the peoples' hearts had not been perfect, within three weeks of the original prophecy they had obeyed the voice of God and considered their ways. In response to this, God added to their strength to assure them of success.

Conclusion

Four principle lessons from Haggai 1 are: