J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
Haggai is the first in order of the Minor Prophets after the captivity. The deportation of the people into captivity was in three stages that extended over a number of years. The restoration to their homeland was similarly in three separate phases. The tone of ministry given by the “prophets of the restoration” met the need of the people as seen in the historical records of Ezra and Nehemiah. Haggai and Zechariah gave ministry to incite the immediate re-building of the Temple, restoring the Mosaic institutions and unfolding the great future of the nation.
Haggai means “festive” or “feast of Jehovah”. Probably he was born on a feast day, and the name may have been given in joyous anticipation of the imminent end of the captivity. Certainly he was commissioned to encourage his people in order that they might enjoy a feast. The people needed encouragement for they went back to a devastated land, to a desolate city, and to a temple in ruins. His call to the prophetic office is assigned by himself to the second year of Darius, i.e. B.C. 520. His mission was to urge the people to complete the restoration of the temple without delay. The ministry of the prophet was effective and the people energetically responded to the challenge.
The historical setting of this book is found in Ezra chapters 1 to 6 and especially chapters 5 and 6. His prophecies are clearly marked but dating by referring to the reign of a Gentile monarch indicates that the power had been handed over from Israel to the Gentiles for the time being. He delivered five distinct messages in the space of four months, from September to December 520 b.c.
Style and Purpose.
His ministry was methodical, his theme being developed at each stage of the work. His presentation is somewhat rhetorical, as his fondness for searching questions indicates. The messages were brief, plain, curt and businesslike, good practical ministry which was attended with immediate success. The work of rebuilding the temple had been arrested by the Samaritans and the new ruler, Ezra, 4. 7-23. For fifteen years God’s house was totally neglected. In view of this neglect, God raised up two prophets through whom He might speak to His people, Haggai and Zechariah. Exhortation and encouragement marked the ministry of these servants and should be a feature of ministry today, 1 Cor. 10. 11. The internal evidence that Haggai was speaking Jehovah’s message is beyond dispute, Hag. 1. 13. Five times in the 38 verses he tells us - “The word of Jehovah came”; nine times “Thus saith”, or “saith Jehovah of hosts”; this latter title he uses 14 times and “Jehovah” 19 times.
This is firstly a word of exhortation to those who were neglectful of their responsibility, who were allowing the material to shut out the spiritual. Secondly, a word of encouragement to those who, while doing the work, were being discouraged by those who should have helped them. The prophet aimed at stability and tranquility in the lives of the people, and he realised that those lofty ends were bound up with completing the building of the temple and commencing and continuing to give God His portion in its regular and scriptural system of worship. “Be strong”, be courageous, do the Lord’s work in His way at His time, by His spirit and to His glory, he pleads.
Consider Haggai with this outline before you.
- A CHALLENGING MESSAGE OF REBUKE, 1. 1-11.
- The Date and the Event, 1.
- The Challenge of God, “This people say”; a contrast of houses, thought, works, 2-4.
- The Call to Consideration, 5-6; scarcity, hunger, thirst.
- The Counsel of God, 7-8; consider, climb, construct.
- The Cause of God, 9-11; why, because, therefore.
- A COMFORTING MESSAGE ON THEIR REVIVAL, 1. 12-15.
- The result of the first message. Recognition, “obeyed” 12a; Reverence, they “did fear”, 12b; Response, “did work” 14b; Resource, “I am with you”, 13; the date, 15.
- A CHEERING MESSAGE OF RE-ENCOURAGEMENT, 2. 1-9.
- The Depression of the People, 1-3.
- The Declaration of the Lord, 4-5; be courageous, industrious and inspired, 4.
- The Demonstration of His Power, 6-9; His Power, 6; His Provision, 8; His Purpose, 7; His Pleasure, “I will fill”, 7.
- A CORRECTIVE MESSAGE ON RESPONSIBILITY, 2. 10-19.
- Their Impurity, 11-13, an Appeal to the law.
- Their Impatience, 14-19, an Application of the law. Holiness is not contagious but uncleanness is; “So is this people”, “so is every work of their hands”, 14.
- Their Inspiration, 19b; an Announcement of grace.
- A CONFIRMING MESSAGE OF REWARD, 2. 20-23.
- The Event and Date, v. 20. A word of encouragement, v. 23.
- The Divine Plan, “I will shake the heavens and the earth”, 21.
- The Divine Purpose, “I will overthrow . . . destroy”, 22; a destructive end and the overthrow of enemies.
- The Divine Promise is Constructive, 23. There will be universal subjugation, 22; but for this servant personal preservation, 23.
Summary of Messages.
These five messages are a little Pentateuch and some of the teaching of each book will be found in the corresponding message.
- God’s call to repentance - for the conscience.
- God’s call to diligence - for the will.
- God’s call to endurance - to the spirit.
- God’s call to obedience - for the mind.
- God’s call of assurance - for the heart.
For your meditation.
- What do the phrases mean to you, “Thus saith the Lord”, “the word of the Lord”? Trace all references to the Lord speaking in this book.
- Why is the title “Lord of hosts” used so often in Haggai and Zechariah?
- Study all the questions asked by Jehovah.
- Feast on the “I wills” of encouragement.
- The words of Jehovah in chapter one are: condemning, 2; challenging, 4; considerate, 5; commanding, 8; cheering, 8; chiding, 9; commendable, 12; and comforting, 13.
Spiritual Application of the Book.
The temple of God is used metaphorically in a three-fold way in the New Testament.
- Of the church in its aggregate, age-long character, a holy temple, a building, Eph. 2. 21, composed of living stones, 1 Pet. 2. 5. Christ is building His church and through the evangelist is adding living stone to living stone in that structure of which He is the Chief Corner Stone.
- Of the local assembly, 1 Cor. 3. 17. Each believer as well as full-time servants of God are responsible to build into this temple gold, silver and precious stones, always serving in the light of the judgment seat of Christ and for the lasting upbuilding of the local company of believers.
- Of the believer’s own body which is the temple of the Holy Ghost, 1 Cor. 6. 19. In our bodies we should glorify God by holy living. Are we failing in these three aspects; does the temple lie waste? Are we too busy with our own things to honour God in spiritual matters? Put God first in life, Matt. 6. 33; and in service, 1 Cor. 15. 58.