Pressures, demands, expectations, and tasks push in from all sides and assault our schedules. Do this! Be there! Finish that! Call them! It seems as though everyone wants something from us—family, friends, employer, school, church, clubs. Soon there is little left to give, as we run out of energy and time. We find ourselves rushing through life, attending to the necessary, the immediate, the urgent. The important is all too often left in the dust. Our problem is not the volume of demands or the lack of scheduling skills, but values – what is truly important to us.
Our values and priorities are reflected in how we use our resources – time, money, strength and talent. Often our actions speak louder than our words. We say God is number 1, but then we relegate Him to a lesser number on our “to do list.” Does the urgent trump the important in our lives? Absolutely!
Twenty-five centuries ago, many prophets called men and women to the right priorities to restore relationship with the God of Israel. This month we will focus on three prophets that had similar yet unique messages to the Jews that had returned to Jerusalem: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Let me set the stage for when and where these men were carrying out God’s word for His people.
In 586 BC, the armies of Babylon destroyed the temple in Jerusalem – God’s house, the symbol of His presence with them. In 538, King Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to their beloved city and rebuild the temple. A group of them traveled to Jerusalem from Babylon and began the work. But they forgot their purpose and lost their priorities, as opposition and apathy brought the work to a standstill (Ezra 4:4,5). For over 15 years the temple sat neglected. Then in 520 BC, Haggai and Zechariah received divine appointments from the Lord.
“…in the 2nd year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet…” ~Haggai 1:1
“In the eighth month, in the 2nd year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah…” ~Zechariah 1:1
Malachi’s ministry likely occurred several years later as there are references to the completed temple which was not yet finished in 520 B.C. His ministry is also closely tied to other minor prophets of Ezra and Nehemiah since their messages to the Jews were similar.
As we read we will encounter specific details and instructions, bizarre visions, and prophetic passages pointing to salvation through the coming Messiah. Different styles of writing are employed and a variety of emphasis applied by the authors based on their experience and what their observations were. From a high-level, 30,000 foot view, the prophets observed Jews who had become comfortable in their lives, focused on personal priorities over God’s priorities resulting in religious malaise, spiritual amnesia, relational discord, and broken fellowship with God. Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi through divine inspiration offer a “wake-up call” to the Jews.
Here are some of the mega-themes to watch for this month:
- Rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem
- Restoration of relationship with God
- Repentance & guarding hearts from sin
- Re-orienting our worship
- Reality & Hope of the Messiah who is Coming
Are you in need of a wake-up call today? Are you feeling empty, lost, overwhelmed, ineffective or dry in your calling, your relationships, your faith, your worship? Maybe you don’t even know Who is this Messiah I have mentioned and why did He need to come? Or are you one who has made a profession to be a committed Christian yet you are lukewarm in your practice — having grown comfortable with the status quo, distracted by your busyness or technology, perhaps even paralyzed by the thoughts that you aren’t smart enough, talented, or eloquent, or strong enough to be a zealous Christian? Or are you one of the truly zealous Christians on fire for the Lord in the big and small things of life? Maybe you struggle with God as the Sovereign ruler of the universe, controlling every detail — including the hurricanes, mass-shootings, and political upheaval. Or maybe you doubt your identity as a beloved child of God. Whatever you are struggling with or on fire for — all of God’s Word is TRUE and useful for teaching and training us in righteousness (1 Timothy 3:16).
Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi all desired the Jews to rebuild the temple, to restore their relationship with God, to repent of sin, and to re-orient their worship because the Messiah is coming. After the reality and beauty of Jesus coming and dying for all mankind on the Cross, we too must heed these ancient convicting words. May this prayer be one we pray throughout the month.
Lord, open my eyes and break my heart over my own sin of misplaced priorities, of being too distracted with the mundane, or my need to control my agenda and my time. Keep me sensitive to Your overwhelming opportunities in my path each day. Make me aware of the people in my spheres of influence — in my home, in my neighborhood, my kids’ schools or universities, the needs in my city, and activities abroad. Help me today to surrender to You as the Sovereign ruler of the universe. I trust that You are working all things together for the good of those who are in Christ Jesus, even if I don’t understand Your ways. Help me to live sacrificially in my worship of You, giving You my best, devoting myself to studying Your Word, and communicating with you through praise and prayer. Strengthen me to sacrifice my time, talents and treasures not only for Your kingdom but for those in my midst desiring nothing in return. Embolden me with courage, humility, and trust to follow you my God, my Redeemer to the Cross — no matter the cost. Ultimately, wake me up to loving You and loving others to bring You glory. Amen.
For additional information on the books we will uncover this month, please see below.
Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, “Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.” ~Haggai 1:5-6
We don’t know much about Haggai. We know that his name means “festal” or “festive” possibly pointing to him being born on a festival day. Other than his name, we have no information about his genealogy. He does refer to himself as a prophet. He returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel.
We also are re-introduced to the leaders of the Jews at the time of Haggai.
- Zerubbabel – meaning “seed of Babylon” was the grandson of king Jehoiachin (1 Chronicles 3:17) & had been appointed the governor of Judah by the Persian government. He had led the exiles on their return to Jerusalem.
- Joshua was the spiritual leader of this exiled Jewish nation, the high priest of the line of Zadok.
Haggai knew what was important and what had to be done, and He challenged God’s people to respond. Haggai is a short book of only 2 chapters. It is filled with challenge, promise, and encouragement reminding us of God’s claim on our lives and our priorities. As you read, Haggai, imagine Him walking the streets and alleys of Jerusalem, urging the people to get back to doing God’s work. And listen to Haggai speaking to you, urging you to reorder your priorities in accordance with God’s will. What has God called you to do? I hope that God’s message through Haggai will wake you up to repentance and action. (Resource: Life Application Bible, NIV, Intro to Haggai).
Song Selection: “Do Something” by Matthew West – https://youtu.be/b_RjndG0IX8
Thus has the Lord of hosts said, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” ~Zechariah 7:9-10
The prophet Zechariah was a priest, coming from a prominent priestly family. His ministry began shortly after Haggai’s. There are many points of contact between Haggai and Zechariah. Overall, Zechariah encouraged the people to put away the sin in their lives and to continue rebuilding the temple. His visions encouraged the leaders of Jerusalem at the time – Joshua, the high priest and Zerubbabel the political ruler. His visions described the judgment of Israel’s enemies, the blessings to Jerusalem, and the need for God’s people to remain pure – avoiding hypocrisy, superficiality, idolatry, and sin. Zechariah’s visions provided HOPE for the people.
We too can find HOPE in these apocalyptic visions. We are reminded that God is SOVEREIGN, and HE is in CONTROL of every detail, every circumstance of our lives. His Spirit is working through believers to carry out His purposes for His Good and our glory – even if that glory is to come when we meet Jesus face to face! And one of the best and most awesome parts of Zechariah are the visions and prophecies that our PRIEST-KING – our Messiah is coming!!!!
God is indeed coming again and will judge sin once for all. Zechariah urges the Jews to both GUARD their lives from sin and to REPENT from sin when needed. We too must do the same – Trust in our Sovereign God who controls every detail of our lives, guard our hearts and minds from evil and sin, & repent of any sin in our lives on an ongoing basis. Only then, will we be able to step forward in the power of His Holy Spirit.
Song Selection: “Great are You are Lord” by All Sons and Daughters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHz0w-HG4iU
“Forgiveness” by Matthew West https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMn0QNdiuGE
“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.
Malachi was the last of the OT prophets to give the Israelite nation one last wake-up call. Basically, Malachi has given us practical guidelines about our commitment to God.
- God’s love is steadfast and never changing! (1:1 & 3:6).
- God deserves the best we have to offer (1:7-10).
- We must be willing to change our wrong ways of living (2:1,2).
- We should make family a lifelong priority (2:13-16).
- We should welcome God’s refining process in our lives (3:3).
- We should tithe our income (3:8-12).
- There is no room for pride (3:13-15).
Malachi highlights the Divine response to those who charged serving God was a waste of time and did not pay (3:16 -4:6). Is serving God worth it? Absolutely! Receiving Jesus the Messiah means that we become part of God’s family (3:17), will escape judgment (the “curse”) to come (4:1,6) & will experience the blessings of Messiah’s wonderful kingdom (4:2-3).
His message should wake us up from our spiritual amnesia, remind us of our identity in Christ, move us to a renewed faithfulness to our Lord and Savior, and refresh our focus on our future reward in heaven as our Messiah IS coming.