Haggai is one of those books where you really wish you had some giant timeline of Jewish history at hand to help you piece together everything going on. Well lucky for you, this blogger is also a visual learner who needs to see things in order to understand them. In case you are the same, please enjoy this concise timeline of the rebuilding of the Temple:
As you can see from this handy, dandy timeline, Haggai picks up right in the middle of temple reconstruction. You can also see that the book of Haggai, chronologically, fits right into the middle of the book of Ezra. And here is why that little tidbit of information is crucial in understanding some of the significance of the book of Haggai.
When reading through Ezra, one reads a lot about enemy opposition to the temple being rebuilt. Time and time again, servants to King Artaxerxes attempt to undermine and corrupt the work of the Jews in an effort to cease all construction of the Temple. And in Ezra chapter 4, we read that the King responds to such efforts by demanding an issue be ordered to stop the Jewish men from working.
“Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius King of Persia.” ~Ezra 4:24
From this viewpoint of the book of Ezra, it would seem that enemy opposition was the main cause of the temple reconstruction coming to a halt. The King and his men were just too slick that the Jewish people had to begrudgingly take a pause. However, as we read through Haggai, we are introduced to a new viewpoint and to more significant information. And this new information is what I find vitally important to the message of Haggai.
Haggai chapter 1 begins with a message from the Lord regarding the current behavior and attitude of the Jewish people.
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” ~Haggai 1:5-6
The Jewish people were working and slaving away, but doing so in ways that were not honoring to God. By refusing to build His temple, the Jews were living productive yet meaningless lives because they were acting in disobedience to God and his desires. They ignored their duty and suffered the consequences of such acts.
“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house.” ~Haggai 1:9
All of a sudden we are seeing a very different side to this issue of construction delay. It turns out, this issue wasn’t just about enemy opposition or decrees from the King. Rather, this had far more to do with the disobedience of the Israelites (shocker) and their inability and unwillingness to continue on in their duty to God.
Friends, how many of us would much prefer the Ezra version of our lives? Wouldn’t we prefer to label everything negative and “wrong” in our lives as attacks from the enemy and adversary opposition? It’s nothing we did wrong — it’s just that sly Devil making everything harder than it has to be.
But so often there is much more to the story than that. In many cases (not all), there is disobedience at hand that we would rather brush under the rug. We would much rather skip to Ezra chapter 6 and forget all about this little book of Haggai. But this small book, friends, has an, oh so mighty lesson: there are consequences to our disobedience.
While enemy opposition can play a role and impact us in serious ways, ultimately our inaction, or even sinful action, is what we will be judged for and what we are held responsible for. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we are to continue living out our lives to honor God, to faithfully serve Him. And while opposition and hostility will surely come our way, none of that is an excuse to disobey that which God has commanded.
Now before we all walk away from this blog grim and sorrowful because of our constant disobedience, there is one more mighty lesson to be found in Haggai that I would like us to end on: there is reward for our obedience.
Fast-forward to Haggai chapter 2 and we see the other side of this obedience coin. While we are held responsible for and will experience consequences for disobedience, God also notices and honors obedience, often meeting it with blessing and glory. God promises his people that if they remain strong and do the work without fear (2:4-5) then,
“The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,” says the Lord Almighty. “And in this place I will grant peace,” declares the Lord Almighty. ~Haggai 2:9
What a sweet promise that our God notices and rewards our obedience to Him. How encouraging it is to be reminded that our work will result in His glory. Yes, our disobedience has consequences and we are held responsible when we cease to follow in his ways. But our obedience is also seen and is never taken for granted in the eyes of God. It will result in His glory and our ultimate and eternal blessing. So, may we never tire of obedience. Not in light of opposition, or hostility, nor the schemes of the enemy. For we are the ones held responsible for how we obey the will of God, and I for one, do not want to miss out on the glory that occurs when we do.
Song Selection: “Do Something” by Matthew West – https://youtu.be/b_RjndG0IX8