The historical setting for the account of Haggai was that the Babylonian captivity lasted 70 years (605–536 B.C.), and some of the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. Three key leaders of the returning Jews were Zerubbabel, and Nehemiah, who were appointed as governors respectively by Cyrus and Artaxerxes, and Ezra who was the leading priest. Haggai, probably born in Babylon, was among the first contingent of returning exiles to Jerusalem under Zerubbabel. . The re-building of the Temple was top-priority for the returning exiles. While the Temple project is the focal issue of the book of Haggai, it was evident that the returning exiles became self-satisfied and began to neglect the things of the Lord. Among the prominent teachings of the book is the necessity of putting first things first.
HAGGAI – THE FORMER GLORY
Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have 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.” This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” 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 his own house.
The people are experiencing difficulty; they: planted much, but have harvested little, they eat but are never satisfied, they drink but are never full, they are clothed but are never warm enough. Although they earn wages they never see the benefits. The reason for all this is God’s temple is in ruins while they are all busy maintaining their own houses; so they are called to give careful thought to their ways!
Shortly after the Israelites had left Egypt they broke the very first commandment God had written, and God was angry with them. Having dealt with this sin, God then instructed Moses to go into the Promised Land without His presence among them which was a discouragement to Moses . In Haggai’s day we see a similar situation: the leaders are frustrated because of their enemies, the people are bewildered as there seems to be no hope, they show little distinction from the other inhabitants in their desires and pleasures, there seems to be no one coming to their defense, and they are all apprehensive to continue the work of rebuilding the Temple. Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD. “I am with you”: that fact made the difference or distinction for God’s people, God’s presence gave confidence to His people and God’s presence makes His people different.
The work progressed, the Temple is completed and God speaks once more through His prophet: ‘Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? . Why did it “seem like nothing?” Because there were four important things present in Solomon’s Temple, that are now missing in the rebuilt temple.
1. THE SHEKINAH GLORY. This was a visible manifestation of the presence of God in the form of a luminous cloud that rested above the altar in the place of worship, which lit up the room . God’s glory was a familiar sight to Moses and the people. . At Moses’ request, God revealed His most hidden nature as a God of compassion, graciousness, longsuffering, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving, yet punishing the guilty. God is love! God is righteous! God is just! This great and loving God was revealed to all mankind in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. This Glory of God is seen as awesome in both the O.T. and the N.T.
2. THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. A representation of God’s throne and His Law , representing God’s Law and authority. Just as cities or countries cannot survive effectively without law and authority; so too the spiritual lives of the people could not survive effectively without God’s Law and Authority, they had to be subject to God’s supreme authority, and when they failed to do so, they became futile in their understanding of God and drifted into idol worship and gross sin. The Ark was a “Type” of Christ that would one day be replaced by Christ Himself
3. THE URIM and THUMMIM. These were gems or stones placed in the breast piece of the high priest and used by him to determine God’s will in certain difficult matters .Zerubbabel, the governor, had denied the people permission to observe some of their ancient food laws, until a priest could consult God with the Urim and Thummim. This suspension of the law was only until such consultation could be made; but it does not appear as if they were ever blessed with this ability under the second Temple. God had promised something better. The Urim and Thummim were only a “type of Christ”, who, when He came into the world, would reveal the mind of the Father to all mankind. Today, this work is continued by the Holy Spirit in the lives of those of us who are willing for such revelation.
4. THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY. The divine power, which comes over a human being and compels him to see or to hear things which otherwise, would be hidden from him. The recipient is in possession of his full consciousness, and is able to give a clear account of what happened. In the O.T. the Holy Spirit is said to have: “come over”; “laid hold of”; or “fallen upon” certain individuals . This was only for a specific function or occasion . In the N.T. God’s Holy Spirit indwells the believer and The Spirit of prophecy is one of the gifts to the Church to the intent that the body of Christ “be built up” .
CONCLUSION: “Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways”” . In our hour of crisis, we must admit that as God’s temple, it is possible to lose our former glory and the Word of God exhorts us to honor God in/with our bodies . When the “Shekinah Glory” no longer goes with us or He is not evident among us, we display little difference to the people of the world we live in . As Moses reflected the Glory of God , we too are called to reflect this Glory .
Do you have the desire to once more reflect that glory? If you are aware that the (Ark) Authority and Rule of God has been challenged and set aside in your life, and Christ no longer reigns supreme, then pay attention to what the Word of God says . Do you desire that Christ should reign supreme in your life? If the (Urim and Thummim) work of the Holy Spirit has been quenched or grieved; and you do not seek God’s guidance as you should, then observe what God’s Word says .
If you have you “put out the fire” of the Holy Spirit would you like to have that fire re-kindled? When the (Spirit of Prophecy) Word of God is no longer a priority and is not always the light that it should be to you then read what God’s Word says . Have you abandoned God’s Word? Is the Word of God “rare” to you? Have you acted in accordance with what is written in God’s Word? Do you desire to listen to and humbly accept what it teaches? Then be obedient to His Word!
Haggai closed his message to the people after his opening reminder to them . The 70 years of exile and captivity all began because the people abandoned God’s Law and worshipped idols! Similarly God sometimes allows us to go through difficult and miserable times, because He wants to get our attention! “Consider your ways” . God will no longer make His presence known if there was no repentance, and He wants to restore us, to the point where we can be even better than we were.
“I will fill this house with glory” “The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house…” Would you like to have that experience? The decision is yours! What is your desire? God is willing to hear, heal, and restore!