Introducing a three-part series, Tim Warke confessed that the hard-hitting messages of Haggai the minor prophet strike a deep chord with him. He divided his first talk (on Haggai chapter 1) into three sections.
1. Complacent and demoralised
Haggai spoke over just four months at the end of 520 BC, in Jerusalem, after the exile. A small remnant of the people of Judah had returned 18 years before, to rebuild the destroyed temple. They were living among hostile nations, in a volatile political situation, the economy struggling, harvests poor and inflation a big problem – perhaps relevant to us today.
In verse 1 we learn it was ‘the first day of the sixth month’ – new moon, a celebration day. The people were probably gathered for a thanksgiving feast. Yet they may have heard of much greater things that God did in the past.
Haggai comes before the leaders, the governor Zerubbabel and the high priest, Joshua. Zerubbabel was a descendant of the last king of Judah, while Joshua was a descendant of a previous high priest. He, the first prophet to speak in the city since Jeremiah, addresses them and the disheartened people. He voices the people’s own words:
They feel defeated. It is believed they had laboured for two years after their return, but then the work had stalled.
Tim challenged us to ask ourselves if such procrastination ever marks our own attitude towards God’s work. Or, worse, if we have cultivated the appearance of eagerness to be involved, while inside our hearts are apathetic. The people of Judah had not turned away from God or practised idolatry; they had just accepted their spiritual lukewarmness.
The temple had been symbolic of Yahweh’s presence with His people, but here they are before its ruins, complacent and demoralised.
2. Comfortable yet dissatisfied
Haggai brings another word from God:
The people’s priorities are their own homes, furnished to a level of luxury (‘panelled’). They lacked neither time nor resource; they lacked the will. Tim underlined God’s response:
He urged us to make this our watchword. The people of Jerusalem were toiling for many things, but their toil never produced enough. Tim asked, “Does God get our first fruits, or our leftovers?”
Now God gives clear instructions (v.8). They are to get the timber and start work, thus bringing honour and pleasure to Him. How do they respond?
3. Changed with divine presence
Beginning with the leaders, Haggai’s listeners obey and, furthermore, they ‘feared the Lord’ (v.12). Recognising their unfaithful hearts and turning back to Him, they give Him His rightful place in their lives. And the result?
God’s presence was the key priority they should not have lost sight of.
God’s word had worked through the prophet, the priest and the descendant of kings. We are reminded of the ultimate prophet, priest and king, the Lord Jesus, Immanuel, God with us.
In verse 14 we read that the Lord stirred up the spirits of both leaders and people. Just 23 days later, they began the work. Their outward actions confirmed their inward changed hearts. Tim challenged us to reset our hearts from all that may distract us, in order to build God’s house – not a physical house but His church, His people.
- Have we been looking for contentment in the pursuit of earthly dreams but failing to find what we are seeking there?
- If so, let us give careful thought to our ways and reset our priorities, in order to know the empowering of God’s presence.