Let’s find the first encouragement God gives the Jews to do his will. We find it in 1:1-12. Let’s read that.
[1:1 ¶ In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. 3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 ¶ Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands. 12 ¶ Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.]
Haggai 1:1-12 Explanation
So this is how the Lord begins to speak to his wayward people. Did this sound encouraging to you. Whether it did or not, we see here that God sends a message through Haggai to the two leaders of the Jews – Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the high priest. And this message is necessarily negative. God needs to state the obvious to his people. He tells them that he knows what they’re saying. They’re convincing themselves that it’s not time yet to do the Lord’s will and rebuild his Temple. But it hasn’t been time for now 17 years! When will the time come to start doing his will? God’s had enough. He shoots back at them and asks a rhetorical question. I’m paraphrasing, but he says something like “Oh it’s not time to rebuild the Temple, is it? To rebuild my house? You really have no concern for my house? What about you? Each one of you runs to his own nice house. And your houses actually have ceilings. Mine? Well, look at it. It’s in ruins.”
God then commands them to consider their ways. He points to the fact that really every endeavor they attempt to undertake comes to little or absolutely nothing. Yeah, they can plant seeds. But there’s not much of a crop as a result. They can put on clothing. But everyone is still cold. They can eat. But no one feels full. The one who earns some money brings it home and puts it into a bag in order to save it. But it’s as if that bag has holes in it! The money metaphorically falls right out of the bag. What little they were able to make and bring home, God pictures himself as blowing on it and it flying away like so much dust. God admits that he’s the one behind all these hardships of theirs, trying to get their attention because they’re refusing to rebuild his house. He called for a drought on everything. To an agricultural society, that’s deadly.
And why was God doing this again? He restates it – because my house lies desolate while everyone runs to his own comfortable home. So God rebukes his people. But he doesn’t stop there. He offers the correction. What do you suppose the correction to letting God’s house lie in ruins is? Yeah, rebuilding it! He tells them as much. He instructs them step-by-step. “Go up to the mountains. Get wood. Come and use that wood to build my house.” Nice and simple, really. “Just do what I sent you to do almost 20 years ago!”
How do the people respond to that rebuke? Let me ask you, how did those people, the Jews, respond to God’s rebuke through his prophets before they were exiled in Babylon? Think of it. Some of them would have struck whatever prophet that gave God’s message of rebuke. Some would have lied about that prophet. Some would have planned to murder that prophet. And by-and-large, no one listened to the prophet delivering God’s message of rebuke in those days. But what did we see here? Remember this message was primarily to Zerubbabel and Jeshua. But what other group responded with them? The rest of the people. Here’s how they responded to this message. All the people including their two leaders obeyed God’s word through his prophet. That’s incredible. It shouldn’t be. Obedience to God should be a normal activity. And yet far too often it isn’t.
So what we see in this first prophecy is this. We see words of rebuke that yield a response of obedience. That’s the first encouragement to do God’s will we see in this book.
Haggai 1:1-12 Argumentation
Wait, words of rebuke can be an encouragement? Rebuke and encouragement might seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But remember, whom the Lord loves he chastens. Wise men love instruction. They love correction. The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. God’s our best and heavenly friend. And when he wounds he does it in love and for a purpose. He does it for our good.
Haggai 1:1-12 Illustration
Can any of us relate to being encouraged to do God’s will through words of rebuke? King David could. He murdered Bathsheba’s husband Uriah after committing adultery with her and then took her as his wife. He spent a while acting as if nothing was wrong. Whatever else we can say about that episode we can say this. David was certainly not doing God’s will at that point. And so God waited a little while and then he sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke him for his sin. And how did David respond? “I have sinned.” As the song goes, he “rent his heart and [did] his will.”
Haggai 1:1-12 Application
What about you? How are circumstances for you? Have you taken an inventory of your life? Is God withholding rain from heaven for you, literally or metaphorically? Is he allowing everything you’re pursuing to be fruitless and disappointing? Is he making life hard for you? Now, don’t get me wrong. In this life we shall have tribulation. That’s what Jesus promised us. Things will be difficult. But can you trace your hardships back to an unwillingness to do God’s will? Search your heart. Or even better, ask God to search your heart and reveal any wicked way in you. And when it becomes apparent what is holding back God’s blessing, confess it to God. Say to God about that sin what he says about it in his word. And with God’s help forsake it and move forward doing God’s will.
So we just saw words of rebuke that yield a response of obedience. That’s one encouragement to do God’s will. We see a second encouragement in verses 13-15 of chapter 1. Let’s read that next prophecy from Haggai.
[1:13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. 14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.]
Haggai 1:13-15 Explanation
So sometime between the 1st day of the 6th month and the 24th day of that same month Haggai is again commissioned by the Lord to speak to his people. Haggai’s first message was one of rebuke. But how would we characterize this message? It’s pretty pleasant, isn’t it? After the rebuke, how do you think this statement sounded in the ears of the Jews – “I am with you.” That must have been very comforting. God gives a reassurance of his divine presence with the people.
But that’s not all he gives to them. They apparently started the work after the last message from Haggai. But now on the 24th day of the 6th month – about 3 weeks after the first prophecy – God goes a step further and stirs the spirit of the people to do his will – to rebuild the Temple. So, they originally consented and started to do the work. But then God comes in and graciously bears them along in doing his will now.
So the second encouragement to do God’s will that we see here is this. A reassurance of God’s presence and a stirring of spirit to do his will.
Haggai 1:13-15 Illustration
Jesus left us with the command to make disciples. This is a rather difficult endeavor. What was his encouragement? “Lo, I am with you always.” I am with you. He promises us his divine presence as we attempt to do his will. And isn’t this area one in which we need God to stir our spirits? We can feebly and yet faithfully try to disciple folks. But unless God is with us and stirring our spirits to help us do the work, we really won’t get very far. And it just occurred to me as I was making final touches on this message that this point was the thrust of Pastor Fuller’s message this morning, wasn’t it? We can’t do it, but God can!
Haggai 1:13-15 Application
So the first prophecy in this book was a message of rebuke. And if you and I respond to the rebuke God sends to us through his word like the Jews did, we will receive the kind of comfort this prophecy gives. God will surely be with you as you strive to do what’s right in his sight.