Reflections on Haggai

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Zechariah and Malachi.

Haggai (‘festive’) is one of the post-exilic prophets who ministered to those who returned from exile in Babylon. The returnees had begun to rebuild the temple (Ezra 3:7-13), but after facing opposition (Ezra 4:1-5), they stopped. Then God raised up the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to speak on His behalf to the remnant (Ezra 5:1. 6:14).

Haggai’s first oracle was a wake-up call to the people. They’d been looking out for their own interests and not for God’s. The people listen and obey (1:12)—a welcome departure from the ignoring and ridiculing of prophets that had gone on before. Under their leaders, Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the priest, they resume work on the temple after over a decade.

Haggai’s second oracle came seven weeks later. The people probably felt they were doing a lot of nothing (2:3). Haggai reiterates God’s promise of His presence with them (1:13, 2:4), reminding them of the covenant He’d made with the nation of Israel at the exodus. The Lord then promises, “The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.” (2:6-9, ESV) That must have greatly encouraged the former exiles, but they had no idea that centuries later a voice in Jerusalem would be heard saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And, “I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.”

The third oracle likewise deals with the temple. It concludes thus: “But from this day on I will bless you.” If the physical temple conveyed blessing to God’s covenant people, how much more will the One greater than the temple convey blessing?

The final oracle isn’t about the temple, but about the heir to David’s throne. Zerubbabel was the grandson to the last true king of Judah, Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah or Coniah). Of the latter, God had said: “As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off.” Yet now in gracious reversal, the Lord declares Zerubbabel to be like a signet ring. It would be a little over five centuries until a descendant of Zerubbabel would be born to reign on David’s throne forever.

Source: Christopher Ash

PS. A quick note on something I noticed. In 38 verses, Haggai refers to God as “the Lord Almighty/ the Lord of hosts” (Yahweh Sabaoth) fourteen times. The discouraged people probably needed to be reminded of God’s majestic sovereignty in the midst of their circumstances. It would do us well to remember that God is in control  of everything—big or small—that happens in our lives.

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