Verses 1-4. "In the second year of Darius the king, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, 'Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘This people says, The time has not come, even the time for the house of the Lord to be rebuilt.' Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 'Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?'"
The seventy years of the exile of the Kingdom of Judah had now passed. In 538 BC, Cyrus of Persia had issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to the land and rebuild the temple. The first return was led by Zerubbabel and in 536 BC, reconstruction of the temple began. The Samaritans hindered that work, as seen in Ezra Chapters 4-6 and the Jews had become discouraged. Work on rebuilding the temple stopped, and it was in this setting that God called the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, who urged the people to start building once more.
"Darius" had become king of Persia and it was during his reign that Haggai and Zechariah shouted their words to the people, encouraging them to build God's house once more. Many among the Jews had continued building up their own houses but no longer had the heart to do more. God's word through Haggai addressed His intention for them. They were asked, "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies desolate?"
We all should note 1 Corinthians 6:19 - "...Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own." If you've trusted in the Lord, you ARE God's temple! Have you felt called to some service for God but you have not responded? It is His intention that the temple of the Holy Spirit, which includes you and me, will be built into a structure of His choosing. In the next verses, God will point out that some of the problems in our lives are indeed "Acts of God," in which He is calling our attention to acts of omission by those who have neglected His call.
Verses 5-6. "Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.'"
Prayerfully think about your life for a moment. You may have really tried hard to live a life in which you were diligent, punctual, hard-working, ethical, and more, but things didn't work out like you expected. You may have "sown much" in some way or another, but you "harvest little" from what you have done. To live such a life is discouraging and to some extent frightening, for it seems like you might lose it all at any moment. Some overeat out of anxiety and it seems like "you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied."
Some imbibe out of such feelings, but it seems like the alcohol or drugs or whatever, just seem to be thrown into an empty, bottomless hole - "You drink, but there is not enough to become drunk." A lot of anxious people shop for and buy things they do not really need. As this Scripture says, "You put on clothing, but no one is warm enough." Money seems important, it seems like the key to everything, but there is never enough. Even if you have billions of whatever currency is valued in your culture, it could be gone in a moment and you know it. As God said through Haggai, "He who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes." It's like you put money into your wallet, but there is a big hole in the bottom of it,and the money is gone.
Verses 7-11. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,' says the Lord. 'You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?' declares the Lord of hosts, 'Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house. Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew and the earth has withheld its produce. I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.'”
Almighty God has a purpose for you. Individually that means He has a specific plan, a blueprint for you that existed before you were even a part of the human race. Corporately, His intention is that you are to be carefully fit into the fabric of history in relation to all other believers who do and/or receive the work of God. "Consider your ways!" Seek the Lord and find out what He might have in store for you. In the case of the survivors who returned to Jerusalem, they were to rebuild the ruins of what had been Solomon's Temple, or more accurately, it was always GOD's Temple, and they were to make it exist once more.
Individually and as a group the men and women who had returned from the east were not doing very well. They had intentions for their lives but they had not been succeeding, no matter how hard they tried. God was revealing His Will to them, just as He longs to have you see and respond to His Will for you. They were to build God's House, so He who created everything might reasonably be "glorified." Because they had ignored the God who created them and rescued them from exile, the dew did not come which would have helped crops to grow. He "called for a drought on the land, on the mountains," and on everything else that was important to that people. How are YOU doing in life? If everything is frustrating and you don't know what to do, look to the Lord who may be speaking to you through the events of your life.
Verse 12. "Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, 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 showed reverence for the Lord."
Periodically there are wonderful revivals that sweep whole sections of the world. Such a time happened in the 1960's as young men and women came out of what was called the "drug culture" and embraced the Lord in droves. They were called "Jesus Freaks" but it was really that they became vitally alive for the first time as they looked to the Lord and found He was reaching back to them.
What was happening at the moment was like a modern "revival," for the people's hearts were changed from bitterness to faith in the Lord, and they now would see, just as we should, that the Lord loves His people. They "obeyed the voice of the Lord their God" and that is what we must learn to do as well. They responded to Him through "the words of Haggai the prophet," because they recognized that the Lord God had sent Him. They now had "reverence for the Lord."
Verses 13-15. "Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke by the commission of the Lord to the people saying, 'I am with you,' declares the Lord. So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king."
Only three weeks had passed since the beginning of this chapter, and everything now changed for this Jewish people who had returned from seventy years of slavery to a foreign master. Notice just a few items in these verses: 1) "The people showed reverence for the Lord" - they had placed their faith in Him. 2) "Build the temple" God had said in Verse 8. They were now willing to do it and entered His will for their lives. 3) The result of having faith in the Lord and doing His will is in Verse 13 where He says, "I am with you." What is God's will for your life? Have faith in Him and become willing to do what He says - His response will be - "I am with you."
"Zerubbabel" ("seed of Babylon") the Governor of Judah, was the grandson of King Jehoiachin who had been taken into exile in 597 BC by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-17). "Joshua" ("Yahweh heals") was the high priest of God for the people. These men, named at the beginning of this chapter, had been depressed and uncertain, unable to do what they should have done. "The Lord stirred up the spirit" of these leaders through the prophet Haggai, and the building began.
Father, You have a blessed work for all who believe, including me. I trust in You and because of who You are, I say "Yes!" to that call. I am Yours. I will follow You. In Jesus Name. Amen.