Verses 1-3. “On the twenty-first of the seventh month, the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, ‘Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people saying, ‘Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem to you like nothing in comparison?’”
The “seventh month” of Israel is “Tisri,” occurring in September and October. The “twenty-first” of Tisri was the last and great day of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34), which related to the gathering of the harvest. The crops were few, the Temple was incomplete, and the people felt they had no place for thank offerings to the Lord. Everything about the present seemed less than the past. Have you felt like that? But now “the word of the Lord came (to them) by Haggai the prophet.” God speaks to His people.
Some who heard the words through Haggai were old enough to have seen the glorious temple of Solomon before it was destroyed, seventy years before the words of these verses. Haggai had perhaps seen it himself. Ezra 3:12 reports that “priests and Levites and heads of the father’s houses… had seen the first temple, (they) wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes; yet many shouted aloud for joy.” Some will complain, some will rejoice and the work you do for the Lord may seem less than what you want, but your efforts are very important because God makes it so.
Verses 4-5. “’But now take courage, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord, ‘take courage also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and all you people of the land take courage,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work; for I am with you,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘As for the promise which I made you when you came out of Egypt, My Spirit is abiding in your midst; do not fear!’”
Don’t spend your time looking at what others are doing and measuring your own efforts by what you see. Just respond to the revealed will of the Lord. “Take courage.” You and your life are important to the Lord. He gives each one a place that is more important than we realize. Paul would write letters to the people of Ephesus and other places. Ephesus and its people are gone and Paul is gone, but the words of God through Paul have drawn millions to Christ, to the Messiah, for 2,000 years. If God prompts you to smile at someone and/or pray for them today, do it, for the ripple effect of that smile or prayer may last for centuries.
Just go ahead and do the work of God that is expressed through you, for when you do His will, He declares, “I am with you.” God’s people had left the slavery of Egypt centuries before, and Paul the Apostle noted that they “were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). The people of Israel had returned from slavery once more, in Babylon and then in the Persian Empire, the successor of Babylon. They had lost everything, which may also have happened to you, but He is “with you” just as surely as He was with the people of these verses.
Verses 6-9. “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the Lord of hosts. ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the Lord of hosts.”
As people, we don’t want our lives to be shaken. We would not have any trouble – ever. There would be no wars, no death, no illness and people who like each other could always be together. Probably we would not work, especially if that work caused us discomfort in any way. The problem is that we would continue to be immature and baby-like – for all eternity. God has loftier goals and offers a better way. We will be shaken in this life, separation and death will occur, but we will grow in faith, hope and love.
God is saying in this verse, “I will shake your world.” He wants to bring us to His Temple, the place of God. Jesus would later say, “Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). He also said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…" and we are informed that “He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:19, 21). We enter the Temple of God through “the Door of the sheep” (John 10:7-9). The "Door" is Jesus Christ and He has shaken our world.
Verses 10-14. “On the twenty-fourth of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Ask now the priests for a ruling: “‘If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?’ And the priests answered, ‘No.’ Then Haggai said, ‘If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?’ And the priests answered, ‘It will become unclean.’ Then Haggai said, ‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.’”
Pastors, priests, those who speak for God are accountable to Him. All are gifted in the body of Christ and some are given titles for full-time service. As such, we are to follow the will of God and encourage others to do the same. The Lord pointed out through Haggai, just as He is telling us, that the rituals, the laws, the words in Scripture contain deep meaning. In the instances of these verses, He reached into the Law, the Torah, revealing that individually and as a human race we are unclean in the sight of God. We have touched that which is unclean in our thoughts, words and actions. As Paul would later say in Romans 3:23, “ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Verses 15-17. “’But now, do consider from this day onward: before one stone was placed on another in the temple of the Lord, from that time when one came to a grain heap of twenty measures, there would be only ten; and when one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there would be only twenty. I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail; yet you did not come back to Me,’ declares the Lord.”
The Lord reminds them once more that when they returned from captivity, nothing went right for them. Everything they touched and valued was less than it should have been. The grain, the wine, the produce of that land; nothing went as well as hoped. They had worked hard, but the results were poor in comparison to what they had done. It seemed like life was against them, and now God reveals, “I smote you and every work of your hands with blasting wind, mildew and hail,” in repeated attempts to get their attention, and He laments, “Yet you did not come back to Me.” Yes we will have troubles in life anyway, but you might ask God: “Are You speaking to me through what is happening in my life?
Verses 18-19. “Do consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month; from the day when the temple of the Lord was founded, consider: Is the seed still in the barn? Even including the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate and the olive tree, it has not borne fruit. Yet from this day on I will bless you.”
For decades I struggled financially and in other ways, but there is now enough. As I look back through the years, I notice that my changed financial circumstances coincided perfectly with my decision to trust in the Lord and do what He wanted. He called me to ministry a long time ago, and finally I surrendered. Jesus said, “I will give you rest” and He does (Matthew 11:28). Just as it was for Israel, it is true for you and me.
Verses 20-23. “Then the word of the Lord came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel governor of Judah, saying, ‘I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. On that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’ declares the Lord of hosts.”
The word of the Lord “came a second time” on the same day. Nations would come and many would be enemies of Israel, just like now. Actually ALL who trust in the Lord will suffer persecution. Jesus said, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). But God will attack and destroy those who trouble His people. You are safe in Him. “Zerubbabel,” the “signet” is a “type” of the Lord and His authority, for Jesus said, “ALL things are delivered unto ME by My Father” (Matthew 11:27).
Lord, we surrender to Your will. We choose to follow You. In Jesus Name. Amen.