Does a guy named Haggai have anything relevant to say in 2019?
The Jews had a lot of prophets. Some were before their exile to Babylon and a few after their return to Israel. Haggai was a post-exilic prophet and probably had the triple perspective of seeing his culture and people before they were exiled, while they were in exile and after the exile. He understood the transitions and the adjustments and the temptations resident within all 3 periods. And his prophecy is recorded in the Old Testament.
Here’s the gist of it:
*A group of Jews has been given permission by the king to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple
*They begin and then get bogged down by some religious opposition and the enormity of the project
*They then apparently lose sight and energy for the divine purpose for why they had returned to Jerusalem initially
*They turn their attention to carving out a life for their own families and individual purposes
*And as they get diverted down that path, Haggai steps in and “discomforts” them.
And here’s his appeal and reasoning:
1 – The word on the street has evolved into “It’s not the right time to rebuild the house of the Lord”. And Haggai turns the saying on its head: ”so, is it time for you to build your own “paneled houses”?
2 – And all the while you do it, “my house lies in ruins”, a kind of “What’s wrong with this picture?” question:
3 – And this is followed by a number of circumstantial (yet clearly sovereign) realities:
*why is it you sow much and harvest little?
*why is it you eat and never have enough?
*why is it you drink and never have your fill?
*why is it you clothe yourselves and no one is warm?
*why is it when you earn wages that you put them in a bag that always has holes?
*why is it when you brought your “stuff” home, it disappeared?
Why? Because I blew it away.
God actually blew away all the fruit of their labor so He could aim them back in the right direction. There was little blessing on their work because at the center of their work was their own selfish goals. They had forgotten the purpose for their existence.
God had sovereignly arranged for them to get back to Jerusalem for one purpose alone — to rebuild his temple. And that was for an even higher purpose: “That I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified”.
So this is either an egomaniacal god or a very clear-headed and loving God who knows why he created humans and a special people who would live at an optimum level when they fully invested their lives in his divine purposes. And his love extended into the areas where they would get off course and get entirely wrapped up in themselves.
In the very middle of the sermon on the mount, Jesus gets after the same issue when he talks about money and the very real anxiety to fret about how my life will move on in the face of so many real demands. And Jesus, just a bit like Haggai, says “Don’t live like the Gentiles. You have a Father who cares for you because you’re connected to me. Just prioritize the kingdom of God and that kind of righteousness and I WILL ADD ALL THINGS TO YOU”. Perhaps the most present tense and all-encompassing promise in the bible. All things means………ALL THINGS!!
And this is clearly what Haggai was after with these Jews who had returned. Almost as if God was saying: “I’m not terribly interested in opposing you and blowing away your increase but I will do exactly that so I can get you on a path of life that is rooted in me and eternal blessing.”
“So, get up into those hills and get wood and build my house and you will find yourselves, despite every challenge, drinking from my pleasure and experiencing my glory.”
Jesus said as much. And, truth be told, the whole book says the same thing over and over.