Christ in the Minor Prophets: No. 10 - Haggai

Haggai 1‑2  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
H. P. Barker
No. 10 — Haggai
2. Thus, 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 ceiled 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.
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Haggai and Zechariah were fellow-laborers in the service of the Lord, shortly after the return of a remnant of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon.
They are mentioned together in the book of Ezra as prophesying to these Jews, and helping in the building of the temple. We also learn that they were much blessed of God in their labors, so that those who were engaged in building prospered through their testimony (Chapter 5:1, 2; and 6:14).
While in Ezra we have the outward side of Haggai’s service for the cheer and encouragement of the people of God, in the prophecy that bears his name we have the inward side of his service. Faithfully and severely he had to deal with the people themselves, and their leaders, as to their low moral state, before he could comfort them by unfolding God’s gracious purposes for them.
The immediate occasion of Haggai’s first prophecy was the stoppage of the work of building the temple. It appears from Ezra 4 that this was the result of the adversaries’ work. They accused the Jews of rebellious designs, and armed with royal authority they went up and “made them to cease by force and power.”
But there was another reason, a moral one, for the ceasing of the work. Haggai, in his prophecy, discloses it. It was the cold, selfish indifference of the people of God themselves. Dwelling in their own ceiled houses they were content to let the house of God lie waste, excusing themselves by saying “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.”
No doubt they talked in a very pious-sounding way about waiting God’s time, and looking to Him to carry on His own work. But God had committed the work to them. Would He not be with them in protecting power if they set themselves to do His bidding? He might permit the opposition of their foes to test them. But no power could prevail against Him, and the real reason for the stoppage of the work was not the hostility of the opposers, nor the decree of King Artaxerxes, but the fact that these returned Jews were more concerned about their own houses than about the house of the Lord.
Not that they had really prospered, even in the pursuit of their own interests. God had blown upon their efforts. They sowed much, but brought in little; their labors met with but scant success. Drought and dearth prevailed in their midst.
Haggai’s mission was to arouse the people to their own grievous moral state, of which their outward impoverishment was but the consequence. He appeals to them to consider their ways, and to set their hands in earnest to the work entrusted to them, the building of the temple. If only they would do this, Jehovah would smile on their labors. He would take pleasure in the product thereof, and would be glorified.
Is there anything in the circumstances of the people of God today which makes this old-time lesson from Haggai peculiarly applicable? Assuredly there is.
The house of God is here today. It is not a material house built with stones and timber. It is composed of people. The Church of God is His house (1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15)). But how little real building is going on in connection with it! How comparatively rare it is to find the souls of Christians built up in the things of God. We are exhorted to build ourselves up on our most holy faith, and to be “built up in Him” (Col. 2:77Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:7)).
This is the sort of building work that greatly needs to be done today. It is the only sort of building that will stand the test of the coming day. To seek to build up a cause, or an organization, or a select company of Christians, who are agreed upon certain doctrines or methods of discipline, is not to build according to God’s mind. Oh, for men with God-given eyesight to perceive the desolation that has come in amongst the Lord’s people, to note the prevalent impoverishment of soul, and then to arise and build! May God prosper the work of building up the souls of His people in Christ! In the result of such work as this God takes pleasure. He is glorified thereby. To build up souls in anything but Christ is to labor in vain. But to build up the souls of His people in Him is to labor for the pleasure and glory of God.
If anyone asks, How can souls be built up in Christ? the answer is, by the ministry of Himself to those souls. When one considers the kind of subjects chosen for ordinary pulpit discourses, one is appalled to find how very very little of the real ministry of Christ there is. How little He is set forth before men as a blessed, living Savior at God’s right hand, and how comparatively rare in Christendom is the ministry of the glorious and wonderful truths connected with His session there.
Alas, the Lord’s dear servants often spend their strength in seeking to build up “our mission,” or “our cause,” or “our fellowship,” or “our society.” What is all this sort of thing but attending to our own ceiled houses, while true building, according to God is neglected?
1. In the seventh month, in the one-and-twentieth day of the month, came the word of the Lord by the prophet Haggai, saying,
2. Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying,
3. Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
4. Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, smith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts:
5. According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you; fear ye not.
6. For thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land;
7. And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.
8. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts.
9. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, smith the Lord of hosts.
Haggai’s message did not fall upon deaf ears. His words were attended with power. Fear fell upon the people, and God stirred up their spirits. Encouraged by the assurance of His presence with them, “they came and did work in the house of the Lord.”
Within four weeks of this fresh start another gracious communication was made by God to His people by the mouth of Haggai. In connection with this, we find Christ introduced. This brings us to what is more immediately the subject of this series of papers. The prophet is charged to remind the people of Jehovah’s covenant, made with their fathers when they came out of Egypt. To that covenant the Lord of hosts would assuredly be faithful. The heavens and the earth would be shaken, everything visible would be touched with His power, but His promise would stand firm, and the Desire of the nations should come.
This word, translated “Desire,” is in the plural, and may be rendered “the desired things.” But the reference is undoubtedly to Christ. The things which the nations desire, but which they vainly seek for in this direction and in that, will be found in Him.
Christ is the true and only solution of the perplexing problems of today. With Him alone it rests, to pacify the nations by subduing them to His benign rule. His coming will introduce the golden age for the earth.
Needless to say, we do not find in Haggai, nor indeed anywhere in the Old Testament, that which is the proper hope of the Church. The New Testament skews us that before the day of Christ’s appearing as the Desire of the nations, He will come into the air, to take all who are His to be with Him.
We Must never confound this, the Christian’s hope, with what we find in the prophets. But it is the same blessed Person, whether we consider His coming with reference to the Church, or to Israel, or to the nations.
23. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.
The prophecy concludes with a special promise to Zerubbabel, the royal prince of David’s line. No doubt he is here a figure of Christ, and the promise made to him will be fulfilled in the person of his greater Son, for “Zorobabel begat... Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1:13-1613And Zorobabel begat Abiud; and Abiud begat Eliakim; and Eliakim begat Azor; 14And Azor begat Sadoc; and Sadoc begat Achim; and Achim begat Eliud; 15And Eliud begat Eleazar; and Eleazar begat Matthan; and Matthan begat Jacob; 16And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:13‑16)).
The promise is, that in “that day” (the day of universal shaking, when thrones and armies are overthrown, and warriors perish by the sword), Jehovah will give a place of peculiar exaltation to His servant, as the Man of His own choice.
For the coming of Christ will not only mean the blessing of Israel and the nations. It will be the occasion of His own glory. He who has been spat upon and crowned with thorns will be as Jehovah’s signet. He will be glorified in that all that God does will be done by Him, and for Him.
Adam failed in connection with what was committed to his charge. So did Noah, and David, and everyone else to whom responsibility was entrusted.
But from the beginning God had in view not Adam, nor David, but Christ. He was the One upon whom God’s choice rested. His sojourn for thirty-three years on earth proved the rightness of that choice. He was
“Faithful amid unfaithfulness,
‘Mid darkness only light,”
and the heart of God will find peculiar delight in honoring that blessed One who, as a Man, has so entirely justified the divine choice.
Is it not balm to our hearts, too, to know that the day approaches when He will be exalted in the eyes of all?