Haggai


This tiny book of the prophet Haggai contains only 38 verses, and it only covers a period of three months. Although it is divided into two chapters, the easiest way of reading it is as four short sections giving four great “Priorities of Progress”.
Haggai lived at a time of post war depression, five and a half centuries before Christ. He had been released from a prisoner-of-war settlement along with about forty thousand others, and allowed to return home to Jerusalem. The place was a bombsite and their joy had turned to misery when they saw it and tried to live in it. Sixteen years later there were still no walls, no temple, no security, no amenities, no one to pull the people together. Every man lived for himself. There was no spirit and no vision.
God’s man for that hour was Haggai.
In September of the year 520 B.C. winter approaching, Haggai called them to the first priority: that of the worship of God. They had all built their own homes and were insulating them, but inflation and social decay meant that no one was happy or secure. They were barely surviving and everyone lived by the rule of “Look after yourself, Joseph, and blow everybody else.” Haggai called them to rebuild the Temple and put worship back in the centre of the national life. He could see that only God could put new vision and new heart into the people, and they responded and the work was begun. All that is in chapter one.
The last three sections are in chapter two. One month later came priority two. It was the word of God’s encouragement. They started the job of building the Temple and now they were getting discouraged. The older ones were moaning… “Oh, it’s not like it used to be.” Others said, “We can’t afford it – do you think we’re made of money?” They needed the word of encouragement and vision, and were promptly informed that it’s not what they could afford that would make them rich, but what God could give to them.
The third priority, delivered in December was a warning lesson in the form of a parable. Using their religious ceremonial laws, Haggai told a story which boils down to this:
Badness – Un-holiness is contagious. It spreads like the plague.
Goodness – holiness does not spread like this, it needs continually supplying from the source to maintain its quality.
In other words, one rotten apple in the barrel could affect all the other apples. One good apple wouldn’t make a lot of bad ones good.
The Chinese have a proverb “You cannot carve rotten wood”, in other words, you must fight for goodness, evil comes when you relax.
The third priority then, was that of individual dedication.
The fourth priority delivered on the same day is the last few verses of this little book, and it’s about leadership. The prophet urges the re-introduction of the monarchy, but remember the kind of king he had in mind – the anointed of Jehovah, or if you want the Hebrew word for it “The Messiah’ or in Greek ‘The Christ’.
In other words the representative man who would embody God’s rule of the Kingdom of God.

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