As preached by Zach Thompson.
Living as the people of God means:
1) Recognizing the discipline of God (1:1-11).
2) Responding to discipline with obedience (1:12-15).
3) Delighting in God's presence more than our prestige (2:1-9).
4) Anticipating the promises of God (2:10-23).
Living As God’s People | Haggai 1-2
Good morning Christ Fellowship. This morning we will be picking up with our series on the minor prophets.
We’ll be in the book of Haggai today. If you are using one of our provided black Bibles, that should be on page 743.
The book of Haggai marks a shift in the timeline of Israel and Judah. Up until this point, God has been warning his people that if they continue in rebellion, then they will meet his discipline.
Last week in Zephaniah, we saw God’s tone shift. He stopped telling them to repent so that they would be spared. Instead, he told them to repent so that they would be ready for the inevitable discipline that was around the corner.
What happened after that? We hinted at it last week.
Babylon invaded. They overthrew Judah and took millions into captivity. The people of God were sojourners in a foreign land.
Eventually, Babylon is invaded by the Persian empire, and Cyrus becomes king. This is a big deal. The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah had foretold that a king named Cyrus would send the people of God back to their homeland.
The historian Josephus tells us that Daniel—yes, the one who was thrown into a lions’ den— Daniel read that prophecy from Isaiah to King Cyrus in his first year of being king, and Cyrus fulfilled the prophecy.
So around 70 years after they were exiled, Cyrus sent the Israelites home to rebuild their temple. He gave them funds. He gave them a portion of the things that had originally been taken from the temple. And he gave them written permission to do it.
Millions had been exiled. Only about 40,000 returned. This was God’s remnant who had been chastened by his hand.
And in their newfound zeal, the Israelites began to set things in motion to build the temple, but they quickly met opposition. A group of people from beyond the river were offended by the Israelites, and they resisted them. A new king came into power named Artaxerxes, and this people from beyond the river wrote to the new king and convinced him to make the Israelites stop.
And they stopped. Until that king was eventually replaced by king Darius.
And that brings us to Haggai. They had been delayed by hardship, and now they took it as a foregone conclusion that it wasn’t time to build the temple.
But the Lord gave Haggai a word for them. And that brings us to our public reading for today.
Look in Haggai 1:11-11
“In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: 2 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.” 3 Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, 4 “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? 5 Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 6 You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord. 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
Growing up in the Thompson house, I and my siblings all have memories of being disciplined.
As adults, it’s actually a humorous pastime to spend time together talking about the different memories we have surrounding the way our parents disciplined us.
Whenever we have conversations like this, there are certain stories that always come up. Like the one where I called Andrew a certain name because he was being a twerp, and I didn’t know that Dad was listening to our conversation behind a closed door. Enter discipline. Or the time when one of the siblings didn’t tell the truth and all of us were punished.
We look back at these things and laugh because there is actually a type of fellowship in being disciplined by the same parents.
But all of those stories have a common thread. Almost always, our discipline was accompanied by a time when we had to look our parents in the eye and listen to their correction. Sometimes it was before. Sometimes it was after. Sometimes it was at the same time that we were disciplined.
But it was always there. A talking making it clear why we were disciplined and what the expectations are for our family.
The book of Haggai is like the talk that came after the discipline.
God has just disciplined his people, and now he has his returned remnant. And he takes them by the hand, and he says, this is what it means to be my people.
And this is how we are going to frame our time today.
Living as God’s people means:
Recognizing the discipline of God (1:1-11).
We see this in verses 1-11 that we read for our public reading.
Look back up in verse 2. The people are saying that it isn’t time to rebuild the temple. That’s verse 2. But then in verses 4, God calls them on it. Look there. “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?” And in verse 7-8, God says, “Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the Lord.”
God would be glorified if they would just build the temple, but they are putting it off. Instead of seeking God’s kingdom in God’s time, they were seeking their own kingdom in their own time.
And God makes it clear to them that they are suffering for it. That’s most of verses 5-11. Haggai is referencing back to the covenant curses from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. Haggai is trying to point them to the word of God and say, “Look! You are being faithless, and God is doing exactly what he said he would do.”
Look in verse 6, “You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. . . 9 You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. 10 Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
We read from Leviticus 26 for our middle reading earlier. You can go line by line and see these things outlined there.
They had been under the discipline of the Lord, and it seems like they had no idea.
I’ve heard Timothy talk about when he found out that he had Crohn's Disease. He went on a more restrictive diet, and his body began to actually heal. And apparently there’s a big improvement on how you feel when you stop bleeding internally.
He didn’t even know there was something wrong because it felt normal.
Have you made a habit of experiencing the Lord’s discipline and ignoring it because you think that this is just part of how things are?
We slap so many labels on God’s discipline.
Do you ever stop to think that your anxiety might be the Lord convicting your heart?
Or do you think that you have a hard time trusting people when in reality, that’s the Lord allowing you to feel the consequences of your gossip and positioning?
We mislabel things all of the time. We find ways to change the name of our sin or the consequences of our sin so that we don’t have to deal with it. We act like we are the victim while we are actually the perpetrators.
And as brothers and sisters in Christ, this is part of our duty to each other. When someone is under the discipline of God, we need to ask the question.
It may be your duty to ask something like this. “Dear brother, I’m not accusing you of anything here, but is there some sin that God might be disciplining you for?” Or maybe you know there is sin. Maybe you see the line.
You may need to step into the shoes of Haggai for that brother or sister and say, “Look! We’ve talked about this sin, and this discipline is directly connected to it. Let’s walk in repentance together.
God only disciplines the children whom he loves, and when we sin, he will always discipline us.
Now that said, there is cause for discernment and wisdom here. The book of Job demonstrates a really clear example of men who had the best of intentions. They saw Job’s suffering, and they just assumed that he was in sin. And they were rebuked by God.
Suffering doesn’t always imply sin.
Just because you are suffering doesn’t mean God is punishing you.
But depending on the circumstance, it may be appropriate simply to ask.
But even as we say that, recognizing God’s discipline isn’t so much about identifying the discipline. Recognizing God’s discipline should always be toward the end of repentance.
Discipline happens because sin is present. And where sin is present, the people of God seek repentance.
And this is our next point.
Living as God’s people means:
Responding to discipline with obedience (1:12-15)
We see this in 1:12-15.
In these verses, something remarkable happens. The people of Judah actually listen.
They hear the rebuke of Haggai, and the respond with obedience. Look in 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 feared the LORD. 13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.” 14 And 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, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.”
Haggai tells them that they are under discipline because they have built their own houses and ignored the house of God.
And their immediate response is to abandon their homes and work on the house of the Lord.
And everyone is on the same page. It’s incredible. Verse 14 Zerubbabel, the descendant of David who was the governor. He is the king figure. Joshua the son of Jehozadak was the high priest. And all of the people. It says, “The spirit of all the remnant of the people.” All of them came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God.”
And it was on the 24th day of the same month. The last message came on the first day of the month. So in 23 days, all of the people get on the exact same page. There were 40,000 people who came back from Babylon. And I don’t even know how many people were already there.
But this is a lot of people to get on the same page. There are about 35,000 people in American Fork. Can you imagine how involved it would be to get everyone here on the same page about literally anything? Even with all of our technology, can you imagine the bickering?
The king and the priest and all of the people responded in obedience to the discipline of the Lord.
As we were talking earlier about recognizing God’s discipline, did anything come to mind for you? Is there something that stands up in your heart at the mention of God’s discipline?
God doesn’t discipline for the sake of causing pain He disciplines for our good.
If God is disciplining you for some sin, then repent. What would repentance look like for you?
For that thing that you haven’t mentioned out loud to anyone yet–that thing for which the Lord has been convicting your heart and you keep pushing it off.
Living as God’s people means that when we recognize his discipline, we respond with obedience.
And this isn’t because we are under some obligation, it’s because it’s for our good. Think of Timothy with the example of that diagnosis with Chrohn’s. What if he ignored the diagnosis from the doctor. He would have continued to be in horrible pain. And it would have led to death.
If God is pulling on your heart this morning, then turn to him because he wants your good.
God is good, and he only disciplines his children whom he loves. So responding to his discipline is always for our good. It’s always for our delight.
And this is part of what we address in our next point.
Delighting in God’s presence more than our prestige (2:1-9)
We see this in 2:1-9.
By the time that Haggai gave this word of the Lord in chapter 2, they are well under way on the temple. And an old sentiment began to rise up again. Back in Ezra 3, we are told about the first time they started to work on the temple back before Artaxerxes made them stop. Ezra wrote that the older people among the returned exiles could remember the glory of the earlier temple of Solomon, and this new one just didn’t compare. Ezra wrote that even while the younger people were shouting for joy, the older among them were weeping and wailing so much that you couldn't distinguish whether the crowd was sad or joyous.
They just didn’t have the resources. They could only do so much with what they had. Think of the vast wealth of Solomon. The political alliances and the workers at his disposal.
And now there is a rag tag group of returned exiles who haven’t had a real home in 70 years. They have to stop building their own homes to build this temple. And it’s just not as impressive.
As they began to work on the temple again, that sentiment began to rise up again. They were unimpressed and even sad about how the temple looked because they knew what it used to be.
Look in verse 2:3.
“2:3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, 5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’ ”
God is telling them to look at the purpose of the temple, not the prestige of the temple. And what is the purpose?
The temple was the place where God dwelt with his people.
And God’s presence is reason for fortitude. What’s his command in verse 4? Be strong Zerubabbel. Be strong Joshua. Be strong people of the land. Then what does he say? Work! He says, “Keep working on this temple. The temple that you think is small and of little value. Keep working because I am with you. The covenant-keeping God is faithful. Verse 5, “My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.”
Notice how thorough his encouragement is here. He encourages the king. He encourages the priest. And he encourages the people. These are all parties that have been specifically called out for judgment throughout the minor prophets. And here, God is encouraging them to be strong and wait for him because he will be with them.
Then in verses 6 to 9, God proclaims his power and authority over every single penny in the world and every nation and authority.
This house isn’t glorious because it’s plated with gold and set with jewels. It’s glorious because of the one who dwells there.
But ask this. Are you like those people who wept in sorrow because the temple wasn’t majestic enough? Do you value your prestige more than God’s presence?
Is a shiny exterior more important to you than the presence of God?
Where are you priorities? It’s a question worth pondering.
As a church, we have been talking a lot about having a public presence by purchasing a permanent space where we can meet.
This is good. We see clear benefits to God’s name here in Utah as walk toward that.
But I think even in this, we can ask the question. Even for our church, are we desiring the prestige of a nice professional building? Or are we delighting in the presence of God that is already ours and pursuing a building so that more people would be able to come to hear the message of hope and God’s presence that we preach every week?
Be careful that we don’t ignore the good that is already ours and fall into dissatisfied covetousness for what we don’t yet have.
There is so much for us to meditate on here.
We could talk about how your work isn’t valuable because you are skilled. It’s valuable because you work as unto the Lord. We could talk about self esteem and how God’s presence should make that a non-category.
But I want to zero in on this. In Christ, we have the same presence of the same God that Haggai is talking about.
And he doesn’t dwell in some distant temple. He dwells in His people. If you are in Christ, he dwells in you.
In the New Testament, we see that the veil of the temple is torn. We are reconciled to God, and we don’t need temples anymore because God dwells inside of his people, not in a building.
Before Christ, that wasn’t how it worked. God’s spirit might enter into someone, but he wouldn’t usually stay.
If you are in Christ, then God is with you. Literally. And all of the time.
And think about the logic of the encouragement here.
He commands them to be strong. To work. To not fear. Because he is with them.
And why should they be strong and work and not fear? What is God exhorting them toward?
Toward finishing the temple so that he can be with them!
Be strong because he is with you and finish building the temple so that he will be with you.
God’s presence with his people is both the grounds for present encouragement and the end to which they are striving.
Christian, are you discouraged today? Do you feel like you don’t even know what the next step is? Be strong. God is with you. And as you persevere to the end, you await a day when he will be without any hindrance of worry or bitterness or horrible memories or anything else.
We are with God and He is with us. And we look to a day when we will be with God and He will be with us.
And this brings us to our final point.
Anticipating the promises of God (2:10-23)
We see this in the final two prophecies from Haggai, and these are recorded in verses 10-23.
In these verses, Haggai records two different prophecies that were given on the same day. The first one is in verses 10-19 to answer a question from the people, and the second is almost like a private letter that was released to the public in verses 20-23. It’s a personal word for Zerubbabel that is meant for all of the people to read.
In 10-19, God promises blessing, and in 20-23, God promises a messiah.
Let’s take them each in turn.
In verses 10-19, The Lord is addressing what was probably a concern of the people. At this point, it’s been two months since the last word from Haggai, and they hadn’t seen a waterfall of blessing yet.
So the Lord gives a word to Haggai. He tries to help them understand by pointing to the law. In 2:11-13, he makes the point that in the Mosaic law, if a person touches a dead body, which is considered unclean, then they turn around and touch something clean like bread, the bread becomes unclean. The bread is contaminated. And this doesn’t go the other way. You can’t take a piece of clean and holy bread and touch it to a graverobbers hands to make the graverobber clean. The bread would still become unclean.
God’s point is this. Until very recently, this people was in rebellion against God and they were under discipline. They were unclean. Everything they touched became unclean. God wouldn’t bless it.
But now, they have repented. They are no longer under God’s discipline. They are clean. And God tells them, mark today’s date. From this day, I will bless you. That’s what he says in verses 18-19.
“18 Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the LORD’s temple was laid, consider: 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
They hadn’t seen the fulfillment, but they were given the promise. God would remove his discipline from them as long as they were faithful to his covenant.
The second prophecy starts in verse 20.
“20 The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, 21 “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, 22 and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”
This isn’t just a proclamation that Zerubbabel is super cool.
God is reinstating the line of David. He is reinstituting the promised Messiah. That’s what all of these promises are about. None of them are new. God has promised all of them before.We’ve been seeing them as we’ve walked through the minor prophets, but the line of David was filled with failure after failure.
And that language of the signet ring is important. In Jeremiah 22, God promised king Jehoiakim that his son was like God’s signet ring, and God would cast him off.
Here, God is putting the ring back on. Even though Israel and David’s line had completely failed, God is abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. And the promise of an eternal kingdom is renewed.
So in these last verses, we have two promises. The promise of blessing for a repentant people. And the promise of a messianic son.
And in both cases, the people had to wait. They had to anticipate a promise. God removed his discipline so that their crops wouldn’t be struck by blight and mildew, but that doesn’t mean that they were guaranteed instant gratification. God didn’t just drop baskets of figs into everyone’s bedroom so that they would be blessed.
And for the messianic son, they still had to wait. From where we are, we can see that this was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. Zerubbabel is mentioned in the genealogies of Jesus both in Matthew and Luke. But even now, we are waiting for this promise of God to find its full fruition.
And this is who we are. Living as God’s people means anticipating the promises of God. It means waiting with faith.
It’s right for you to long for the promises of God to find their fulfillment. It’s good for you to long for the day when you will have full delight in the eternal presence of God. It’s righteous to anticipate the day when every tear will be wiped away–all of your pains will be no more–every evidence of brokenness will be a thing of the past.
But in your waiting, are you growing restless? Do hunger for good gifts so much now that you are willing to sin to get them? Are you willing to cover up something that should be exposed so that your pain is minimized or so that your honor is maximized? Do you find yourself angry with God because you don’t have a body without pain like you will in eternity? Do you blame your sins on God because he hasn’t returned yet? Or some other thing?
It’s not evil to long for that day, but if your longing drives you to sin, then you need to repent.
One day, faith and hope will no longer be possible because every promise will be fulfilled. There will be no more reason to hope. There will be no more need for faith. Because all things will be ours. And we will see the promises of God fulfilled.
But until that day, the people of God are a people who wait with hope and faith.
We’ll close with this. In the book of Hebrews, chapter 11, we find what we call the hall of faith. It’s a list of saints from ages past who lived and died having promises of God but never seeing them come to fruition. In that chapter we see this in verses 13-16.
“13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”
Brothers and sisters, we have the promises of God, and as we wait with anticipation and faith, God dwells with us and he is not ashamed to be called our God, for he has prepared for us a city.
So until that day, we live as the people of God. Recognizing and responding to his discipline. Delighting in His presence. And anticipating his promise.