The two chapters of Haggai place this prophet’s writing among the shortest books of the bible. Haggai focuses on prophecies that relate to the (then) coming Messiah. The prophet himself (whose name means “festive”) was a contemporary of Zechariah, and both men were instrumental in motivating the exiles who had returned to Jerusalem to actually complete the re-building of the temple, about the year 516 B.C.
Sixteen years had passed since the foundation had been laid, under the leadership of Zerubbabel. During that time, the reconstruction work had ceased when enemies of Judah managed to persuade king Cyrus to “temporarily” halt it. Haggai’s first challenge to His people comes in chapter 1:5-6, when he reviews and compares their physical condition in Jerusalem with their spiritual condition, symbolized by the unfinished state of the temple: “Consider your ways.” The application comes at the end of verse six, where he compares those who neglect the spiritual responsibilities of life to someone who works hard for wages, only to lose them by storing them in a bag with holes! This imagery –with its emphasis on wasted motion and effort –vividly illustrates the pointlessness of a life lived without God as its foundation. When we live without considering God’s will and arrange our lives without considering eternity, we are wasting this life! Our existence in this world is meant to be a time of preparation for eternal life with God.
Haggai’s second point concerns the impact of his people’s spiritual neglect on their physical condition, chapter 1:7-11. Again the Lord challenges them to “consider your ways,” and then points out that their high hopes and great expectations of prosperity (in re-turning from exile) had not materialized because they had failed to keep God at the center of their lives! They had begun a good work by laying the temple’s foundation, but then allowed opposition and criticism to stop them from completing it. Instead, they had turned their energies toward their own (material) prosperity. Despite their efforts, however, they had not prospered. Haggai says this was because they had abandoned the fundamental reason for returning to Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 1:2-4); to rebuild the temple and restore the sacrifices and worship that were meant to be offered there. Haggai’s clear implication is that if they would concentrate on “prospering” in spiritual matters, God would take care of their prosperity in material things! In just the same way, Christians who devote themselves and their energies to the things of this life instead of to God and His service are assuring that their lives here will be empty and unsatisfying, and that their eternal destiny will not be in heaven!
The third point to note in Haggai’s record concerns the completion of the temple, at the end of chapter one (verses 14-15); once Zerubbabel and the people were stirred up by the prophet’s challenging message and went to work (verses 7-11), they were able to finish it (cf. Ezra 6:13-15)! The power of God’s people, when we all work together according to His will, is incalculable! The sacrifices that were offered when this new temple was dedicated clearly show that it could not even begin to compare with Solomon’s temple (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:4-5; Ezra 6:17), and Zerubbabel acknowledged this fact – “Is [this temple] not as nothing in your eyes?” (Haggai 2:3). The importance of this “restoration” temple is beyond dispute, however; verse nine alludes to the coming Messianic kingdom (the church), whose glory would surpass even Solomon’s temple because it would be in this temple that the Son of God would proclaim true peace for all humanity.