Verse 1 states that the word of the Lord came to Zerubbabel and to Joshua by Haggai. Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah and Joshua was the high priest. The date upon which the word of the Lord came to the two leaders of Judah was on the first day of the sixth month during the second year of the reign of Darius (520 B.C.). Darius is not Darius the Median who cast Daniel into the lion’s den (Daniel 6). Darius the Median ruled over Babylon in 536 B.C., two years after the Persian Emperor Cyrus issued an order allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to rebuild the temple.
The text before us is centered upon the rebuilding of the temple. If we are to hear the message that the Lord would have us hear, we need first consider why the temple was destroyed. The temple was destroyed 66 years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The temple was an outward testimony of Israel’s covenantal relationship with God. God’s chosen people had broken the covenant time and time again. The temple had become a picture of a covenantal relationship that no longer existed. God used the destruction of the temple to reveal that Israel had severed its relationship with Him. The Lord, however, made it known through the prophet Jeremiah that land ownership would return to the heirs of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob after seventy years of captivity (Jer. 29:10). The temple, once rebuilt, would testify of Israel’s restoration to God.
Immediately following their return to Jerusalem from Babylon in 536 B.C., the people began to rebuild. The construction was met with opposition from the Syrian people who inhabited the land north of Jerusalem (see Ezra 4:1-5). The rebuilding effort was halted shortly after the foundation of the temple was completed. Haggai’s call in the text before us for Zerubbabel and Joshua to finish rebuilding the temple came after an interruption of about 16 years.
“This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (v. 2). These words, while spoken by Haggai, are not his; they are the words of the Lord God. They are the words of Him who is all-knowing and of Him who looks over Israel. They are the words of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The time most certainly was not like the time in which Solomon built the first temple. Solomon’s temple was built in a time of plenty. It was built in a time chosen by God. The Lord did not choose for the temple to be rebuilt in a time of plenty. The Lord had withheld rain (v. 11). It was by the Lord’s choice that the people should sew much but harvest little (v. 6). It was God’s intent that His house be built in a time of need. God called upon Zerubbabel and Joshua to build, in a time in which they would be dependent upon Him to provide the resources needed to complete His house.
“Is it time . . . ?” (v. 4). The Lord, with this question, directs Zerubbabel and Joshua to look upon themselves as a visitor from another land might view them. Strangers would note that Zerubbabel and Joshua lived in luxury. Their homes were ceiled (lined with wood paneling). Strangers would also note that the house of the Lord was unfinished and neglected. The question is self-answering. No time is the time in which one’s ceiled home has precedence over the house of God. The time to rebuild is now and now is not a time to let the house of God lie in waste.
“Consider your ways” is God’s instruction to Zerubbabel and Joshua in verse 5. This same instruction is directed to all the people of Judah in verse 7. The way of the people is expressed with the words, “The time is not come” (v. 2). The time had not come for the people because they had sown much and harvested little. They had labored but their labor had not produced gain. They were waiting for the Lord to provide increase such that they might build from their abundance. They thought to build as Solomon had built.
In verse 9, the Lord explains why He withheld the gain which they sought. They had placed their personal gain first and the house of the Lord second. The desire of their heart was personal increase. The Lord promises to give the desires of the heart to all who delight in Him (Ps. 37:4). The Lord withheld plenty because they were not delighting in Him. They were looking to themselves and not looking to Him. They were not doing as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived by faith. In verse 8, the Lord commanded Judah to go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the temple. When believers do as the Lord commands, He responds. God takes pleasure and He is glorified. In the specific instance of rebuilding the temple, God was glorified because His people built in faith. The second temple would be a testimony produced by faith. The second temple speaks of the faith of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The word of the Lord which came by Haggai is the same word which is declared in New Testament scripture: “But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Heb. 11:6). God’s message through Haggai is for all believers. When believers act upon faith, God is glorified and He gives increase.
Let us act upon that which we have received. Let us receive the abundance of His love.