Haggai’s Context: Haggai’s brief prophetic ministry takes place shortly after Israel returns from Babylonian captivity (cf. Ezra 1-6). The people returned to a city in ruins, a citizenry impoverished by years of foreign oppression, and fierce opposition from the Samaritans. These circumstances caused widespread complacency toward worship. Instead of rebuilding the Temple, which represented the presence of God, the people invested their resources in building lavish homes.
Haggai’s Message – Theological Theme(s): To the modern reader it may appear that Haggai’s focus is purely materialistic. However, his chief concern was the glory of God returning to the Temple and Jerusalem. He calls the people to realign their priorities by putting God’s glory above their own pleasures and comforts. The people were relying on a misunderstanding of prophecy to justify their apathy and disregard for the Temple. In response to their excuses, the prophet reminds the people that they cannot neglect the presence of God and expect to enjoy His blessings.
The need for God’s presence is a theological thread that runs through the postexilic prophets (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi). The prophets jointly announce that revival and renewal will not happen without the presence of God. In Haggai, the LORD stirs up both the leadership and the laity to joyful obedience to the call to action. This divine outpouring of God’s Spirit created one of the greatest revivals in biblical history. Without God’s presence, there can be no revival of His people!
Significance of Haggai’s Message for Christians:
1. God’s presence is no longer limited to a building or a particular point on the map; however, the desire for God’s presence must still be a priority for believers.
2. The presence of God in our lives is not only the source of blessings, but it is also itself the preeminent blessing.
3. Revival and renewal are the sovereign work of God whereby He stirs up and empowers His people to carry out His work.
Haggai 2:4-9 (ESV) – 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.’”
Haggai in the New Testament:
Haggai New Testament
2:6 Hebrews 12:26
Further Study in Haggai: Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years of captivity (Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10; cf. Haggai 1:2).
It is possible that Israel’s excuse for neglecting the construction of the Temple was either a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of Jeremiah’s prophecy about the seventy years of captivity. The interpretive issue is centered on the starting point of Jeremiah’s prophecy.
Did the seventy years begin in 605 B.C. during the initial Babylonian invasion or did it begin at the destruction of the Temple in 587 B.C.? Although it is plausible that the people had misunderstood the starting point of this prophecy, it appears from the text that they were using this excuse to mask their apathy toward worship and God’s glory.
How should we understand Jeremiah’s prophecy?
1. The prophecy of “seventy years” is representative of a lifespan and was used metaphorically to declare that the majority of adults taken into captivity would die before the end of the Exile; or
2. The first invasion of Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. until the laying of the foundation of the Second Temple in 536 B.C. was exactly 70 years (cf. 2 Kings 24; Ezra 3:10-13).