The twelve prophetic books from Hosea to Malachi are an often-overlooked portion of Scripture. Although these books are sometimes called the “Minor Prophets”, they are minor only in the sense of them being relatively shorter than the books of the “Major Prophets” such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. The books of the “Minor Prophets” are an important part of God’s Word, and the things in them which were “written aforetime were written for our learning” (cf. Romans 15:4).
Over the course of this year, we will be reviewing each book of the “Minor Prophets”. In the month of October, we turn to the book of Haggai. The books of Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi are referred to as the “post-exilic” Minor Prophets, because they were written after Judah’s return from Babylonian exile / captivity. Incidentally, Haggai and Zechariah were contemporaries, both beginning their prophetic work during the second year of King Darius of the Medo-Persian empire (Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1.
The Persian king Cyrus had allowed the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple in 536 B.C. (Ezra 1:1ff). This was a long-awaited opportunity for the Jews to return from exile in Babylon. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel, about 50,000 people returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2), and they began the process of rebuilding the temple (Ezra 3). However, the Jews soon faced opposition from their enemies, and the work of rebuilding the temple came to a halt (Ezra 4).
16 years later, in the year 520 B.C., the people had grown accustomed to postponing the work of rebuilding the temple. “This people say the time is not come, that the LORD’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2). Instead, they had focused their attention on rebuilding their own houses, while the house of the LORD lay in ruins (Haggai 1:4). The LORD thus sends Haggai with a message to the people: “CONSIDER YOUR WAYS” (Haggai 1:5). Haggai reminds the people that they had were experiencing economic hardship (Haggai 1:6), and that the reason for this was because the people had selfishly focused on rebuilding their own houses while the LORD’s house was still in ruins (Haggai 1:9).
What did the LORD urge the people to do? Haggai reveals that the people were to “CONSIDER YOUR WAYS”, and to “go up to the mountain, bring wood, and build the house – and I will be glorified” (Haggai 1:8). The command was clear – to resume the rebuilding of the temple, and the purpose was clearly stated as well – so that God would be glorified and honoured.
“GO, BRING, BUILD”. Did the people listen to the instructions which the LORD had communicated through Haggai? That very same month, the people resumed the process of rebuilding the temple of the LORD (cf. Haggai 1:1; 15). Just 4 years later, in 516 B.C., during the sixth year of the reign of King Darius of Persia, the work of rebuilding the temple was completed (Ezra 6:15), and God was glorified.
What can we learn from the book of Haggai today? God does not “dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Today, we do not worship in a physical temple, but God’s temple, which is the house of the LORD, is the church (1 Timothy 3:15) – the body of believers who have been “called out of the darkness of sin into His marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). When the church, this temple of the LORD, is strong and united – God is glorified. However, if it is weak and torn apart by strife and division, if it is not growing in faith and good works, it does not bring glory to God, just as the ruined temple of old was a stain on God’s name.
“GO, BRING, BUILD”. Are there divisions in the church, like the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)? Is the church stagnating and not growing in faith and good works, like many of the seven congregations in Asia Minor (Revelation 2-3)? If so, we need to “GO, BRING, BUILD”.
We need to realize the sinful and weak condition that the church is in and GO do something about it. We cannot bury our heads in the ground like the proverbial ostrich, and hope that the problem will go away. After 16 years of “burying their head in the ground”, the Jewish temple of old was no closer to being rebuilt.
We need to BRING the materials needed for rebuilding the church. If the church is torn apart by division, it may be that someone needs to make the first move to be loving and a peacemaker. If the church is weak in knowledge, it may be that someone needs to critically examine the sermons and Bible classes that are presented, and provide feedback for the teachers. If the church is not growing in faith, it may be that we need someone to preach on not trusting in our material wealth and physical prosperity. Whatever the cause of the congregation’s weaknesses, we need to BRING the materials needed to rebuild it.
Finally, we need to BUILD the church. Although the church has already been built (established) by Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:18), every single Christian must be committed in the work of continually strengthening it. If the church is torn apart by division, everyone must be committed to making peace. If the church is weak in knowledge, everyone must be committed to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). If the church is lukewarm and “resting on their laurels”, everyone must come to the realisation that such is displeasing to the Lord, and work to change this sinful condition.
There is so much more that we can say about the book of Haggai, but I hope that this brief overview has reminded of the need for everyone to be involved in the work of strengthening the temple of the Lord, which is the church. Everyone of us needs to “GO, BRING, BUILD”, so that God will be glorified. May God bless us as we continue to serve Him all the days of our life.