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Haggai 1:1-11 – It is not time to build

Unlike Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah who spoke before the Exile, Haggai speaks after the Exile. In 587 B.C. the kingdom of Judah was ended, the people taken into Exile and the temple burned to the ground. Seventy years later a small remnant have returned to the Promised Land under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest.

Everything is a bit of a mess though. God’s people are a remnant, Jerusalem and the temple are in ruins and they are still under the domination of the Persian king Darius. Even worse is that crops repeatedly fail and fruit trees and animal are struggling as well. It is into this situation that Haggai speaks.

The problem to which Haggai points the people is neither political nor socio-economic – it is their relationship with Yahweh. It seems that the people have been diligent in building their houses including paneling and enclosing their roofs. Meanwhile the temple, God’s house, has been left in ruins. The building of their own houses and their neglect of God’s house reflects the condition of their hearts. They seek their own comfort but not the concerns of the kingdom of God.

God utilizes Haggai to explain to the remnant why their crops are failing – apparently it is not simply caused by weather conditions but by Yahweh’s actions (God is sovereign over weather patterns).

The failure of the remnant to improve their material lives has been frustrated by God rendering futile the work of their hands – what they attempted to gain Yahweh blew away. While they busied themselves with their own houses, neglecting to prioritize their relationship with God, God caused the heavens to withhold rain and the earth to withhold crops. The language used by Haggai recalls the curses for disobedience in Deuteronomy if God’s people neglect the covenant.

God is not acting as a hurt or vengeful god. He is disciplining the remnant so that they might reflect and turn from their sin – a gracious action.

Two things may be learned: (1) Sometimes we need God’s word to interpret our circumstances as the remnant needed Haggai (2) It is a kindness of God to cause us to reflect so that we might repent of our sins.