Always helps me to try to put this period straight in a historical context.
Drawing heavily on Bev Van Kampen’s Bible Notes, let’s look at the tiny book of Haggai. His name means ‘festive,’ appropriate for the first prophet to post-exile Jews. Haggai is contemporary to Zechariah, and both are mentioned twice in the book of Ezra (ch.s 5 and 6). The context is people complaining back to the king of Persia… do these people really have permission to rebuild their temple?
When Babylon was conquered, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the people could return to their land and rebuild the temple. 50,000 Jews returned and they began the reconstruction. But for 15 years after Cyrus’ death, and because of their own selfishness, temple construction stopped.
Then God called Haggai to his ministry of building.
Message to the leaders (1:1-2), challenge to the people (1:3-11), response of the people (1:12-15).
Word of encouragement (2:1-9), promise of blessing (2:10-19), prediction to Zerubbabel (2:20-23).
Read Haggai 1:1-11
Why does God want the temple rebuilt?
Many people feel like this refers to modern nations as well as the Israelites of the time. Does it apply to us?
Read Haggai 1:12-15. Bev notes: There are two factors in the communication of God’s message: God inspires both the speaker and the hearer. How do you get that from this passage? Is there an implication for us today?
Haggai 2:3-5, after about a month of work, has “3Ask them, ‘Is there anyone among the faithful few who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Doesn’t it seem like nothing to you?’ 4“But now, Zerubbabel, be strong,” declares the Lord. “Chief Priest Joshua (son of Jehozadak), be strong. Everyone in the land, be strong,” declares the Lord. “Work, because I am with you,” declares the Lord of Armies. 5“This is the promise I made to you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains with you. Don’t be afraid.”
Some connect Haggai 2:3-5 with Voltaire’s quote: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Do you see a connection?
Does that idea apply to our church life or faith walk today?
Read Haggai 2:6-9. Some say this is more than a prophecy for the day, which it is as told in Ezra 6, but also a prophecy of Christ’s reign. Do you agree or disagree?
Read Haggai 2:10-14. What is the warning here? How would you update it to today’s language?
Read Haggai 2:15-19. Is the idea that God is not acting quickly because the people are unclean? Does it still apply?
|From TheRevSteve @ Flickr|
How is the coming Messiah related to the rebuilding of the temple?
The Jews are successful. Ezra 6:14-15: “14So the Jewish leaders continued to make progress because of the message from the prophet Haggai and Zechariah, the grandson of Iddo. They finished building as the God of Israel had ordered and as Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes (the kings of Persia) had ordered. 15This temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar in the sixth year of King Darius’ reign.”
Is there any comfort or pleasure in your life that tempts you away from doing God’s work?
Old Testament timeline
Beverly Van Kampen's bible teaching notes. (Her current website and blog.)
Read this Haggai study from Spreading Light, with some interesting info.