Zerubbabel is the “governor of Judah” at the time Haggai uttered his prophecy, the prophet is contemporary to Ezra and Nehemiah and there are dozens of references to him in their books – and Haggai, whose two chapter prophecy we read today, is referred to by Ezra (5:1; 6:14) as being “the prophet” who was present.
Haggai is sent by the Lord to try to strengthen the will of the people in rebuilding the temple. There is not enough zeal among the people to get on with the work of completing the rebuilding. The prophet says, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” (2:3).
What is the reason for this? A lack of vision? A spiritual lack of vision has always been really serious. The prophet rebukes them for their lack of endeavour, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? … Consider your ways!” (1:4,5).
In today’s language we could say, ‘Consider your priorities in the way you use your time and spend your money’! We noted particularly what God then says through the prophet, “my house … lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house” (verse 9).
Then the prophet is inspired to develop a ‘strong’ message to the leaders and the people, we read, “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” (2:4).
A parallel message for followers of Christ is emphasised in the New Testament, “… be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus”. Paul tells Timothy (2 Timothy 2:1). Last week we read Peter’s words in his first letter telling believers, “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God …” (1 Peter 2:5).
Finally, we see how Haggai is given a picture of the ultimate time, a time which has a far greater temple! We appear to be on the brink of this time! “I will shake all nations”, the LORD tells him, “so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory … the latter glory of this house shall be greater … And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts” (2:7,9).
Let us all be strong in the ways the Lord sees true strength, for we have ‘the wonder of his grace’ – noting the words of Paul as he brings his first letter to the Corinthians to its climax, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” (verse 13).