- Locate the passage
Four messages of Haggai are recorded in this book. Haggai 1:1-15 is the situation, content, and result of Haggai’s first message.
Haggai is prophecy, but it is not written in the typical poetic form. Rather, Haggai is framed by narrative prose with Haggai’s hortatory messages claiming the bulk of the book. Haggai 1:1-15 specifically combines prophetic rebuke with narrative.
- Determine the structure of the passage
(v. 1-6) Haggai’s Message One: Part A | The Lord’s Challenge
(v. 7-11) Haggai’s Message One: Part B | The Lord’s Command
(v. 12-15) The People’s Response and the Lord’s Blessing
- Exegete the passage
Notice that the exact date of this message is given (August 29, 520 BC according to the modern calendar). The time and historical context of Haggai’s ministry is critical to understand his message. The book is set during the reign of Darius I (522-486 BC) and all four of Haggai’s messages are given in 520 BC. Sixty-six years earlier the Babylonians defeated Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Cyrus, the ruler of Persia, then captured Jerusalem in 539. In 538 Cyrus issued an edict which permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem in order to rebuild the temple. Therefore, when Haggai delivers his first message concerning the rebuilding of the temple in 520 BC, the Jews have been living back in Jerusalem for 18 years. The problem is procrastination produced by misplaced priorities!
- Zerubbabel—governor of Judah
- Joshua—high priest
- The People—Israelites
- Haggai—the prophet
- The Lord of Hosts (Hosts being “armies, angels, and/or stars”)—a description of God that highlights His absolute sovereignty and universal rule. This specific character description is used 14 times in Haggai and naturally connects the character of God with His revealed abilities and actions.
Haggai 1:1-6: Haggai’s Message 1A: The Lord’s Challenge
Notice that Haggai’s message is not one of judgment as much as it is a message of diagnosis. God’s message through Haggai begins with a declarative statement describing the situation (v. 2). Then God asks a rhetorical question in light of this situation (v. 3-4). Notice the repetition of “time” and the comparison God is making between the status of the people’s houses and His house. The problem is that God’s house (the temple) is in ruins and the people are doing nothing about it because they have prioritized their own houses. Keep in mind that the temple represented the place where God dwelled among His people. To subordinate the rebuilding of the temple is to subordinate the presence of God among them!
Now that God has identified the situation (problem) He gives instructions in (v. 5-6). “Consider your ways” (literally “set to heart”) is code for “think about what you are doing and what’s happening as a result!” The specifics the Lord gives for their consideration point to a shortage of life’s necessities with the implication that God is the one responsible for the shortage.
Haggai 1:7-11: Haggai’s Message 1B: The Lord’s Command
“Consider your ways” is communicated again. The first time the thrust of it was evaluation. Now the thrust of it is action. In (v. 8) God gives the specifics for action—the essence of which is “build my house that I may be pleased and glorified.”
In (v. 9-11) God returns to the shortages the people have experienced and clarifies the exact origin of those shortages—it is God himself—the Lord of Hosts! The people have “busied” (Hebrew participle “running”) themselves with their own houses, but not God’s house.
Haggai 1:12-15: The People’s Response and the Lord’s Blessing
Take note that Haggai addressed this sermon to Zerubbabel and Joshua in (v. 1). However, in (v. 12) it is not just Zerubbabel and Joshua who obey and fear God, the people at large do so as well. Notice also the contrast between “these people” (v. 2) and “their God” (v. 12).
In response to the obedience of the people and the leaders God speaks a word of encouragement which confirms His presence with them—the very thing they had neglected! The presence of God among them then stirs (arouses, awakens, incites) them all to obey. God blesses their obedience with His presence and power.
- Let the structure of the text drive the sermon
I. Narrative introduction and set-up (v. 1)
II. God challenges His people to evaluate their situation (v. 2-6)
III. God commands His people to obey His instructions (v. 7-11)
IV. God comes upon His people with His presence and power when they obey (v. 12-15)