Prophecy One In the sixth month, Haggai’s first prophecy condemned slothfulness and exhorted the people to get working again. Though for a season they had enjoyed the pleasures of prosperous indolence, the Lord had rebuked their neglect of His house. Yet when God afflicted His people with hunger and loss, they refused to read the signs of the times. They were of one opinion: “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Hag. 1:2 KJV). After 20 years of “rest” since the work ceased by royal decree, their objections were preposterous. To see Haggai’s relevance today, let’s relate the people’s sins to Christ’s comments to the seven churches of Revelation 2-3.
Where was that holy fire which had characterized these zealots in the early days when they risked all for God? After seventy years of exile they had returned to build the temple which Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. No one could hinder them as they risked their lives with a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other (Neh. 4:17). But now, like the church in Sardis, the Lord was saying, “I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Rev. 3:2). The people who had begun well had lost the will to finish. And so like the church of Ephesus, the words applying would be, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works” (Rev. 2:5).
Where then was the first love of those unwearied workers who for His name’s sake had labored and had not fainted? And what happened to big plans to turn the world upside down, when the cynical world simply turned us upside down? And what about their own houses when the Lord’s house remained in ruin? The cedars of Lebanon lined their ceilings, while God’s dwelling remained derelict. In their prosperity they allowed His house to become dilapidated. But their short-term gains risked an eternal loss of reward. For while they congratulated themselves on an early prosperity, the Lord could have said to Judah what He said to the church of the Laodiceans: “Because thou sayest, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing’: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17).
What of ourselves who, in the industrialized nations, are supping milk and honey as if in a promised land while many brethren in less pleasant places have little of this world’s goods, but plenty of love for their Lord? To such the Lord says, as to the church in Smyrna, “I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich)” (Rev. 2:9).
In the seventh month, the prophet Haggai spoke again. By this time the people had obeyed the first prophecy. However, they were not well pleased with their work for they were not enamored with the Lord’s commandment to use wood for the completion of His house. But in all fairness, they had fulfilled the Scripture: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7). Nevertheless they were still measuring the value of their work by the shekel of the sanctuary and not recognizing that the sanctuary was the true measure of the shekel. If God were dwelling in the house, His presence was greater glory than all the silver, gold and precious stones used to build it. And of course there were survivors who remembered the house built by Solomon which was of exceeding magnificence (1 Chr. 22:5). They were stumbled by the comparatively poor appearance of the second temple. They had forgotten that the God of glory still dwelt in their midst: “According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not” (Hag. 2:5).
While the apostles and prophets have gone home to their reward, Peter tells us that “the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you” (1 Pet. 4:14). Furthermore we must not suppose that God despises those who, in simplicity and sincerity, serve and worship their Lord in humble surroundings. God prefers good people to gilded pews: “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20).
And what of the sanctuary of eternity? If God promised to make the latter house greater than the first, what of the weak of the world who will yet taste of the hidden manna? And what of the poor who will yet tread the gold of New Jerusalem, when clothed in white garments they walk with their Savior?
In the ninth month, God taught His people another great lesson. Did the flesh of the sacrifice sanctify that which it touched through contact with the priestly garments? “The priests answered and said, ‘No’” (2:12). Conversely, what “if one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, ‘It shall be unclean’” (2:13). These questions contain a hidden parable in respect to the temple. If the ruins of the temple were unclean, then the people would be made unclean while the house lay waste. But conversely, the rededication of the house had affected a cleansing whereby the revived people could assume that all their privileges had been restored. This is another way of saying that the ruin of the apostolic spiritual house down through the ages did not preclude restoration of the testimony in later times. The door of repentance was never closed, whatever the darkness of the age. Or as the Lord said to the church in Philadelphia, “Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8).
The final revelation is to Zerubabbel, the governor of Judah. No matter what may happen during the five Gentile empires prophesied in Daniel, God would preserve His people until Messiah should come. Zerubabbel and Christ are both of the royal line and are both mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy. In contrast, the genealogies of the mighty kings would evaporate into obscurity, while the line of the King of kings remained intact by divine decree. So also those today who serve the King will reign with Him when the kingdoms of the heathen have descended into dust. If we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him. Hence He says to the overcomer in the church in Thyatira: “He shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of My Father” (Rev. 2:27).
By Tom Summerhill
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org