In 538 B.C. Cyrus of Persia issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their temple. The first group to return was led by Zerubbabel, and in 536 B.C work on the temple began. Ezra, chapters 4-6, gives the background to the Book of Haggai and describes how the Samaritans hindered the building of the temple and wrote a letter to the Persian king to stop them.
However, sixteen years after the start of the temple, the people let their personal affairs interfere with doing God’s business. Haggai calls the builders to renewed courage in the Lord, renewed holiness of life, and renewed faith in God, who controls the future.
Haggai and Zechariah were both given the assignment of calling the people to finish God’s temple. Thus after fourteen years of neglected work on the temple, it was resumed in 520 B.C. and was completed in 516 B.C.
The Temple is Not Complete (Ezra 5:1)
Verse 1 – In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying,
Verse 2 – “Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, ‘This people says, ‘The time has not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.” ‘ ”
So, the Jews had returned to Judah from their Babylonian captivity. Zerubbabel is appointed governor and Joshua is high priest.
Verse 3 – Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying,
Verse 4 – “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?”
Instead of building God’s house of a place to worship in Judah, the people had spent their time on their own dwellings and stopped work on God’s house. God asked them, “Is this right?” Caring for only our personal needs while neglecting the things of God, will hinder our relationship with God because He is not made a priority.
Verse 5 – Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider your ways!
Verse 6 – “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earn wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”
Because the people had not made the temple first priority, nothing they did prospered them. They sowed in vain.
Verse 7 – Thus says the LORD of host: “Consider your ways!
Verse 8 – Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the LORD.
Verse 9 – “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” says the LORD of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.
God was not multiplying what they produced. Why, after 70 years of captivity, did the people have to be told to put their God first? We are no different: God blesses and multiplies, and before long we start neglecting the things of God after we have what we want.
Verse 10 – “Therefore the heavens above you withhold dew, and the earth withhold sits fruit.
Verse 11 – “For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, on the grain and the new wine and oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
In order for God to get their attention, He had to effect what they depended on the most – food! God has a way of getting our attention when we neglect Him. But the people needed to recognize it quickly so it wouldn’t get any worse.
Verse 12 – Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD.
When the leaders obeyed the Lord, the people followed.
Verse 13 – Then Haggai, the LORD’S messenger, spoke the LORD’S message to the people, saying, “I am with you, says the LORD.”
Verse 14 – So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God,
Verse 15 – On the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius.
The people began working on the temple just 23 days after Haggai’s message. Rarely did a message from a prophet produce such quick results.