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THE FIRST MESSAGE.
The first word of the LORD opens with an appeal to the conscience (2-4); followed by an exhortation (5, 6), and closes with a word of encouragement and warning (7-11).
(Vv. 2-4). The history of these times, as presented in the book of Ezra, presents the adversaries as stopping the building of the house, but is silent as to the condition of the people. The prophet Haggai makes no allusion to the adversaries, but at once lays bare the low moral condition of the remnant. History has to do with events; prophecy with the moral condition that lies behind the actions of the people of God.
Judging simply by the history, we might conclude that the building of the house was stopped by what the adversaries said. From the word of the LORD, by the prophet, we learn that the true reason is found in what the people said. Thus the message opens with the words, "This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built." For twelve years they had ceased to do the one thing for which they had been delivered from Babylon. They seek to excuse their failure by saying. "The time is not come" to build the LORD'S house.
Alas! how often the same excuse may be made today. We may be tempted to say, All have failed, and the Church is in ruins, and because the time is not yet come to put all things right by the coming of Christ, we must lightly pass over the moral confusion that marks Christendom, and shut our eyes to the irregularities, and departure from the Scriptural order of God's house.
If, however, we speak thus, the LORD appeals to us, as to His people of old, with the conscience reaching question, "Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?" Thus we learn, that whatever excuses may be made as to the time being inopportune, the true reason for indifference to the carrying out the principles of God's house is found in occupation with our own things. Even in the Apostle's day we read of believers that, "All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's" ( Php_2:21 ). One has said, "It is an inevitable alternative that we must be occupied either with the Lord's things, or with our own."
Some may seek their own by settling down to "mind earthly things." But apart from the snare of worldliness and earthly mindedness, we may mind our own things in the sense of simply confining our thoughts and activities to the individual blessing of souls, and entirely neglecting the great truths concerning Christ and the Church, and thus cease to walk according to the principles of God's house. This was a great danger even in the day of the Apostle Paul, for he could write of the "great conflict" he had that believers might enter into the mystery of God. In our day, when the truth of the Church has been recovered, the constant danger is once again to give up these truths and settle down into evangelism without the mystery. It is possible to engage in much evangelical activity which may exalt ourselves in the religious world, and entail little or no reproach; but, to maintain the truths of the Church, and to act in the light of the truth, will at once involve reproach and conflict. From such conflict, our natural love of ease will shrink, with the result that, where there is a lack of faith, we are in danger of becoming [solely] a gospel mission, and letting go all the truths that have been so graciously recovered.
(Vv. 5, 6). This solemn appeal to the conscience is followed by the exhortation, "Consider your ways." The remnant are asked, as we are asked, to consider what is the result of occupation with our own things, and our individual soul blessing, while neglecting the deeper interests of the LORD, and the things that concern His glory.
The result then, as now, is expressed in the words, "Ye have sown much, and bring in little" - great activity but little return. Moreover, this neglect of the house of God leads to spiritual starvation, for, says the prophet, "Ye eat but ye have not enough." Again, it brings no spiritual satisfaction, for, "Ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink;" it leaves the spiritual affections cold, "Ye clothe you, but there is none warm;" and it carries no reward, "He that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes." Such then was the sad condition, not of the people of God who were still in Babylon, but of the highly privileged remnant who, in the mercy of God had been delivered from Babylon - a condition which is wholly the result of having so largely given up the purpose for which they had been brought back to the land. Has this no voice for the people of God, in our day, who seek to answer to the mind of God?
(Vv. 7-9). For the second time the LORD exhorts the remnant to consider their ways. The first time it was in the way of reproof, now it is to encourage them to resume the work of the house of God. We know that then, as now, it was a day of small things. As we shall see, the house they built was "as nothing" compared with the former glory of the house. Nevertheless, the LORD says to this feeble remnant, "Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified saith the LORD."
As with the remnant of old, so with ourselves, the low spiritual condition that we so often have to mourn, is the outcome of doing our own pleasure and seeking our own glory. Self-will and self-importance lie at the root of our failure. Nevertheless, is it not the deepest joy and encouragement to know that, in a day of weakness, and in spite of all our failure, it is still possible to judge our ways and do that in which God can take pleasure and, through which, God can be glorified?
Further we are again assured that the "pleasure" and "glory" of God are connected with His house, marked by holiness, prayer, worship, and testimony to the grace and goodness of God. There may be with us much zeal, and activity, as with the remnant of old who "looked for much," but "it came to little," because the house of God was neglected.
(Vv. 10, 11). Neglecting the great purpose of God for which they had been delivered from captivity, they brought upon themselves the chastening of the LORD.
THE SECOND MESSAGE.
On the Twenty-fourth day of the same month the LORD sends a second message by Haggai, who is honoured by being called "the LORD'S messenger." How good to realize that though the returned remnant had so grievously failed to carry out the purpose for which they had been delivered from Babylon, yet the LORD does not give them up. He still has His Messenger to deliver His message to the people.
So, too, in our day of weakness and ruin, when evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, we read of "the man of God," and that such an one is to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; convict, rebuke, encourage with all long-suffering and doctrine" ( 2Ti_3:17 ; 2Ti_4:2 ).
The LORD'S messenger has appealed to the people with a word of rebuke. Happily the people "Obeyed the voice of the LORD their God," and "did fear before the LORD." At once Haggai is sent with this second message of encouragement. Having obeyed the LORD, they can count on the presence of the LORD; "I am with you, saith the LORD." How much blessing is involved in this short message! As one has said, "I am with you is the saving principle for faith in the weakest possible day, . . . and what had they better in the brightest day?"
The remnant that returned from Babylon in that day, even as those who have been delivered from the bondage of human systems in this day, may find themselves in circumstances of great weakness, opposed by many adversaries, and in reproach; but, if the Lord is with them their blessing is certain; the needed succour in all their weakness will be forthcoming; and all needed protection from their enemies assured. So in the parable in John 10 , we have a beautiful picture of a flock of sheep wholly dependent upon the Shepherd. Left to themselves sheep are stupid, feckless things, prone to wander and easily frightened, but with the Shepherd going before all is well.
Good it is then for us, like the remnant of old, to obey the word of the LORD, "fear before the LORD," and go forth without the camp "unto Him. " Thus acting in simple faith we shall find in every difficulty that arises, in every opposition that we may meet, in any reproach we may have to endure, that we have the Lord present, with all wisdom to direct, all love to comfort, and all power to sustain. Obeying the word of the Lord, and walking in His fear, we can count upon His presence, and ever fall back on His words, "I am with you saith the LORD."
Moreover, if the LORD is with us we shall find, as the remnant of old found, that He will stir up our spirits to "work in the house of the LORD."
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Haggai 1". "Hamilton Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18