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CRITICAL NOTES.] By] Lit. in the hand of Haggai, the prophet, merely a conscious medium; God the real speaker (cf. Acts 7:35; Galatians 3:19). Governor] Pechah, akin to the Turkish Pasha, one who rules a less country than a Satrap.
Haggai 1:2. This] Not my people, but reproachfully, this people, as in acts disowning him, and so deserving to be disowned by him [Pusey]. Come] i.e. to build. Two out of seventy predicted years of captivity unexpired: this a plea for delay (cf. Henderson).
Haggai 1:3.] A repetition, to give greater prominence to the antithesis.
Haggai 1:4.] God meets them with a question, and appeals to the conscience. You] Yourselves; the shameful contrast between them and Jehovah. Cieled] Heb. to cover, wainscot, or overlay with boards, “so that what is predicated of the houses is not to be confined to the ceiling, but must be extended to the walls which were thus covered, at once for comfort and ornament” [Henderson].
THE CALL TO DUTY.—Haggai 1:1-2
The prophet addresses the people through their rulers, and seeks to rouse them to their work. The first day, the day of the new moon and a time of festal sacrifice, was an appropriate time. On such a day they must have been conscious of the ruins of the temple, and the work they had to do. In season and out of season God calls to duty.
I. A call through an inspired messenger. The prophet was invested with a Divine commission, and spoke with Divine authority. The voice was human, but the “word” was from Jehovah. He entrusts ministers with His words and works, and they should dispense them, as faithful stewards, to his people. This is a motive, an encouragement, and a help to perform his will.
II. A call to all people. The people were only few, a remnant, but none must excuse (Haggai 1:12; Haggai 1:14).
1. To the prince. “Unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel.” The prince of royal blood, the governor of the land, was not to be exempt.
2. To the priest. “And to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest.” The heads in civil and religious authority, rulers in Church and State, were jointly responsible for the negligence of the people. Great and good men must be stirred up when they grow remiss. Men in high position have greater opportunities of knowing, and should set a better example in doing, God’s will. No institution must be set aside, and no social elevation must excuse from duty.
3. To the people. The few are addressed through their officials. All have equal share and equal responsibility. Duty is the cry to all. Duty only is truth, and there is no true religion but in its accomplishment. This alone is the end of the highest life, and the truest happiness is derived from the consciousness of its fulfilment. Duty performed, says George Herbert, “gives us music at midnight.” “The word duty seems to me,” says one, “the biggest word in the world, and is the uppermost in all my serious doings.” This call to duty is loud, continual, and urgent. “Whatsoever he saith to you, do it.”
THE GUILTY EXOUSES FOR DELAY IN DUTY.—Haggai 1:2-4
The people are charged with neglect in their work, bereft of every excuse to justify their negligence, and refuted in their pretences by their own sinful conduct. They did not question the call, nor deny the obligation to duty, but were criminal in delaying it.
I. They were actuated by selfishness. They dwelt in ceiled houses, adorned them with comforts and luxuries, while the temple was in ruins. They were more concerned for themselves than for the cause of God. They were not poor in means, but in spirit. Self-love will hinder all effort to repair and build the house of God. It is fatal to spiritual interests. “Woe to you who join house to house, and field to field, and regard not the work of the Lord.”
II. They were hindered through fear. They might urge that their relation with Persia was not favourable, and that the edict to cease labour, were reasons for inaction. But this was a more pretext. They had made no effort to discover the mind of the legitimate king, Darius Hystaspis. Their neglect was not the opposition to zealous patriots and ardent worshippers, but the selfish indifference of an unfaithful people. The intrigues of the enemies, and cowardice, determined them from serious effort. They grew fainthearted through difficulty (Ezra 3:11-13; Ezra 4:4). “Woe unto him that is faint-hearted,” says the son of Sirach. No blessings equal a stout heart in the service of God. Cherish the spirit of Nehemiah, “The God of heaven, he will prosper us; therefore we, his servants, will arise and build.”
III. They delayed in presumption. “This people say, The time is not come.” Ingenious in excuses, they declared that interruptions proved that the proper time to build had not arrived. “God hath interposed many difficulties to punish our rash haste” [Calvin], why then work till the full period is expired? Many, like the Jews, do not say, Never, but not yet. Conscience will not let them say, We will never be religious and work for God; but they procrastinate—put off till to-morrow what should be done to day (2 Corinthians 6:1-2), and thus leave the great work of life undone. The time is always come to him who wishes to do right. In his providence and by his prophets, God calls now. The present is the opportunity to respond, undertake, and finish the work which God has given us to do. Should worldlings exert themselves for pleasure and self-indulgence, and the servants of God stand back amid the ruins of the temple, and the loss of immortal souls? “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, a habitation for the mighty God of Jacob” (Psalms 132:3-5; 2 Samuel 7:2.)
A MISSIONARY SERMON.—Haggai 1:4
The captivity of Babylon had passed away. The Jews were now called to rebuild the second temple, and restore the worship of God. Adversaries watched them, and tried to cause their work to cease for a time. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were raised up to urge them to begin afresh. This state of things existed in other periods of the world. To excite you to zeal and greater diligence in the cause of God, look at the words in the following aspects—
I. As representing a depression in the cause of God. “The house of God lieth waste.” There is a painful imperfection in the work of God in the present day. What are the scenes in lands where Christianity is professed? In our own land the cause of God is depressed. Much that is opposed to purity and happiness abounds. In other countries which bear the name of Christendom, in the continent of Europe, we behold the strong-holds of the prince of the power of the air—mystic Babylon, having in her hand the cup full of abominations. Over the vast portions of the East reigns the vile impostor in barbarism and sensuality. Beyond these are the regions of heathenism. The light is only just gathering which is to dissipate the darkness, and change the world into brightness and beauty. Are we not compelled to say, “the temple of God lieth waste”?
II. As describing a pursuit of temporal gratification on the part of those confessedly attached to the cause of God. All neglect exertions which God justly demands. Some think the cause is impolitic, others that it is unjust. Generally, it is often a lamentation that large portions of wealth, talent, and influence in the world are not devoted to God. More particularly, is there sufficient exercise of talent and opportunity? Do not the principles of selfishness prevent us from making sacrifices which ought to be made? From the period of the Reformation, little has been done to purify the Church and advance its interests. The spirit of missions has to Christianize the Church, before the Church can Christianize the world. The time must come when wealth, splendour, talents, and influence must dedicate their most hallowed powers to God. Individual exertion is still very imperfect in the great cause. Let each consider how much of his time, natural gifts, and property have been given to promote the interests of his fellow-men. It will be little indeed, while an immense portion of each has been given to the world. Contrast our state with the votaries of false religion, Mahommedanism, and heathenism. Think of almost incredible sums devoted to degrading superstitions. Think of Whitfield and others, whose memory we cherish; emulate their zeal and catch their spirit.
III. As challenging the employment of our various talents, and urging the claims of God.
1. Consider the nature of those obligations under which God has placed you, and regard the services which you are called to render.
2. Consider the peculiar nature of the gospel which you have embraced.
3. Consider that while there is not energy in the cause of God, there is an awful amount of misery resting upon your fellow-men.
4. Consider the prospect of success. God has promised that every enemy shall be overcome—that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established upon the tops of the mountains—that he will cause peace and righteousness to prevail in all the earth, and that the world shall be given to Christ, and filled with the glory and power of his grace [James Parsons].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Haggai 1:1. Joshua, the high priest, was a type of Christ.
1. In his name, which signifieth a Saviour.
2. In his office of high priesthood.
3. In his partner-agency with Zerubbabel, in bringing the people home to their country [Trapp]. Together they are types of him, the true King and true Priest, Christ Jesus, who by the Resurrection raised again the true Temple, his body, after it had been destroyed [Pusey].
Haggai 1:2. “This people,” instead of “My people.” The loss of God’s confidence.
1. Its occasions.
2. Its consequences.
3. Its retrieval [Lange]. “This people say.” Words then have their weight; neither are men’s tongues their own; but there is a Lord over them (Psalms 12:4), that will call them to a strict account of all waste words (Matthew 12:36), and hard speeches (Jude 1:15). He that weighs his words before he utters them, shall prevent an after-reckoning for them [Trapp].
The time is not come.
1. An indication of the wrong spirit.
2. A misinterpretation of Divine providence.
3. A manifestation of disobedience.
4. An expectation of times without difficulty. Never lay by present duty, for which you have positive command, in anticipation of plainer providence or better days—
“The primal duties shine aloft, like stars.” [Wordsworth.]
Haggai 1:2-4. There is a time for everything with men; but they should consider—
1. Who it is that claims their first and most devoted service.
2. The means and methods of serving him best [Lange]. Men are very ingenious when they wish to hide their delinquencies [Calvin]. Many have plenty of money when they build houses for themselves, but great scarcity of it when it is wanted for churches, schools, or anything to promote God’s glory [Cramer].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
Haggai 1:1. In its very first day, when the grief for the barren years was yet fresh, Haggai was stirred to exhort them to consider their ways; a pattern for Christian preachers to bring home to people’s souls the meaning of God’s judgments. God directs the very day to be noted in which he called the people anew to build his temple, both to show the readiness of their obedience, and a precedent to us to keep in memory days and seasons in which he stirs our souls to build more diligently his spiritual temple in our souls [Pusey.]
Haggai 1:2-4. The disingenuousness of their plea is self-evident, and is assumed in the following discourse, which is intended to awaken in them a sense of their ingratitude to God. It is represented to them most impressively, with an allusion to the very language of their pretext, that while they held their own wants, and even their luxuries, to be matters of pressing moment, they thought any time suitable to attend to the claims of their God; that while their own houses had been regained, there was yet no habitation for the God of Israel; that while their wealthy members were using their superfluous means to adorn and beautify their dwellings, God’s dwelling-place still lay desolate, appealing in vain to their piety and patriotism, which had been overborne by selfishness and supineness. The allusion, moreover, could not fail to expose the insincerity of their excuses. If some of them had now the command of such resources as enabled them to live in princely splendour, they might surely have reserved a portion for the requirements of the temple, when the work of building it should be resumed, if that work had been giving them the least concern [Lange].
Haggai 1:5. Consider] Lit. set your heart upon; i.e. consider your conduct and lay it to heart: a frequent formula with Haggai (cf. Haggai 1:7; ch. Haggai 2:15; Haggai 2:18).
Haggai 1:6.] The meaning of these clauses is, not that the small harvest was not sufficient to feed and clothe the people, but that even in their use of the little that had been reaped, the blessing of God was wanting, as evident not only from the words themselves, but placed beyond doubt by Haggai 1:9 [Keil]. Holes] A torn bag was proverbial for money spent without profit (cf. Isaiah 55:2; Jeremiah 2:13; Zechariah 8:10). Necessities were dear, and a day’s wage to purchase them, as if put into a bag with holes.
Haggai 1:8.] The summons repeated. They were not required to buy, but simply to give their labour, and bring timber from the mountainous country where trees grew. Cyrus granted cedars from Lebanon for the building of the temple (Ezra 3:7; Ezra 6:3-4). Pleasure] God displeased when it was in ruins. Glorified] Be propitious to suppliants, and so receive the honour due to me (1 Kings 8:30).
Haggai 1:9. Looked] Lit. Ye turned towards much, inspecting frequently the growing crops (Exodus 16:10). Blow] I dissipated, blighted with my breath, the little gathered into barns. Because] Most emphatic. Run] Indicating the eagerness with which they pursued their own affairs and sought for self-indulgence.
Haggai 1:10.] The curse further depicted, with an evident play upon the punishment with which transgressors are threatened in the law (Leviticus 26:19-20; Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 28:23-24) [Keil].
Haggai 1:11. I] The first cause: heaven and earth (Haggai 1:10), the visible and second causes. Drought] Affecting man and beast, through vegetation. “The word is carefully chosen, to express the idea of the lex talionis. Because the Jews left the house of God chârçbh, they were punished with chôrebh” [Kiel]. All] Comprehending the cultivation of the soil and labour for the necessities of life.
HUMAN THOUGHTLESSNESS.—Haggai 1:5
Having reproved their sinful negligence, the prophet urges them to a serious consideration of their ways. Why should the earth be deprived of produce and their labour of profit through their ingratitude and folly? From the results of their conduct they may discern the principles of moral government, and the proofs of their guilt.
I. Men should seriously consider their ways. Solemnly and prayerfully lay them to heart. Are they reasonable? Nature is governed by force, and brutes driven with the lash, but men should act under the influence of thought and reason, in gratitude to God,—and a feeling of responsibility. To be the slave of habit, or to be under the dominion of lust, is most unreasonable. Are they safe? If opposed to God’s word they are sinful and dangerous. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man: but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Will they end well? Every action tends to good or evil. Thoughts, words, and deeds are the germs of future harvest. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
II. Men do not seriously consider their ways. Thoughtlessness is common in spiritual affairs,—some occasionally, and others never, consider. Indifference, prejudice, and habit operate upon the mind. The greatest difficulty is to make men think. Thoughtlessness in spiritual affairs is inconsistent. Men think intensely and act eagerly in business. When self-interests are at stake they are considerate enough; but in most important concerns careless and guilty. “My people doth not consider.”
III. God urges men to consider their ways. God’s servants call continually upon them to reflect upon their character, condition, and doom. God’s providence warns them of their danger. They have been chastised time after time, to rouse them to consideration and repentance. Sorrows and griefs, disappointments and embittered cups, have brought no change. Once more God calls. Consider now before it be too late to consider. Neglect, want of thought, will be attended with consequences as fearful as open rebellion. “Son, do nothing without counsel, and when thou hast done it thou wilt not repent” (Sir. 32:19).
“Evil is wrought by want of thought
As well as want of heart” [Hoed].
DUE CONSIDERATION OF OUR WAYS SHOULD TEACH US THE WILL, AND URGE US TO THE WORK, OF GOD.—Haggai 1:6-8
The admonition of Haggai 1:5 is repeated (Haggai 1:7), both as betokening greater urgency, and also for the purpose of reinforcing the argument of Haggai 1:5-6, by showing to what course a conscientious review of their conduct should determine them. They should be impelled, as is next shown, to make immediate preparations for the complete restoration of the temple [Lange].
I. Consideration of our ways should teach us the will of God. Lack of consideration led to disobedience. When the Jews therefore did not hearken to the word of God, they lost his favour and providential care, which secure fruitful seasons and social enjoyment. They were under the visible curse of the law (Deuteronomy 28:0). God’s will was read—
1. In fields without produce. “Ye have sown much, and bring in little.” God disappoints our expectations from the creature that we may fix them on him.
2. In daily necessities without enjoyment. “Ye eat, but have not enough,” &c. If men would seek first the kingdom of God, they would secure the secondary things of life (Matthew 6:33).
3. In labour without remuneration. Wages earned were spent without profit. They laid up treasures for themselves and lost them. Nothing will prosper if we neglect known duty. “The events of life are the hieroglyphics in which God records his feelings towards us,” says Moore. He speaks in the failure of the crops, and the loss of the merchandise. He diminishes the customers of the tradesman, and scatters the wealth of the rich, to correct in sin and restore to duty.
II. Consideration of our ways should urge us to the work of God. “Go up to the mountain,” &c. (Haggai 1:8). They were to rouse themselves, collect materials, and begin to build. When we seriously consider our life and are convinced of our sins, we shall amend our ways, engage with diligence in needful and neglected duty. “Amendment of life is the best repentance; neither is there any wiser way to break off our sins than to practise the contrary duties” [Luther]. In neglecting God’s commands we dishonour him; but earnest obedience will secure his blessing. “I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Haggai 1:5. Consider. The religion of the Bible is a reasonable service. We are not forced like a machine into insensible workings and results. We are here taught that while God is the author of all good, and our progress in goodness is from him, yet he does not carry us along in the way everlasting, but enables us to walk. He works in us, but it is that he may will and do. We are not only impressed, but employed. Thus all true religion arises from consideration [Jay].
Haggai 1:6. Withholding from God’s cause tends to poverty. Willingly devote a portion of your possessions to his glory, there will be sweetness in the remainder which the worldling can never enjoy (Proverbs 13:25). He will “bless us in basket and in store.” “As long as the sin lasted, so long the punishment The visitation itself was twofold; impoverished harvests, so as to supply less sustenance; and various indisposition of the frame, so that what would, by God’s appointment in nature, satisfy, gladden, warm, failed of its effect” [Pusey].
The bag with holes, contrasted with “bags that wax not old” (Luke 12:33). We provide for a large store in future, by a wise and generous use of what we have in the present. “Lord, thou knowest where I have laid up my treasure,” cried Paulinus, when he heard that the Goths had sacked Nola and taken all he had.
1. The work to do. Go up, bring wood, and build the house. A division of labour useful and successful. God a spiritual temple to build. All may help.
2. The motive to perform it. “I will take pleasure in it.” God would accept them and their labours.
3. The result. “I will be glorified, saith the Lord.”
(1) God is glorified in man’s service to him.
(2) In the manifestations of his grace to man. “God will not come to bless us as an uninvited guest. His favour will be displayed towards us only when we have prepared him a temple in our hearts” [Lange].
Important events in the spiritual world have been symbolized by things in the natural. In this event—
I. Observe an important operation directed. The nature of the operation is, “the building of a house,” i.e. the house or temple of God upon Mount Zion. The spiritual import of it, with which we have to do, is the formation and gradual perfecting, through successive ages, of the Church of God, which is compared to a temple. Observe its attendant difficulties. Numerous adversaries around them. Obstacles from the Jews themselves, scanty in number, and feeble in resource. Some depressed and fearful, others indifferent and apathetic. These facts set forth the circumstances attendant on the erection of the temple of Divine grace under the gospel of Christ. That work progresses, amid difficulties and opposition, in numerous forms; heathen imposture, infidel impiety, antichristian superstition, worldly contempt, neglect and indolence of the Church.
II. Observe the agency with which this operation is conducted.
1. An instrumental and secondary agency. The devoted labours of converted men, under the impulse of renovated nature, influencing others; their success being as the bringing of materials by which the temple is built.
2. Distinct mention is made of Divine agency. This agency is connected with the instrumentality of men; directs them in their counsels, gives efficiency and success to their movements.
III. Observe the result, in which this operation, so conducted, shall terminate.
1. The operation shall be triumphantly completed. The second temple was finished in a brief space of time.
2. Being triumphantly completed, it will eminently redound to the glory of God. “I will be glorified in it, saith the Lord.” This completion will be hailed with rapture by holy created beings. When the second temple was finished, they brought out the headstone “with shoutings, crying, grace,” &c. Ezra says that they kept the dedication with songs, and that they were delighted in the achievement of their work. We may anticipate the same delight in the victories of truth and the subjugation of the universe to Christ. Redeemed men will rejoice, and angels in heaven will partake in their pleasure. Application from the whole.
1. What encouragement here for those already labouring for God.
2. What rebuke here to those who profess the religion of Jesus, yet are indolent and inactive.
3. What warning here to those avowedly hostile to God and his truth [Preacher’s Treasury].
DUTY VINDICATED BY DIVINE GOVERNMENT.—Haggai 1:5-11
I. The Divine government recognizes the selfish motives which actuate men. First, the necessity of moral reform in the world. Secondly, the necessity of attending more to the spiritual than the formal in the Church. Thirdly, the possibility of solemn disclosure at the last day.
II. The Divine government avenges selfish motives which actuate men. “Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little.”
1. God neutralizes the fruits of their labour. “I will blow upon it.”
2. God renders inefficient the materials of their labour. Learn—
(1) That God directs the universe. “I called.”
(2) That God directs the universe to mind. “Why?”
(3) That God directs the universe to meet the state of every heart. “Because” (Haggai 1:9). “Therefore” (Haggai 1:10). [Adapted from The Homilist.]
THE DOUBLE CURSE.—Haggai 1:9-11
To stir them up, the evidences of God’s anger are again put before them. All sought their own things, and neglected the things of God. He therefore disappointed their hopes of harvest, and withheld his blessing from that which they gathered into the barn. “God punishes men in both ways, both by withdrawing his blessing, so that the earth is parched, and the heaven gives no rain; and also, even when there is a good supply of the fruits of the earth, by preventing their satisfying, so that there is no real enjoyment of them” [Calvin].
I. Little was reaped when much was expected. “Ye looked for much,” &c. Their toil had been great. They sowed much (Haggai 1:6), and kept much ground under tillage. They expected much, enough and plenty to spare. But the greater their hopes, the more bitter their disappointment.
II. Little was reaped, and that little withered away. “When ye brought it home,” &c. Stroke follows stroke, and men are punished in their homes and possessions. Portions, little or great, are easily scattered by the blast of the Almighty.
III. The cause of this double curse.
1. The cause should be sought. “The curse causeless does not come.” Afflictions do not spring from the ground, nor trouble rise from the dust. God appeals to the awakened conscience. “Why?”
2. The cause may be found. “Because of mine house that is waste,” &c. (a) In duty neglected. Absorbed in material interests, they had no time for God’s work. Men seek their own, more than the things of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:21). (b) In Divine retribution for duty neglected. “Therefore the heaven over you is stayed,” &c. God rules the world in the interests of humanity. Heaven and earth are at his command, to bless or curse. Spiritual indifference results in temporal distress, and ruin falls upon an unfaithful people. “If ye will not bear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Haggai 1:9. Mine house waste, ye run every man, &c. Apathy in spiritual matters, zeal in selfish (Proverbs 1:16 : cf. Psalms 119:132). Concern for the spiritual wants of men.
1. The situation of mankind, in a moral and religious view, is such as ought to awaken the unaffected concern of good men.
2. Men who properly care for the spiritual state of their fellow-beings are rarely to be found. This was the case in the time of Haggai; Paul (Philippians 2:21); and is so now.
3. Some of the principal causes of this unconcern.
1. An inordinate and criminal self-love.
2. The prevalence of unbelief.
3. Despondency [Dr. Payson].
Haggai 1:10. He “calls for famine, &c., as instruments of his wrath (2 Kings 8:1; Psalms 105:16). The contrast is striking between the prompt obedience of these material agencies and the slothful disobedience of living man, his people [Fausset].
House wasted, and drought. Heb. chârçb and chôrebh. Wasted temple and wasted substance. Divine retribution in human conduct, the correspondence between the sin and its punishment. “The very evils which men think to escape by neglecting God’s ordinances, they actually bring on themselves by such unbelieving conduct” [Fausset].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
Haggai 1:6. Holes. Money is seen in the pierced bag when it is cast in, but when it is lost it is not seen. They then who look how much they give, but do not weigh how much they gain wrongly, cast their rewards into a pierced bag [St. Gregory].
Haggai 1:5; Haggai 1:7. Consider.
“Come, then, sad thought, and let us meditate,
While meditate we may. We have now
But a small portion of what men call time,
To hold communion” [H. K. White].
Haggai 1:9-11. Looked. We are too apt to misjudge the dispensations of Providence when we wish them with our own wishes [Skelton]. The good things of Providence may be considered as having this inscription, “Accipe, redde, cave,” that is, “accept us as from God, return us in gratitude to him, and take care not to abuse us” [Wilson].
Haggai 1:12-15] The result of reproof. Obey] i.e. To lay to heart, so as to obey what was heard. Fear] The first-fruit of hearing; the second given Haggai 1:13-14] The penitence of the people with their rulers, met with the promise of Divine aid. Messenger] (cf. Malachi 2:7; Galatians 4:14). Message] i.e. invested with his authority and commission.
Haggai 1:14. Stirred] To awaken the spirit of a man is to make him willing and glad to carry out his resolutions (cf. 1 Chronicles 5:26; 2 Chronicles 21:16; Ezra 1:1-5). God gave them energy and perseverance in the work. Did] Thus, filled with joyfulness, courage, and strength, they began the work on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius (Haggai 1:15); that is to say, twenty-three days after Haggai had first addressed his challenge to them. The interval had been spent in deliberation and counsel, and in preparations for carrying out the work [Keil].
THE PERFORMANCE OF NEGLECTED DUTY.—Haggai 1:12-15
The effect of the prophet’s words upon the people was powerful and abiding, and upon the very first indication of a change in their disposition, he is commissioned to tell them that God’s favour had already returned, and that he would assist them in their labours. The work is then speedily recommenced under the influence of that new zeal with which Jehovah inspires both leaders and people [Lange].
I. Duty performed in the right spirit. It is a critical time when individuals and societies are warned by the voice of God in his word and works. Weal or woe depends upon submission or rejection. The Jews returned to duty.
1. In a spirit of obedience. “They obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” (a) Universally. “Zerubbabel and Joshua, with all the remnant of the people.” (b) Sincerely. “According to the words of Haggai the prophet.”
2. In a spirit of humility. “The people did fear before the Lord.” They dreaded Divine wrath, regarded Divine authority, and trembled at the word of God. When the word expounds the providence of God, men often discern their sins, and serve the Lord with fear.
II. Duty performed by Divine help. When God saw the penitence of the people, even before they began to work, he passes from reproof to tenderness and encouragement.
1. By the teaching of the prophet. “Then spake Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, in the Lord’s message.” The direction of the prophet was clear, constant, and authoritative.
2. By the stirring up of the people. “The Lord stirred up” the spirit of prince, priest, and the remnant of the people. Though slothful in themselves, God gave them strength, alacrity, and joy in their work. He strengthens the feeblest hand, warms the coldest heart, and imparts every necessary influence to revive his work.
3. By the manifestation of his presence. “I am with you, saith the Lord.” This includes all other blessings, and is the sure guarantee of success. Nothing more inspirits men, and rouses thorn from torpor, than promise of Divine aid and successful issue of work. But God’s presence is conditioned to the Church by obedience only (Matthew 28:20). “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31; 2 Corinthians 12:9).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. For the word to be effectual, God’s authority must be seen and acknowledged in the message and messenger. “Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, in the Lord’s message.”
2. When God is thus seen in his Divine authority and covenant relation, men will submit themselves, and encourage others to do the same. Zerubbabel and Joshua first, and then all the remnant of the people, obeyed.
3. When we consider that God can bless beyond all probability—for here, by one sermon, all the people set about a long-neglected duty, in the midst of many difficulties—it should encourage God’s servants to go on with their work [cf. Hutcheson]. This was the beginning of a conversion. In this one thing they began to do what, all along in their history, and most in their decay before the captivity, they refused to do—obey God’s word [Pusey]. Successful preachers need not ascribe to themselves the merit of the results of their labours. It is the voice of God which makes their hearers listen. Whom God makes strong for his service, he first subdues to his fear [Lange].
Haggai 1:13. “I am with you.” Here all former threatening is recalled, and all former disobedience forgiven [Burck]. All the needs and longings of the creature are summed up in those two words, I with you [Pusey].
1. Consider who speaks—a Divine Being. No other could promise and fulfil. This specially needed to give assurance, joy, and success.
2. Consider to whom God speaks. Jews, weak, harassed, and dispirited. Then to all represented by them. Preachers, teachers, and all Christian workers. How should this promise enspirit and strengthen! “God’s promises are a defence against man’s threatenings” [Mason].
Haggai 1:13-14. The presence of God in our labours:
1. The conditions on which it may be secured;
2. Its influence upon our souls;
3. Its consequences in our achievements [Lange].
Haggai 1:15. The time is diligently noted, to teach us to take good note of the moments, wherein matters of moment have been, by God’s help, begun, continued, and perfected in the Church. This will be of singular use to increase our faith and affect our hearts [Trapp]. Let those who have fallen into spiritual torpor, but are now awakened, endeavour as far as possible to make up for time past, by redoubled diligence for whatever time may be left. The longer we have loitered, the more let us henceforth redeem the time in self-devoting labours for the Lord [Fausset].
“’Tis greatly wise to talk with our past hours,
And ask them what report they bore to heaven,
And how they might have borne more welcome news” [Young].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 1
Haggai 1:8; Haggai 1:12-15. Obeyed. The longer the soul hath neglected duty, the more ado there is to get it taken up; partly through shame, the soul having played the truant, knows not how to look God in the face, and partly from the difficulty of the work, being double to what another finds that walks in the exercise of his grace. It requires more time for him to tune his instrument than for another to play the lesson [An old Divine]. Those who give to God only the shadow of duty, can never expect from him a real reward [Flavel].
“Never anything can be amiss,
When simpleness and duty tender it.” [Shakespeare.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Haggai 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28