Haggai [P] delivered five prophecies that are recorded in Scripture; they are all carefully dated – fixed to a specific historical time and setting. Last time we looked at the first of them last time: a message of rebuke [P] in [Haggai 1:1-11]. It was given on the first day of the sixth month of the second year of king Darius. You may recall that יְהוָה rebuked the returned exiles for sitting back in the luxury of their own homes while His house was in ruins. This was the cause of all the frustration and trouble they were experiencing. יְהוָה’s message to them was to get on and build His temple. The second message was given on the 24th of the sixth month of Darius’ second year – just over three weeks later. And what a different message! This time it was not a message of rebuke but of commendation [P]. Why the sudden turn around? Because the people had turned around – they had repented: they had heeded יְהוָה’s rebuke, turned from what they doing, pursuing selfishness; and they set to and built the temple. So let’s read that second message from יְהוָה to the returned exiles who heeded His word to them: [Haggai 1:12-15 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of יְהוָה their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as יְהוָה their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for יְהוָה. Then Haggai, the messenger of יְהוָה, spoke by the commission of יְהוָה to the people saying, “‘I am with you,’ declares יְהוָה.” So יְהוָה 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 יְהוָה of armies, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king.] – the Name “יְהוָה” 8x in 3 verses.
Rebuke has desired effect [Hag 1:12] – The first message that Haggai delivered was a harsh word of rebuke from יְהוָה; but, praise the LORD, the people listened and responded – In fact it is one of the few times in Israel’s history that the people have heeded a prophet’s message in his life-time. And Oh what blessing flow when people heed the voice of יְהוָה, simply obey! It was the leaders who responded – Zerubbabel, the civil governor and Joshua the high priest, the spiritual leader. They were leaders, the people followed – all the remnant gladly responded (Hag 1:12) – and יְהוָה Himself responded He gave a word of encouragement through His prophet (Hag 1:13) and the people resumed construction on the 24th day of the same month that Haggai began his ministry (Hag 1:15 cf. Hag 1:1) – their response was virtually immediate – rebuilding was under way in just over 3 weeks after the rebuke. This is how it should be. God’s disciplining hand, the hardship He sends and His stern message of rebuke by His prophets are not because He is mean and vindictive – they are intended for our good [P], to turn us back to the right path. If we respond in humble broken repentance and change our ways – then we are set on a path that is for our good. God intends the best for us – His firm hand is only intended to set us foolish beings in the way that is good for us, stop us destroying ourselves in our folly [cf. Hebrews 12:5-13 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him; for those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.] יְהוָה spoke His word of rebuke and here is the response: They did two things – and the two verbs (you know, doing words, things they did) can be translated two ways. The very first word in the verse (in Hebrew) is the word “hear” [P] (NASB translates it “obey”). They heard יְהוָה’s voice – it was Haggai’s words but יְהוָה’s voice. They discerned the voice of יְהוָה in Haggai’s words. They were not responding to Haggai but to יְהוָה. They didn’t fear Haggai but יְהוָה! It was יְהוָה! The first step is hearing: [cf. Romans 10:13-17 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.]. Have you heard God’s voice? That is the first step. My Bible translates the word “hear”: “obey” [P]. In the OT they are synonymous – like Aladdin’s genie: “to hear is to obey”. You can translate it either way. But if you don’t obey you just as well have not heard. Hannah can get very involved when she is reading a book – I can say three times: “It is time to clean your teeth” – nothing happens! I say: “What did I ask you to do?” Has she heard? I’m not sure, perhaps she is so engrossed she didn’t hear, maybe she detected the sound, but there was no response: really she hadn’t heard because she didn’t obey. But these people did obey, they realised that the word Haggai spoke had been sent by יְהוָה their God and their response was fear! That is the second thing they did: they feared יְהוָה [P] – this is the only true and appropriate response if one has truly heard יְהוָה and realizes that it is Him! (cf. Isaiah 66:1-2 Thus says יְהוָה, “Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool. Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that I may rest? “For My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares יְהוָה. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:5 Hear the word of יְהוָה, you who tremble at His word: “Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name’s sake, Have said, ‘Let יְהוָה be glorified, that we may see your joy.’ But they will be put to shame.] It is spiritually healthy to fear the LORD. The word fear can also be translated “revere” [P] – again Hebrew doesn’t make much distinction between the two. One thing that is sadly lacking in the church today is reverence, fear of the LORD. We have been brought near, we are His sons, reconciled – wonderful and true; but sometimes with that we can have a pally attitude that loses the respect and reverence that is His due. [Psalm 86:10-11 For You are great and do wondrous deeds; You alone are God. Teach me Your way, O יְהוָה; I will walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.] It makes a good study just to see the blessings in Scripture that are associated with the fear of the LORD. [Psalm 25:12-14 Who is the man who fears יְהוָה? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will abide in prosperity, and his descendants will inherit the land. The secret of YHWH is for those who fear Him, and He will make them know His covenant.] [Psalm 112:1 Praise יְהוָה! How blessed is the man who fears יְהוָה, who greatly delights in His commandments.] We see that the “hearing” was in fact translated into obeying, doing (Hag 1:14) – they worked on the house of the LORD. Hearing God’s voice causes us to fear Him, and the fear and reverence of the LORD causes us to obey Him. The response to truly hearing יְהוָה’s voice is OBEDIENCE. Blessing follows. There are two things that YHWH blesses: obedience and fear of the LORD [P]. I know from experience – I have testified before: for years I resisted obeying the LORD in baptism. What frustration, misery, emptiness and pointlessness there was in my life. But when He spoke to me in person, asked if I loved Him, enough to be baptized – when I obeyed [P], Oh the blessings that He immediately poured into my life. It was like a pent up dam. All that time He was waiting to inundate me with His blessing, but until I repented and obeyed it was withheld. [P] Disobedience had brought a curse on the remnant of Israel; repentance, which means obedience, turning around, brings blessing. Repentance is humbling – it is saying “You are right LORD and I am wrong”, and changing your direction to go that right way instead of yours. Oh to be a people that hear יְהוָה’s voice, recognise it as such and respond in reverence and obedience. What blessings flow when we simply repent!
At once Haggai receives a very short but most comforting message from יְהוָה [Hag 1:13] The people heard יְהוָה’s voice and responded – then יְהוָה Himself responds to them. If we respond to Him, then He responds to us. They recognised that they had left God out of the equation and had been intent on themselves, thereby incurring the displeasure of יְהוָה. They returned to Him in fear – an appropriate response of which יְהוָה approves. He responds to their response with words of encouragement [P] – He speaks to them! How wonderful! What an encouragement to have God speak to you – His words encourage, He encourages us through His Word: [Romans 15:4-5 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus]. God is back on speaking terms – now they had begun to embark on the right path, He encouraged them – in contrast to the negative approach while they were going the wrong way. Haggai, as a prophet, was יְהוָה’s messenger and he spoke יְהוָה’ s message – he was sent by Him (cf. Hag 1:12) and didn’t speak his own words but the message that he had been given to deliver by God. Previously that message had been one of rebuke (Hag 1:4-11); now יְהוָה’s message was one of encouragement. It was only a short message. Men write great long theological treatises – but God can speak just a few words – but what impact! I think back on the times God has spoken specifically to me, it has usually been short and to the point. Perhaps He knows I can’t take in too much at a time: “Paul, do you love Me?” “You will be fruitful”; “I have called you to be a faithful man”; “Feed My sheep.” – short statements, but life transforming. יְהוָה declares: "I AM WITH YOU!" [P] A short message (only two words in Hebrew "אֲנִי אִתְכֶם”) but what wonderful words! If He is with us, that is sufficient – what else could we possibly need? If He is with us, then nothing else matters. All that really matters is the presence of God with us. Previously He had not been with them, that is why all their enterprise failed. But now that they had returned to יְהוָה, He had returned to them! – יְהוָה was with them, blessing and prosperity would return. To have God with us is the ultimate blessing. There was a lowly shepherd in barren land, יְהוָה spoke to Him and told him to go to the most powerful ruler in the world and release the Hebrew people from slavery. Understandably, Moses felt a little inadequate: [Exodus 3:11-14 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” And He said, “Certainly I will be with you, (that was all that was needed) and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”] The “I AM” the eternal, ever present God, the Source of all existence, was with him! Having Him with us is IMPERATIVE! [P] That is our great need! Later there was a crisis, the people turned to idolatry and יְהוָה was going to abandon them, He wasn’t going with them: (cf. Exodus 33:12-17 Then Moses said to יְהוָה, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favour in My sight.’ “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favour in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favour in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” (There was יְהוָה’s response to Moses' plea. But that wasn’t enough, Moses had to be sure, this mattered above all else!) Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. “For how then can it be known that I have found favour in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?” יְהוָה said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favour in My sight and I have known you by name.”] Moses wasn’t going anywhere or doing anything without יְהוָה with him – why? The answer is in [John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.] Do you regard the presence of God with you as essential? We talk of “coming into His presence”, as though it is a great experience that we can have, a pleasant time of singing on a Sunday, an optional extra. No, it is essential every moment! As soon as I let go of His hand and try and walk by myself, I fall flat on may face! I know! I do it time and time again! What we need is God with us! It is only four words, but I can’t think of any better promise to hear from God. But this was post-exilic Israel, 2,500 years ago – are the words for us? For everyone? Certainly, it was a promise to those who heard and responded to יְהוָה, who feared Him, had reverence and obeyed. It is a promise for those who are His people who walk in His ways. But it is not just 500 B.C. Hear what God says in [Hebrews 13:5 He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”] – He is always with us, never leaves us. Jesus very name is: “Emmanuel” – God is with us! Hallelujah! [Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”] In Jesus, God who was once afar off, now has come near. Through Jesus we have been reconciled to Him. Our greatest need and our greatest desire must be for Him to be with us: FELLOWSHIP [1 John 1:3 our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.] Hear the cry of the psalmist: [Psalm 73:23-28 Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord יְהוָה my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.; Psalm 16:8-11 I have set יְהוָה continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.] [Psalm 46:7 יְהוָה of armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. (and again in v.11) יְהוָה of armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.] You may say, “But you don’t know my problems, or what I am going through!” [Isaiah 43:1-2 But now, thus says יְהוָה, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you.] If this יְהוָה is with us, how can you fear, oh you of little faith? [Isaiah 41:10 ‘Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’] This being with God and Him with us is His ultimate purpose and end for those who are His: [Revelation 21:3-7 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.] Do you thirst for His presence, as the deer longs for water? It is the presence of יְהוָה that we need! Nothing else matters.
That message has a stirring effect [Hag 1:14] Not only did יְהוָה speak to His people, He acted, He did something. יְהוָה stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, Joshua and the remnant [P] – the very ones who heard the voice of יְהוָה (cf. Hag 1:12) – so, those who hear God’s voice, He quickens their spirit. Those who hear His voice are His and He gives them spiritual life. They had no spiritual inclination, they were taken up with their own homes and jobs, material produce; but when they heard יְהוָה’s voice there was a spiritual stirring within them. This was not something that they could do or bring about – it was יְהוָה who stirred their spirit – He stirred the spirit of everyone who heard His voice. God’s people were spiritually asleep (pretty much the condition today) – יְהוָה had to waken them spiritually – He will do this to those who hear His word. Here one sees the active involvement of God in history! He is not aloof or passive. He is not simply a spectator. He is in complete charge, working out His plan. Hallelujah! His actions are purposeful. Events do not happen by chance – יְהוָה stirs them – that is why it happens. They (and us too) would have remained spiritually asleep but for God’s stirring them. When apathy had overtaken the returned exiles, יְהוָה agitated Zerubbabel and Joshua through the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to carry the construction of the temple to completion. The church may seem asleep, apathetic, distracted, worldly – it takes the stirring of יְהוָה to waken it. Some say we should be doing this and that, that activity is the answer to the churches problem. But what is needed first is a spiritual awakening, a spiritual stirring. Spiritual awakening has its effect, its consequence – many think that spiritual activity is removed from reality ("too heavenly minded to be earthly use") – but the opposite is the case! Their spiritual awakening caused them to do the work on the house of the LORD. While they were earthly/material/temporal minded, their efforts produced nothing. But once they were spiritually quickened, then they acted and their work was productive (just compare the inaction of the church to its activity and productivity, before and after Pentecost). Spiritual awakening is what causes us to be active and effective – it makes us more use, not less. Hearing יְהוָה’s message prompted them to do His work – spiritual awakening produced by God’s message caused the people to do His work. We can be busy doing our work and it accomplishes nothing, it doesn’t last. You cannot build a spiritual house by temporal means. [Psalm 127:1 Unless יְהוָה builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; unless יְהוָה guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain.] It has to be יְהוָה who builds the house, the temple of God. Jesus said [Matthew 16:18 I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.] Hag 1:15 יְהוָה’s word was effective. It was given on the first day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius. The people came out and worked on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month in the second year of Darius the king. In 23 days, just over 3 weeks, a people had been turned around! What a rapid and fundamental change can occur when יְהוָה’s message foes forth and people respond to it. In three weeks the message was delivered, the people responded, turned to God in reverence, the LORD gave His message of encouragement, the LORD stirred their spirits, they got organized materials and plans etc. – all in the space of three weeks. When יְהוָה acts, things can happen fast – if only we respond aright – hear, fear and obey. They were stirred in the Spirit (Hag 1:14), not by human might, exhortation, enterprise or skill but by the Spirit of יְהוָה. Another prophet at this very time and same context said: [cf. Zechariah 4:6-10 “This is the word of יְהוָה to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says יְהוָה of armies.] [P] We are to be about the business of building the temple of the living God, out of living stones. But we are not to be doing it by human means. There must be a stirring of the Spirit by God Himself as we respond to His voice, hear, fear, revere and obey – then יְהוָה Himself will be with us and will Himself build by His Spirit that which cannot be built by human hands.