A. Following the revival under Josiah, God's people drifted
back into sin, cultivating the seeds of wickedness planted
during Manasseh's administration.
1. It became necessary for them to learn through adversity
what they had refused to learn from the word of God.
2. Accordingly, Judah spent seventy years in captivity in
Babylon, stripped of the comforts of Jerusalem.
3. Mercifully God had once more intervened by raising the
pagan king Cyrus, who released the people and assisted
them in reestablishing their place of worship.
4. Isaiah had foretold this, predicting not only Cyrus's
two great merciful acts but his name as well.
B. So it was that in 538 B.C. the decree was signed and a small
band of less than fifty thousand persons returned to
Jerusalem after seventy years of captivity.
1. Some estimate this represented less than one out of
every six Jews in Babylon.
2. Even more discouraging is that the returning group
evidenced little spiritual concern and depth.
3. It is true that they immediately began construction of
the temple by laying its foundations in the second month
after their arrival but discouragement quickly set in,
and the work ground to a halt.
a. During the next sixteen years, not an ounce of
energy was expended on this project, and the people
were content to let the matter drop.
b. Finally, 100 years after the previous revival under
Josiah, both Haggai and Zechariah came preaching the
word of the Lord in 520 B.C.
C. Ezra 5-6 describes the condition of things at the time.
1. Zerubbabel, the grandson of Judean king, Jehoichin, who
had been taken into captivity in 598 (2 Kings 24:15),
became "governor" and led the first return in 537 B.C.
2. His designation as governor was a reminder of the
3. Even his name was a loan word from Akkadian/Babylonian
a. That is, Zerubbabel was also known as Sheshbazzar
(Ezra 1:8; 5:14), for the same work said to be done
by Zerubbabel in Ezra 3:8 is said to have been done
by Sheshbazzar in Ezra 5:16.
b. Zerubbabel belonged to the continuing line of David.
D. Suddenly in the midst of his governorship (520 B.C.), God
sent two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to rekindle the
vision and the hearts of his covenant people.
1. It was the sixth month.
2. The season for summer fruits was now ended, and the time
of harvest was over.
a. You can almost hear the mournful sigh of Jeremiah:
"The summer is over and we are not saved" (Jer. 8:20).
b. What did God have in mind by sending these prophets
at this stage in the year and after sixteen years of
no temple, no worship, and no concern for spiritual
E. The message of Haggai, which came first in this revival and
is recorded in Haggai chapter one, stressed four ways in
which the work of God could be renewed in their day if the
people would respond positively.
1. Refuse to blame the providence of God (vss. 1-2)
2. Set priorities for the work of God (vss. 3-6)
3. Get involved in the work of God (vss. 7-12)
4. Receive the enablement of God (vss. 13-15)
F. Haggai challenges God's people to face up to the weakness
of their silly excuses.
II. Refusal to blame the providence of God (Haggai 1: 1-2)
A. Exposition: Late in August 520 B.C., according to the
nomenclature of our calendar, the Lord sent Haggai to
challenge the people of God.
1. The message itself was direct and simple.
a. It was what the Lord of hosts had observed: "This
people say, 'The time has not yet come to build the
b. The distance that had come to exist between God and
his people is suggested by one of the rare uses in
the Old Testament of the expression this people to
c. Surely it was a mark of divine displeasure.
2. Their lament that the time had not yet come to take up
the work of rebuilding the temple was most telling.
a. They had found time and materials to rebuild their
b. Clearly this was a flimsy excuse for delaying the
job for sixteen years.
c. A whole generation had been raised without any
provision made for the corporate worship of God.
3. Furthermore, when the people used the word time, they
were saying in effect: "If God wanted us to rebuild the
temple, he should have seen to it that we were better
off than we are at the present time."
a. That is, the word time was only a stand-in word for
the Lord, and they were hiding their own
delinquencies behind it.
b. This was a mere pretext for their own laziness and
selfish reinvestment of time and interests.
B. Application: To the one who wants to do what is fight, the
time is always now and available.
1. Men are ingenious when it comes to inventing excuses
for their failure to obey the word of God and pursue
the mission of God.
2. We must recognize in the national situation the rebuke
a. The time has never been more ripe for doing God's
b. We must loudly and boldly challenge the present
sinful system in our land!
c. We know the solution to crime, family
disintegration, sexual immorality, corruption, and
d. Let's stop making excuses and start preaching the
3. We must recognize the rebuke of God in the distresses
within the church.
a. There is no excuse for the institutionalized
mediocrity, easy apathy, and spineless acceptance
of the status quo.
b. There is no excuse for aping the denominationalists,
seeking to restructure the government of the church,
attempting to make the militant gospel of Christ more
palatable to worldlings by diluting it.
c. Those who perceive the enormity of the sin and
offer no word of rebuke are cowards.
d. None of us is too good to follow God's instructions
(Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 5:20-21)!
e. Let us fight the adversary in our lives, the lives
of families, and among our brethren!
4. We simply must stop making excuses.
a. There is no excuse for being unfaithful and
forsaking the assembly (Heb. 10:25).
b. There is no excuse for failing to put the kingdom
first (Matt. 6:33).
c. There is no excuse for being ignorant of God's word
(2 Tim. 2:15).
d. There is no excuse for failing to carry out the
Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).
5. We are in the richest country in the world with
unprecedented freedom of thought, movement, and speech.
6. We must boldly do his will.
7. The time for excuses has passed, especially blaming God
for not providing sufficient resources.
III. Setting priorities for the work of God (Haggai 1:3-6)
A. Exposition: Again the word of the Lord came to this
prophet, and he asked, "Is it time for you to live in your
1. The point was not that nice homes were a mark of
wickedness or that believers would be better served
by rejecting all material things.
a. The Bible clearly teaches a full proper use of
things both beautiful and mundane.
b. But there is the issue of priorities; we must put
God's work ahead of our work.
2. In this case the choice had to do with building the
a. The religious condition of the people's hearts
could be seen by their attitude towards this need.
b. Actually, it could have come in the form of any
task to do for the Lord; this was only the most
pressing need of the moment.
3. If times were hard, and there was no denying that they
were, why had Judah not cried out to God for help to do
this work of building?
4. Furthermore, if they were really so poor, how had they
been able to spend so much on themselves?
a. This was the real point in bringing up their houses.
b. Meanwhile the temple of God remained "a ruin" (vs. 3).
c. It was time for God's people to evaluate where this
reversal of priorities had gotten them.
B. Application: There is always a connection between the
moral and spiritual condition of a people and their
material and economic condition.
1. Modem men completely fail to recognize that there is
often a moral cause for the seasons of drought and
2. We too must take time to evaluate what is happening to
us from a moral/spiritual perspective.
a. Are you working harder and getting less out of it?
b. Are you eating more and enjoying it less?
c. Do you have more stuff and think less of it?
d. Are you earning more and accumulating less?
3. If you say yes to one of those questions, it is time
to re-order your priorities along these lines.
a. You must help maintain the church as a community of
faith (John 8:24).
(1) Israel failed God through lack of faith more
than through an inadequate law.
(2) However, the Lord's church was founded on the
prospect of a sustaining faith relationship.
(a) This theme is stressed throughout the
gospels and the letters.
(b) It is the man of faith that is freed
from undue worry and doubt
b. You must help maintain the church as a
proclaiming community (Matt. 28:19-20).
(1) When people are sold on Jesus, they can't
contain their faith.
(2) The ministry of the church must stress the
proclamation of Christ in all that it does.
c. You must help the church be a worshipping
community (I Pet. 2:9).
(1) The church offers praise and adoration.
(2) It is also God's institution for offering
d. You must help the church be a compassionate
community (Gal. 6: 1 0).
(1) Every Christian has an obligation to the
church and to the community at large in this
(2) There are spiritual, material, and emotional
needs that must be met.
e. You must help the church be a holy community.
(1) A church of Christ must be characterized by
(2) Sin must not be a way of life with God's
f. You must help the church be an encouraging
(1) The church is a building under constant
(2) Every member is expected to build the body
up and to contribute to its health
IV. Getting involved in the work of God (Haggai 1:7-12)
A. Exposition: Verse 7 again stresses the importance of these
matters and is reminiscent of verse 5.
1. The title Lord of hosts is never used of deity in the
Pentateuch, Joshua, or Judges.
a. It appears first in I Samuel 1:3.
b. But it is the favorite expression of the prophets
from that time forward.
c. The meaning of Lord of Hosts, that is, Master of the
heavenly and earthly armies, is "that he is the
absolute sovereign with invincible might, holding
both terrestrial armies (I Sam. 17:45) and celestial
armies of angels (Psa. 24:7-10) at his beck and call."
2. The purposes of obedience are set forth in verse 8:
"So that I may take pleasure in that work."
a. It is not that God is pleased or impressed with
building per se, but that building represents their
attempt to express praise and worship to God; to
that degree it brings him pleasure and magnifies
b. It is a matter of interest that it was necessary
for the people to go up the mountains to cut timber
and bring it down to build the temple.
(1) Sixteen years earlier they had been given
lumber for this purpose.
(2) What had happened to it in the meantime?
3. This section also deals with the cost of disobedience.
a. When God's work had to go begging for lack of
interest, punishment fell affecting the very ground.
b. Once again, scripture repeatedly underlines the
intimate connection between man's performance and
4. Verse 12 is one of those rare verses in the Bible that
indicates that the preaching of God's word had an
immediate and wonderful effect.
a. it celebrated the beauty of obedience, because all
the people along with the leadership obeyed the
voice of the Lord.
b. The fear of the Lord mentioned here is an attitude
of wholehearted trust and glad submission to the
c. It meant a turning from evil and holding to the
Lord by faith (Phil. 2:1 1).
d. Only by meeting these conditions can the work of
God break out in our own hearts and in a needy
B. Application: It is time to get involved with the work of
1. Increasingly Christians view themselves as consumers of
Christianity and not ministers and servants of the Lord.
2. I see it constantly as people come by and say "We are
a. What they are doing is shopping the churches.
b. What they should be doing is trying to be of the
most service to the Lord's cause in their home
c. If there isn't a church there, they should plant
3. You see this consumer mentality when people complain
about not having their needs met.
4. Such people demonstrate a skewed concept of what
a. All who are truly disciples of Jesus will follow
his example of service (Matt. 10:25-28).
b. None is too good to serve (Matt. 10:24)!
V. Receiving God's enablement to do the work (Haggai 1: 1 3-15)
A. Exposition: Simply put, God will help his people discharge
B. Application: Many are tempted to cry in exasperation, "But
I am so weary and so unable to do anything more, how can I
receive this challenge to renew the work of God?
1. The good news from the Old Testament is that God does
not ask us to do that which he hasn't enabled us to do.
2. Jesus promised always to be with those who preach the
gospel and teach men to do all that he commands
3. He promised that we will not be tempted above our
ability to endure and overcome (I Cor. 10:13).
4. The conclusion is before us once again.
a. We must stop giving God the scraps of our time and
energy as a people.
b. It is useless to whine that life has dealt us a
blow, so we can't do other than what we are now
c. If you really want to fight stagnation, blight, crop
failure, spiritual depression, drug abuse, violence,
and immorality around the world, begin with personal
repentance and reordering your priorities.
d. Stop pretending to be too poor or saying that the
time is not quite right, because your possessions
are like tongues wagging and telling on you.
e. Plant, my brothers, water, and let God give the
increase (I Cor. 3:6)!
Now is the time to renew God's work!