The Gospel According to Haggai

The Gospel According to Haggai

The Gospel According to Haggai.

“Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Take courage! Do not fear.”  (Haggai 2:4-5).

The first of three groups of exiles from Babylon was released after 70 years of captivity. This remnant returned to Jerusalem and recognized what they had missed all those years… their homes and livelihoods, their ancestral land, and the Temple that contained the very presence of God. So they immediately went to work building the foundation for the new and rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s spectacular Temple lay in ruins because of God’s decree of punishment for Israel’s sins. So the foundation was a good start to the big project of rebuilding the Temple. But between the priority placed on rebuilding their own homes, and the strong opposition of neighboring peoples, the returned exiles let the foundation lay bare for sixteen years. They were indifferent, intimidated, and discouraged. So they dragged their feet in the big project to restore worship to the center of Jewish society.

After all this time, God seemed to grow impatient with the rebuilding of His House. So He tapped two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to take on the mission, the high calling, of inspiring the people to get on with the Temple rebuild. For three and a half months Haggai in particular proved to be the inspiration for the people of Judah. His words of the Lord encouraged the people, inspired them, and led them to pick up their building tools once again. Haggai was like a cheerleader prophet. He would call to the people and ask questions like, How could you be comfortable in your own nice homes, when God’s House lay in ruins? How come you work so hard at having a nice life for yourselves, when the Temple is destroyed and unusable?

Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua, the high priest, joined into the project by helping to make it happen. And Haggai was there during this time leading the cheers, with his encouragement to stay strong, have courage, the Spirit of the living God is with you. It might have taken a few months to sink in, but eventually the leadership of Zerubbabel, Joshua, Haggai and Zechariah helped the people to get to work. Haggai let the people know that rebuilding His House would truly bring God pleasure. They listened to Haggai, for they knew a true prophet of the Lord when they heard one. They knew that Haggai’s words were from the true God, and if they continued listening to Haggai, they would be honoring God with their efforts. Sure enough, after four and a half years of hard work, the rebuilt Temple was completed.

This rebuilt Temple has come down through history known as Zerubbabel’s Temple, but that is a little misleading. It could be easily known as Haggai’s Temple as well, since he was the one cheering from the sidelines and in the middle of the action, saying, You can do this! Do this for the Lord! He is with you! When this Temple project was finished, the second group of exiles returned from Babylon, led by Ezra the priest. He had the mission of rebuilding the people, not the Temple. He had the calling of restoring worship of Yahweh into the mainstream of Jewish culture. He is the one who helped turn that Temple into a usable worship space, the center of Jewish life in God, with sacrifices, celebrations, Scripture teaching, and religious festivals. It turned out that Ezra was just as successful as Haggai. After a much-needed national repentance and turning to God, the religious culture was rebuilt from top to bottom, and worship in the new Temple was right there at the center of it all.

Haggai was primarily concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem after the exile. But he ended up being quite a preacher of the Gospel as well. He directly pointed to a New Temple in the distant future of Jerusalem. Haggai anticipated the messianic age when a New Temple will be filled with glory and splendor. And he said that this Temple would be where God would give His peace. (Haggai 2:7-9). Haggai clearly pointed to Jesus Messiah, who not only was full of God’s glory (John 1:14), but also was the very Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6-7). This New Temple is Christ Himself, as Jesus clearly stated in John 2:19-22,

“Then the Jews demanded of Him, ‘What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ The Jews replied, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?’ But the Temple he had spoken of was His body. After He was raised from the dead, His disciples recalled what He had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.’ “

As He Himself claimed in front of the Pharisees, Jesus was indeed the New Temple on earth, housing the very presence of God, providing full access to God, accepting the living sacrifices of His followers, interceding for the sins of the people. The Jesus Temple looked like it needed rebuilding on the Cross, but three days later that Temple was completely transformed and given new life. Jesus’ resurrection, God’s rebuild of the New Temple.

So Haggai was clearly preaching Jesus in his little book of prophecy. And Jesus ended up anticipating the New Jerusalem, in which the Father and the Lamb Jesus will be the Temple, the presence of God, more glorious than any building could be. (Revelation 21:22).