The Word Made Fresh
1On the first day of the sixth month, in the second year of King Darius, the word of the LORD came by the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, who was the governor of Judah, and to Joshua, the son of Jehozadak who was the high priest. 2The LORD Almighty said, “These people insist the time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.”
3Then the LORD’s word came to the prophet Haggai: 4“Is this the time for you to be living in your nice homes while this house is still in ruins? 5Consider where you are today. 6You have planted many crop seeds, but harvested next to nothing. You have food to eat, but never enough. You have something to drink, but are never full. You have clothes to wear, but nobody is warm. You earn wages, but then you put the money into a bag riddled with holes. 7So, the LORD Almighty asks you to really consider how things have gone for you.
8“Now go up into the hills and cut lumber and bring it to build the LORD’s house, so that the LORD will be honored in it. 9The LORD says, ‘You expected plenty, but it has come to little or nothing. When you brought it home with you I scattered it away because my house still lies in ruins while you run off to your own houses. 10That is why the sky above has held back the rain, and the ground has produced so little. 11It’s because I have caused a drought on the farmlands and hills, on the grain and wine and oil and everything the soil brings forth, as well as on people and animals and all they try to accomplish.'”
12Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jehozadak the high priest, along with the people that remained, obeyed the word of the LORD their God and the words the LORD sent through the prophet Haggai; and the people feared the LORD.
13Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, spoke to the people and assured them that the LORD was with them. 14Then the LORD encouraged Shealtiel’s son Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Jehozadak’s son Joshua, the high priest, as well as the people who remained in the land, and they came together and worked on the house of the LORD Almighty their God. 15They began the work on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month. This was in the second year of the reign of King Darius.
1-6: The date given in the first line has been worked out by scholars to be August 29, 520 B.C. Haggai is mentioned at Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 along with Zechariah, whose book follows this one, but little else is known about him. His book is a narrative account of the same historical events reported in Ezra rather than the more poetic style of prophetic oracles, making it somewhat easier for the modern reader. The book spans events that took place over a period of 4 months toward the end of 520 B.C. He was obviously known as a prophet and respected as such by the high priest Joshua and the governor Zerubbabel. This chapter is a more extensive account of what was reported in Ezra 5:1-3. The exiles from Babylon have returned to Jerusalem and the question has arisen over whether it is time to rebuild the temple. Haggai turns the question on its ear: is it time for you to live in your finished homes while the temple is a pile of rubble? And then he asks the crucial question: do you think there might be a connection between the lack of a place of worship and your meager success in rebuilding the infrastructure of the city?
7-11: The word Haggai gives from the LORD is that there is a connection. Therefore, it is time to gather material to build a house for God.
12-15: Zerubbabel, Joshua, and “the remnant of the people” are mentioned twice in these verses. The first mention probably has to do with their beginning to cut the timber. Then Haggai assures them God is with them, and the second mention has to do with their response to the news that God approves of what they are doing. The date given in verse 15 is what we would call September 21st.
God’s approval always lends strength for the task God wants us to undertake. If we are doing what God wants us to do, failure is not an obstacle.