4 Reasons You Should Preach Through Haggai

Article
05.24.2019

One of the biggest challenges of preaching Haggai is simply finding it in our Bibles. When people spend time in the Old Testament, they usually gravitate toward the Pentateuch, maybe the Psalms, or one of the major prophets. Few venture into the labyrinth of minor prophets and, once there, it’s relatively easy to miss the two short chapters of Haggai.

That’s unfortunate, because Haggai is a hidden gem that brings great encouragement for those prepared to dig for it. His central message for God’s people is, “Don’t be distracted nor discouraged in a day of small things. God is working to ensure he will receive great glory”.

Under this overall theme, here are four reasons to preach through Haggai.

1. Haggai challenges our love of personal comfort over kingdom sacrifice.

If you preach through Haggai, it’s hard to miss the prophet’s opening rebuke of God’s people for prioritizing personal comfort ahead of God’s glory. It’s important to note that Haggai’s challenge isn’t to typical backsliders, but those who were relatively diligent and faithful.

Haggai addresses the first wave of Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity. According to Ezra and Nehemiah, there were only 50,000 Jews who returned, a small minority compared to those who remained. Those who stayed were content, comfortably settled in Babylon and couldn’t be bothered with the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

So Haggai’s audience was the faithful ones. Having denied themselves, they returned to Zion and began rebuilding the temple. This remnant put God’s kingdom ahead of their own personal comfort—at least in the early days. Now, after more than a decade of labor and toil, the people are discouraged and conclude, “The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord” (1:2). Can you blame them? They were few in number, exhausted, and had little to show for it.

Are you part of a faithful church, laboring diligently whilst others don’t seem to care? Have you ever questioned why you should financially support missionaries, prioritize prayer meetings, or turn up to a church working bee? If you’ve ever struggled with the tension between kingdom sacrifice and prioritizing your own personal needs, Haggai has a timely word.

“Is it time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, whilst this house lies in ruin? Now therefore, consider your ways” (1:4–5). Remember, these were the faithful ones who left Babylon. What’s happened? Over time, the focus of God’s people had drifted from rebuilding the temple to their own homes.

In our materialistic age, how easy is it for God’s people to lose sight of gospel priorities and focus on personal agendas? Haggai challenges us by asking, are we seeking first the kingdom of God, or our own pleasures and comfort? Haggai warns us that if we seek our own kingdom first, God will withhold material blessings (1:7–11), but if we prioritize his kingdom, all else will be given to us (Mt. 6:33).

2. Haggai shows the blessing of God’s presence when his people obey.

How often do we see God’s people reject his challenges and rebukes? Given the historical pattern of Israel’s disobedience to God’s Word, it would be reasonable to expect a similar response to Haggai’s ministry. However, we are told that the leaders Zerubbabel and Joshua respond with all the people by obeying the voice of the LORD their God (1:12).

This near-obedience demonstrates blessed unity amongst the leaders and the people. From prophetic challenge to faithful response, it takes 23 days for temple construction to recommence. In this context, the people hear these words of comfort and assurance, “I am with you, declares the LORD” (1:13).

If you want to encourage your people to obey God’s Word with unity and without delay, then preach Haggai to remind them of God’s promised presence.

3. Haggai reminds us not to be discouraged by outward appearance as the best is yet to come. 

After the people obeyed, the reality of rebuilding sinks in. The new temple will not be like the old. For those who’d seen the original temple built by Solomon, this version pales into insignificance. It will be smaller, lacking in the grandeur and glory of the past. It will seem as nothing in their eyes (2:3).

Why labor for this? This is depressing and discouraging. But the LORD assures the workers, “In a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. . . . The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts.” (2:6–9a).

In other words, don’t let looks deceive you. Sure, the second temple looks unimpressive, but God is doing a greater work than mere physical renovation. The LORD will receive greater glory by filling his house with redeemed treasures from every tribe, nation, and tongue. Jews and Gentiles will eventually come and worship in a new temple.

We live in a day of small things, where gospel labor seems to bear little fruit compared to past revivals and reformation. In this context, we may be tempted to despair and lose heart. But preaching Haggai reminds us not to focus on external realities but to trust in the LORD. Our labor in the LORD is never in vain. God will surely receive greater glory—and the best is yet to come.

4. God’s kingdom will be established through a great servant.

Haggai closes with a special word to governor Zerubbabel as he leads the rebuilding efforts. Zerubbabel will be made God’s chosen servant and he will make him like a signet ring (2:23). While the governor will indeed play an influential role in the 6th Century BC temple rebuild, there is greater gospel significance in these verses (2:20–23).

Simply put, these fresh promises build on God’s earlier covenant with David, that one of his descendants would establish a throne forever (2 Sam. 7:13–16). After Israel’s backsliding, Babylonian exile, and only a minority of Jews returning, one might be tempted to think God’s promises are now null and void.

Haggai reaffirms that God is still working out his promises—and from our vantage point, we know these are ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is the ultimate Servant, the King of kings. King David and Zerubbabel are both included in the Messianic line (Mt. 1:1–17), but it’s Jesus who comes to establish and build an eternal kingdom that will never be shaken (Heb. 12:18–29).

So even in this small obscure work hidden amid the minor prophets, we see that Haggai points us to the coming of Jesus Christ. He is the greater Zerubbabel, God’s chosen servant and signet ring. Jesus will establish a greater temple through the sacrifice of his own body (Jn. 2:19–21)—and tareasures from all the nations will be redeemed and ultimately bring glory to God (Rev21:24).

So, in summary, why preach on Haggai?

  • It challenges our love of comfort and urges kingdom service
  • It reminds us of God’s presence when His people obey
  • It encourages us not to focus on outward appearance and to wait upon the LORD, for the best yet to come
  • It points us to the coming of Jesus Christ, who establishes an unshakable kingdom and a temple for all nations to glorify God.

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COMMENTARIES AND OTHER HELPS

Gareth Crossley’s The Old Testament Explained and Applied provides concise and helpful background information, insights, and themes connecting Haggai with the promised coming of Jesus. Likewise, Iain Duguid’s EP Study Commentary provides an accessible resource for preachers and lay people, encouraging the study of Haggai from a Christological perspective.

For more technical commentaries dealing with exegetical issues, consider Pieter Verhoef’s contribution in the NICOT series or Thomas E. McComiskey’s 3-volume series on the Minor Prophets, where Alec Moytner contributes to the chapter dealing with Haggai.

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You can read the rest of the articles in this series here.

By:
Michael Prodigalidad

Michael Prodigalidad is the pastor of Stanmore Baptist Church in Sydney, Australia.