Haggai is writing to the Jews who have returned to Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. If you recall from your reading in the early chapters in Ezra, under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua, the people had begun to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. They progressed nicely. After a while, the people stopped their work on the temple. In Haggai, it appears that they became more concerned with building their own homes and settling into their lives in the city.
God had Haggai instruct the people that the work on the must temple continue.
The name Haggai means “my Feasts”. One primary purpose of the temple in Jerusalem was for the people to come and celebrate their annual feasts before the Lord. In fact, three times every year, all of the Hebrew men were commanded to appear before the Lord their God in worship, obedience and celebration. See Exodus 23:14-17, 34:23,24. I mentioned these feasts last Sunday during the service.
Of course, the children of Israel could not maintain their temple worship while they were in exile and while the temple was destroyed. Now they are back in their Land. Ezra was used by God to help reestablish the Law of Moses in the lives of the people. As long as the Law of Moses was in place, and they were able to live according to it (not in exile), this was what they must do. To live that way was good for them. Remember from Ezekiel 20:11 where God tells the children of Israel “And I gave them my statues and informed them of my ordinances, by which, if a man observes them he will live”. Well, they were back in the Land, the Law was still in place and in order to live as the people of God, they needed the temple so they may indeed maintain their Holy relationship with their Holy God. God was saying that to keep the Law and to celebrate your Feasts, you must continue to rebuild the temple. In other words...“You need the temple”.
We see in Haggai 1:12-14, that Zerubbabel, Joshua (same two guys from Ezra) and all of the people respond to the words of Haggai and they resume their work on the temple. Marvelous.
Another point I would like to make is that 13 times (by my count) in 38 verses, the Lord God is called “the Lord of Hosts”. This name is actually a common way that God is identified in the Scriptures. The Hebrew word for “hosts” is “tseva”. We translate that word into English as “army”. It is the word used today for the Israeli Defense Force. God is the Lord of the Heavenly Armies. Even though we translate the word as army, in and of itself, it is not necessarily a military term. In English we might say an army of lawyers, an army of builders, an army of ants, etc. It is a word referring to an organized group.
Regarding God’s identity as the Lord of Hosts, the word demonstrates God’s authority over His creation. Biblically, Hannah was the first to use this name for God when she was praying for a son in 1 Samuel 1:11. Hannah knew that the only way she could become pregnant was if the Lord over creation superseded the barrenness of her womb. He did so. Samuel was born and he played a major role in God’s plan of salvation
The term “tseva” was first used in Genesis 2:1 where we are told that God had completed the creation of the heavens and earth and their “hosts”. Through Haggai, God wants the people (and us) to know that He is the Lord of all creation. In essence, God is saying to them: You are back in your Land. Let us now reestablish your living relationship with your God...the Lord of all creation. Brethren, let us do the same. The Lord of Hosts, as seen in Haggai, is our Heavenly Father. Let us “press on” to know Him and live our lives fully according to Who He is.
By the way, I write this EBlast from Timberline Lodge in Fraser, Colorado, where I am teaching a group of young Bible students. Then, I am off to Albania to do the same. God willing, I will see you again, in church, on October 11. I hope to be in touch with you through these EBlasts.
If you want to contact me before I return, please feel very free to send an email to me at . Due to my schedule and travel, please know that there may be a delay in my response.
Be well dear ones. Stand firmly in Christ.