Hag. 1:1-4 See section 1 of "TRUTH IN ACTION" at the end of Haggai
Hag. 1:1 The date that, with all precision, is offered for the year in which Haggai received GOD's message, is based upon the prophet's ministry among those who returned from exile during a period of four months in 520 B.C. The message comes from the LORD through Haggai to Zerubbabel and Joshua, and is directed to all the people, and calls for a collaboratoin between the prophetic leadership, the priesthood and the political leadership, taking into account that GOD's will is fulfilled in His people.
Hag. 1:1-11 Materialism Reconsidered (HBH) Haggai has no title verse. The information needed is provided in the narrative. This includes a precise date for each prophecy. Darius was the third Persian ruler over the huge empire that succeeded Babylon in 539 B.C. and which controlled territory from India in the east to the Aegean Sea in the west. Darius began his reign in 522. His second year of reign was 520.
Haggai's message is called "the word of the LORD" in the way already familiar from Hosea through Zephaniah. But here it is used for a specific prophecy in verses 1-11.
Haggai probably means something like festival child, indicating that he was born on a holiday. He is called "the prophet". That term has not been used frequently in the Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets). Haggai is mentioned along with Zechariah and Zerubabbel in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14.
Zerubabbel apparently succeeded Sheshbazzar as governor of Judah. He was the grandson of Jehoiakin, former king of Judah, who had been taken to Babylon in 598 B.C. So Zerubabbel was a potential heir to David's throne if there should be one again.
Joshua is called "high priest". That title came into use after the exile. He apparently shared ruling authority with Zerubabbel because Jerusalem was to be a temple-city according to Cyrus's decree. Priests formed a major portion of those who returned under Sheshbazzar (Ezra 2:36).
The occasion for the prophecy was the people's reluctance to start building the temple (v.2). They said that the time was not right. In response the LORD asked if it was time, then, for them to live in luxurious homes while His house remained in ruins (vv. 3-4).
GOD's people found their labor brought little real result (vv. 5-6). Futility of labor was one of the curses for breaking covenant (Lev. 26:16,20; Deut. 28:20-41). This curse was already announced for preexilic Israel in passages like Hosea 13:15 and Amos 4:6-12. Despite the fulfillment of judgment and the chance of a new beginning in Jerusalem, the promised reversal of fortunes with outpoured blessings had not occurred. Life was still futile and empty, economically and in every other way.
Verses 7-11 explain that the LORD did this because His house, the temple, remained in ruins with no effort made to rebuild it. Until the people turned their attention to this priority, there would be no prosperity for them.
Hag. 1:2 Haggai's favorite designation when he refers to GOD is Jehovah of Hosts, which appears fourteen times in this short book. This may deal with "hosts", "angels", "stars" or the "armies of Israel", and is used by the prophet to emphasize the greatness and power of GOD. This people say: Thus the scene is set to present GOD's dispute against the people of Jerusalem.
Hag. 1:4 Crafted houses (KJV-ceiled houses; the Hebrew word used here means "covered"): The people, although negligent in the construction of the Temple, embellished their own houses covering the walls with expensive panels, like in the Temple of Solomon, where "all were cedar; no stone was seen" (I Kings 6:18).
Hag. 1:5,7 Meditate well upon your ways: In Hebrew it literally says "meditate on your heart" (see 2:15,18).
Hag. 1:6 Apparently the people invoked the problems of poverty, hunger, shortages and the devaluation of money, as excuses for not finishing the Temple. But GOD's judgment is announced in verses 9-11.
Hag. 1:7 Without the resources of Solomon, who built using the cedars of Lebanon and the gold of Ophir, the people could still glorify GOD using the materials they had at hand.
Hag. 1:10,11 The same nature reflects divine judgment when GOD's will is ignored.
Hag. 1:12-15 Motivating GOD's People (HBH) Verses 12-14 report the response of the leaders and the people to Haggai's message. They obeyed the LORD because they recognized that He had sent Haggai. They "feared the LORD" (v.12), worshiping Him and giving Him due attention. So Haggai announced a new word from GOD: "I am with you" (v.13). The LORD's presence was manifested in a revived willingness by all the people to work on the temple.
Hag. 1:13 Haggai, sent by Jehovah, spoke by Jehovah's mandate: This defines Haggai's personality and mission.
Hag. 1:14 The prophet's message (v.13) is complemented by the direct intervention of GOD, who awakened the dormant hearts and renewed the desires of all who did His will. The result was that the builders began the work again with great energy.
Hag. 1:15 In the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month: Twenty-three days passed between the proclamation of Haggai's first message and the resumption of the work of rebuilding the Temple.
Hag. 2:1 Haggai's second message ("be strong...and work", v.4) is produced approximately two months after the first and a month after the construction of the Temple having commenced.
Hag. 2:1-9 GOD's Emerging Word (HBH) A month later GOD gave an encouraging word to a tiny group which had determined, without adequate resources, to build GOD's house as He had directed (2:1-9). They might have been discouraged because they had no chance of duplicating the splendor of Solomon's temple that once stood on that spot (v.3). But GOD called on all of them to be strong and to work hard because the LORD Almighty was with them (v.4). The name "the LORD Almighty [or 'the LORD of Hosts']" is used frequently in the last books of the twelve Minor Prophets. The smaller and weaker Israel's own resources, the greater their need for a faith in GOD as even more powerful than before.
Verses 6-9 portray GOD's intended use for the new temple. He planned great earthshaking events soon. The "desired of all nations will come" (v.7). The nations would be shaken and that which they desired would come to pass. Verse 9 suggests that this desire was for "peace". This would come when the temple was filled with GOD's presence.
GOD's people did not need to be overly concerned with how they could finance the temple rebuilding. GOD said, "The silver and the gold is mine" (v.8). Micah 4:1-5 (and Isa. 2:2-4) shows that the new temple was GOD's goal and that worship there would be related to peaceful life. Haggai said now was the time for that to be fulfilled. As for the needed funding, Ezra-Nehemiah records the specific financial support Cyrus and his successors decreed should be provided for the new temple. He gave back to Sheshbazzar the vessels that were taken away by Babylonian and Assyrian kings. Darius later ordered surrounding peoples through the governors to pay for the work (Ezra 6:8-10). Artaxerxes later ordered even more generous support for Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 7).
Hag. 2:3 That had seen this house in its first glory: Refers to the Temple of Solomon. Some of the oldest among the people were children at the time of the fall of Jerusalem.
Hag. 2:5 The promise of the Holy Spirit was confirmed through a pact in the beginning of the history of Israel. The promise continued being fulfilled while the Spirit of GOD still dwelled in the midst of the Israelites, who should not fear. See the introduction to Haggai: "The Holy Spirit in Action".
Hag. 2:5-9 See section 1 of "TRUTH IN ACTION" at the end of Haggai.
Hag. 2:6-9 This passage is better interpreted in light of GOD's final intervention in history, in the sublime "Day of the LORD" (see the note for Obadiah 15).
Hag. 2:7 And I will shake all the nations: Alludes to GOD's final judgment before the arrival of the world to come. And I will fill this house with glory: Refers in part to the dedication of Zerubabbel's, although it also announces the future presence of GOD in human temples through Jesus Christ (I Cor. 6:19,20).
Hag. 2:7 And the desire of all nations shall come: (Albert Barne's Notes on the Bible)
This longing increased as the time drew near, when Christ should come. The Roman biographer attests the existence of this expectation, not among the Jews only, but in the East ; this was quickened doubtless among the pagan by the Jewish Sibylline book, in that, amid the expectations of one sent from heaven, who should found a kingdom of righteousness, which the writer drew from the Hebrew prophets, he inserted denunciations of temporal vengeance upon the Romans, which Easterners would share. Still, although written 170 years before our LORD came , it had not apparently much effect until the time, when, from the prophecies of Daniel it was clear, that He must shortly come . Yet the attempt of the Jewish and pagan historian to wrest it to Vespasian, shows how great must have been the influence of the expectation, which they attempted to turn aside.
The Jews, who rejected our LORD whom Haggai predicted, still were convinced that the prediction must be fulfilled before the destruction of the second temple. The impulse did not cease even after its destruction. R. Akiba, whom they accounted “the first oracle of his time, the first and greatest guardian of the tradition and old law,” of whom they said, that “GOD revealed to him things unknown to Moses,” was induced by this prophecy to acknowledge the impostor Bar-cochab, to the destruction of himself and of the most eminent of his time; fulfilling our LORD’s words (John 5:43) “I am come in My fathers name, and ye receive Me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.”
Akiba, following the traditional meaning of the great prophecy which rivetted his own eyes, paraphrased the words, “Yet a little, a little of the kingdom, will I give to Israel upon the destruction of the first house, and after the kingdom, lo! I will shake heaven, and after that will come the Messiah.”
Since the words can only mean “the Desire of all nations,” he or that which all nations long for, the construction of the words does not affect the meaning. Herod doubtless thought to advance his own claims on the Jewish people by his material adorning of the temple; yet, although mankind do covet gold and silver, few could seriously think that, while a pagan immoral but observant poet could speak of “gold undiscovered and so better placed,” or our own of the “pale and common drudge ‘Tween man and man,” a Hebrew prophet could recognize gold and silver as “the desire of all nations.” Rabbi Akiba and Jerome’s Jewish teachers, after our LORD came, felt no difficulty in understanding it of a person. We cannot in English express the delicacy of the phrase, whereby manifoldness is combined in unity, the Object of desire containing in itself many objects of desire.
To render “the desire of all nations” or “the desires of all nations” alike fail to do this. A great pagan master of language said to his wife, “fare you well, my longings,” i. e., I suppose, if he had analyzed his feelings, he meant that she manifoldly met the longings of his heart; she had in herself manifold gifts to content them. So Paul sums up all the truths and gifts of the Gospel, all which GOD shadowed out in the law and had given us in Christ, under the name of “the good things to come.” A pious modern writer speaks of “the unseen desirables of the spiritual world.” A psalmist expresses at once the collective, “GOD’s Word” and the “words” contained in it, by an idiom like Haggai’s, joining the feminine singular as a collective with the plural verb; “How sweet are Thy word unto my taste,” literally “palate.”
It is GOD’s word, at once collectively and individually, which was to the Psalmist so sweet. What was true of the whole, was true, one by one, of each part; what was true of each part, was true of the whole. So here, the object of this longing was manifold, but met in one, was concentrated in One, (1Cor. 1:30) “in Christ Jesus, Who of GOD is made unto us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” That which the whole world sighed and mourned for, knowingly or unknowingly, light to disperse its darkness, liberty from its spiritual slavery, restoration from its degradation, could not come to us without some one, who should impart it to us.
But if Jesus was “the longed-for of the nations” before He came, by that mute longing of need for that which it wants (as the parched ground thirsteth for the rain how much more afterward! So Micah and Isaiah describe many peoples inviting one another Mic. 4:2; Isa. 2:3. “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the GOD of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.” And in truth He became the “desire of the nations,” much more than of the Jews; as, Paul says, (Rom. 10:19-20; quoting Deut. 32:21; Isa. 65:2.) GOD foretold of old; “Moses saith, I will provoke you to jealousy by them that are not a people: by a foolish nation I will anger you. But Esaias is very bold and saith, I was found of them that sought Me not.”
So until now and in eternity, “Christ is the longing of all holy souls, who long for nothing else, than to please Him, daily to love Him more, to worship Him better. So John longed for Him; “Come, LORD Jesus (Rev. 22:20). So Isaiah (Isa. 26:8-9), “The desire of our soul is to Thy Name and to the remembrance of Thee: with my soul have I desired Thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me, will I seek Thee early.” So Ignatius, “Let fire, cross, troops of wild beasts, dissections, rendings, scattering of bones, mincing of limbs, grindings of the whole body, ill tortures of the devil come upon me, only may I gain Jesus Christ. - I seek Him Who for us died; I long for Him Who for us rose.”
“Hungerest thou and desirest food? Long for Jesus! He is the bread and refreshment of Angels. He is manna, “containing in Him all sweetness and pleasurable delight.” Thirstest thou? Long for Jesus! He is the well of “living water,” refreshing, so that thou shouldest thirst no more. Art thou sick? Go to Jesus. He is the Saviour, the physician, nay, salvation itself. Art thou dying? Sigh for Jesus! He is “the resurrection and the life.” Art thou perplexed? Come to Jesus! He is “the Angel of great counsel.” Art thou ignorant and erring? Ask Jesus; He is “the way, the truth and the life.” Art thou a sinner? Call on Jesus! For “He shall save His people from their sins.” To this end He came into the world: “This is all His fruit, to take away sin.” Art thou tempted by pride, gluttony, lust, sloth? Call on Jesus! He is humility, soberness, chastity, love, fervor: “He bare our infirmities, and carried,” yea still beareth and carrieth, “our griefs.”
Seekest thou beauty? He is “fairer than the children of men.” Seekest thou wealth? In Him are “all treasures,” yea in Him “the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth.” Art thou ambitious of honors? “Glory and riches are in His house.” “He is the King of glory.” Seekest thou a friend? He hath the greatest love for thee, who for love of thee came down from heaven, toiled, endured the Sweat of Blood, the Cross and Death; He prayed for thee by name in the garden, and poured forth tears of Blood! Seekest thou wisdom? He is the Eternal and Uncreated Wisdom of the Father! Wishest thou for consolation and joy? He is the sweetness of souls, the joy and jubilee of Angels. Wishest thou for righteousness and holiness? He is “the Holy of holies;” He “is everlasting Righteousness,” justifying and sanctifying all who believe and hope in Him. Wishest thou for a blissful life? He is “life eternal,” the bliss of the saints. Long then for Him, love Him, sigh for Him! In Him thou wilt find all good; out of Him, all evil, all misery. Say then with Francis, ‘My Jesus, my love and my all!’ O Good Jesus, burst the cataract of Thy love, that its streams, yea seas, may flow down upon us, yea, inebriate and overwhelm us.”
And I will fill this house with glory - The glory then was not to be anything, which came from man, but directly from GOD. It was the received expression of GOD’s manifestation of Himself in the tabernacle (Exod. 40:34-35) in Solomon’s temple (1Kings 8:11; 2Chron. 5:14; 7:1-12), and of the ideal temple (Ezek. 43:5; 44:4) which Ezekiel saw, after the likeness of that of Solomon, that “the glory of the LORD filled the house.” When then of this second temple GOD uses the self-same words, that He will “fill it with glory,” with what other glory should He fill it than His own? In the history it is said, “the glory of the LORD filled the temple;” for there man relates what GOD did. Here it is GOD Himself who speaks; so He says not, “the glory of the LORD,” but, “I will fill the house with glory,” glory which was His to give, which came from Himself. To interpret that glory of anything material, is to do violence to language, to force on words of Scripture an unworthy sense, which they refuse to bear.
The gold upon the walls, even had the second temple been adorned like the first did not fill the temple of Solomon. However richly any building might be overlaid with gold, no one could say that it is filled with it. A building is filled with what it contains; a mint or treasure-house may be filled with gold: the temple of GOD was “filled,” we are told, with “the glory of the LORD.” His creatures bring Him such things as they can offer; they bring (Isa. 60:6) “gold and incense;” they (Psa. 72:10) “bring presents” and “offer gifts;” they do it, moved by His Spirit, as acceptable to Him. GOD was never said to give these offerings to Himself.
Hag. 2:9 In Jewish tradition this house was called "the second temple", the first being the Temple of Solomon. This is the temple that existed in Jesus' time, although it was amplified and embellished under Herod. About the importance of this "later temple" see the note for verse 7. See also the Introduction to Haggai, "Christ Revealed".
Hag. 2:10 Haggai's third message, "I will bless you" (v.19) came approximately two months after the second message (v.1).
Hag. 2:10-23 The Turning Point (HBH) Two months later the LORD announced a turning point when the first stones were actually laid for the temple's foundation (v.15). The passage begins with a parable related to meat consecrated for sacrifice. It had no power in itself to sanctify what it touched and could only be profaned by alien contact. So long as the people had no temple, so long as they were under GOD's judgment, they were like that. Nothing prospered. Nothing worked for them. But now, from the day the temple began to be a reality, that would change. GOD would bless them.
Haggai 2:20-23 is a prophecy given on the same day to Zerubabbel that again spoke of earthshaking events in which GOD would use violence and war. On that day GOD said He would elevate Zerubabbel. He called him "my servant", a title made great in Isaiah. He promised to make him like GOD's own signet ring.
The subject turns from building the temple to the question of leadership in Jerusalem, from a position of joint leadership with Joshua, the priest, to the single rule of Zerubabbel. Jeremiah 22:24-25 had announced that GOD would tear off Yahweh's signet ring from Jehoiakin to give it to Nebuchadnezzar. Now Jehoiakin's grandson was promised that the LORD would "wear him as a signet ring" because GOD had chosen him. The verse has a messianic sound to it, and Christians have thought of Jesus Christ as its fulfillment. Readers about 420 B.C. must have expected a great deal more from Zerubabbel himself. (See Zech. 4 for a further word on Zerubabbel). It is enough here to note that messianic expectation was not in step with the trend of these later Books of the Twelve Minor Prophets, which expect no restoration of the temple and of the people in the land of Israel.
Hag. 2:11-14 After his third message of blessing, Haggai reminds them that holiness isn't transferable. His intention is to explain that three months of work on the temple can't compensate for years of negligence. The temple doesn't work wonders, the people must still amend their lives.
Hag. 2:12 Holy flesh: Alludes to the flesh of the sacrifice.
Hag. 2:15-19 See section 1 of "TRUTH IN ACTION" at the end of Haggai.
Hag. 2:15-19 By asking the people to look behind, GOD emphasizes what He states by blessing those who put His will first (from this day forward).
Hag. 2:19 From this day I will bless you: Words that assure, although unearned, GOD's provision.
Hag. 2:22 The sword of his brother: GOD will confront those who oppose His people, so that they will end up destroying themselves.
Hag. 2:23 Signet: An article of especial value for its owner. Zerubabbel's name will remain engraved as a sign for all to see the special treatment of which GOD made him an object; this appears in the geneaologies of our LORD Jesus (see Matt. 1:12,13; Luke 3:27). See also the Introduction to Haggai, "Christ Revealed".
Theological and Ethical Significance (HBH) Haggai calls us to attempt great things for GOD. Petty selfishness and fears of failure must not prevent GOD's people from acting. Our actions will reveal whether or not GOD is the top priority in our lives. If we do not honor GOD in what we do, we will not be successful no matter how hard we strive. GOD provides His people with leaders like Zerubbabel to assist His people in serving Him.
Questions for Reflection (HBH)
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Haggai 1-11 (Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible)
I. What the sin of the Jews was at this time, (Hag. 1:2). As soon as they came up out of captivity they set up an altar for sacrifice, and within a year after laid the foundations of a temple, (Ezra. 3:10. They then seemed very forward in it, and it was likely enough that the work would be done suddenly; but, being served with a prohibition some time after from the Persian court, and charged not to go on with it, they not only yielded to the force, when they were actually under it, which might be excused, but afterwards, when the violence of the opposition had abated, they continued very indifferent to it, had no spirit nor courage to set about it again, but seemed glad that they had a pretense to let it stand still. Though those who are employed for GOD may be driven off from their work by a storm, yet they must return to it as soon as the storm is over. These Jews did not do so, but continued loitering until they were afresh reminded of their duty. And that which they suggested one to another was, The time has not come, the time that the LORD's house should be built; that is, 1. “Our time has not come for the doing of it, because we have not yet recovered, after our captivity; our losses are not repaired, nor have we yet got before-hand in the world. It is too great an undertaking for new beginners in the world, as we are; let us first get our own houses up, before we talk of building churches, and in the mean time let a bare altar serve us, as it did our father Abraham.” They did not say that they would not build a temple at all, but, “Not yet; it is all in good time.” Note, Many a good work is put by by being put off, as Felix put off the prosecution of his convictions to a more convenient season. They do not say that they will never repent, and reform, and be religious, but, “Not yet.” And so the great business we were sent into the world to do is not done, under pretense that it is all in good time to go about it. 2. “GOD's time has not come for the doing of it; for (say they) the restraint laid upon us by authority in a legal way is not broken off, and therefore we ought not to proceed, though there be a present connivance of authority.” Note, There is an aptness in us to misinterpret providential discouragements in our duty, as if they amounted to a discharge from our duty, when they are only intended for the trial and exercise of our courage and faith. It is bad to neglect our duty, but it is worse to vouch Providence for the patronizing of our neglects.
II. What the judgments of GOD were by which they were punished for this neglect (Hag. 1:6,9-11). They neglected the building of GOD's house, and put that off, that they might have time and money for their secular affairs. They desired to be excused from such an expensive piece of work under this pretense, that they must provide for their families; their children must have meat and portions too, and, until they have got before-hand in the world, they cannot think of rebuilding the temple. Now, that the punishment might answer to the sin, GOD by his providence kept them still behind-hand, and that poverty which they thought to prevent by not building the temple GOD brought upon them for not building it. They were sensible of the smart of the judgment, and every one complained of the unseasonable weather, the great losses they sustained in their corn and cattle, and the decay of trade; but they were not sensible of the cause of the judgment, and the ground of GOD's controversy with them. They did not, or would not, see and own that it was for their putting off the building of the temple that they lay under these manifest tokens of GOD's displeasure; and therefore GOD here gives them notice that this is that for which he contended with them. Note, We need the help of GOD's prophets and ministers to expound to us, not only the judgments of GOD's mouth, but the judgments of his hands, that we may understand his mind and meaning in his rod as well as in his word, to discover to us not only wherein we have offended GOD, but wherein GOD shows himself offended at us. Let us observe,
1. How GOD contended with them. He did not send them into captivity again, nor bring a foreign enemy upon them, as they deserved, but took the correcting of them into his own hands; for his mercies are great. (1.) He that gives seed to the sower denied his blessing upon the seed sown, and then it never prospered; they had nothing, or next to nothing, from it. They sowed much (Hag. 1:6), kept a great deal of ground in tillage, which, they might expect, would turn to a better advantage than usual, because their land had long lain fallow and had enjoyed its Sabbaths. Having sown much, they looked for much from it, enough to spend and enough to spare too; but they were disappointed: They bring in little, very little (Hag. 1:6); when they have made the utmost of it, it comes to little (Hag. 1:9); it did not yield as they expected. (Isa. 5:10) The seed of a homer shall yield an ephah, a bushel's sowing shall yield a peck. Note, Our expectations from the creature are often most frustrated when they are most raised; and then, when we look for much, it comes to little, that our expectation may be from GOD only, in whom it will be outdone. We are here told how they came to be disappointed (Hag. 1:10): The heaven over you is stayed from dew; he that has the key of the clouds in his hands shut them up, and withheld the rain when the ground called for it, the former or the latter rain, and then of course the earth is stayed from her fruit; for, if the heaven be as brass, the earth is as iron. The corn perhaps came up very well, and promised a very plentiful crop, but, for want of the dews at earing-time, it never filled, but was parched with the heat of the sun and withered away. The restored captives, who had long been kept bare in Babylon, thought they should never want when they had got their own land in possession again and had that at command. But what the better are they for it, unless they had the clouds at command too? GOD will make us sensible of our necessary and constant dependence upon him, throughout all the links in the chain of second causes, from first to last; so that we can at no time say, “Now we have no further occasion for GOD and his providence.” See Hos. 2:21. But GOD not only withheld the cooling rains, but he appointed the scorching heats (Hag. 1:11): I called for a drought upon the land, ordered the weather to be extremely hot, and then the fruits of the earth were burnt up. See how every creature is that to us which GOD makes it to be, either comfortable or afflictive, serving us or incommoding us. Nothing among the inferior creatures is so necessary and beneficial to the world as the heat of the sun; it is that which puts life into the plants and renews the face of the earth at spring. And yet, if that go into an extreme, it undoes all again. Our Creator is our best friend; but, if we make him our enemy, we make the best friends we have among the creatures our enemies too. This drought GOD called for, and it came at the call; as the winds and the waves, so the rays of the sun, obey him. It was universal, and the ill effects of it were general; it was a drought upon the mountains, which, lying high, were first affected with it. The mountains were their pasture-grounds, and used to be covered over with flocks, but now there was no grass for them. It was upon the corn, the new wine, and the oil; all failed through the extremity of the hot weather, even all that the ground brought forth; it all withered. Nay, it had a bad influence upon men; the hot weather enfeebled some, and made them weary and faint, and spent their spirits; it inflamed others, and put them into fevers. It should seem, it brought diseases upon cattle too. In short, it spoiled all the labour of their hands, which they hoped to eat of and maintain their families by. Note, Meat for the belly is meat that perishes, and, if we labour for that only, we are in danger of losing our labour; but we are sure our labour shall not be in vain in the LORD if we labour for the meat which endures to eternal life. For the hand of the diligent, in the business of religion, will infallibly make rich, whereas, in the business of this life, the most solicitous and the most industrious often lose the labour of their hands. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. (2.) He that gives bread to the eater denied his blessing upon the bread they ate, and then that did not nourish them. The cause of the withering and failing of the corn in the field was visible - it was for want of rain; but, besides that, there was a secret blast and curse attending that which they brought home. [1.] When they had it in the barn they were not sure of it: I did blow upon it, saith the LORD of hosts (Hag. v1:9), and that withered it, as buds are sometimes blasted in the spring by a nipping frost, which we see the effects of, but know not the way of. I did blow it away; so the margin reads it. When men have heaped wealth together GOD can scatter it with the breath of his mouth as easily as we can blow away a feather. Note, We can never be sure of any thing in this world; it is exposed, not only when it is in the field, but when it is housed; for there moth and rust corrupt, Matt. 6:19. And, if we would have the comfort and continuance of our temporal enjoyments, we must make GOD our friend; for, if he bless them to us, they are blessings indeed, but if he blow upon them we can expect no good from them: they make themselves wings and fly away. [2.] When they had it upon the board it was not that to them that they expected: “You eat, but you have not enough, either because the meat is washy, and not satisfying, or because the stomach is greedy, and not satisfied. You eat, but you have no good digestion, and so are not nourished by it, nor does it answer the end, or you have not enough because you are not content, nor think it enough. You drink, but are not cooled and refreshed by it; you are not filled with drink; you are stinted, and have not enough to quench your thirst. The new wine is cut off from your mouth (Joel 1:5), nay, and you drink your water too by measure and with astonishment; you have no comfort of it, because you have no plenty of it, but are still in fear of falling short.” [3.] That which they had upon their backs did them no good there: “You clothe yourselves, but there is none warm; your clothes soon wear out, and wax old, and grow thin, because GOD blows upon them,” contrary to what Israel's did in the wilderness when GOD blessed them. It is GOD that makes our garments warm upon us, when he quiets the earth, (Job 37:17). [4.] That which they had in their bags, which was not laid out, but laid up, they were not sure of: “He that earns wages by hard labour, and has it paid him in ready current money, puts it into a bag with holes; it drops through, and wastes away insensibly. Every thing is so scarce and dear that they spend their money as fast as they get it.” Those that lay up their treasure on earth put it into a bag with holes; they lose it as they go along, and those that come after them pick it up. But, if we lay up our treasure in heaven, we provide for ourselves bags that wax not old, (Luk. 12:33).
2. Observe wherefore GOD thus contended with them, and stopped the current of the favors promised them at their return (Joe. 2:24); they provoked him to do it: It is because of my house that is waste. This is the quarrel GOD has with them. The foundation of the temple is laid, but the building does not go on. “Every man runs to his own house, to finish that, and to make that convenient and fine, and no care is taken about the LORD's house; and therefore it is that GOD crosses you thus in all your affairs, to testify his displeasure against you for that neglect, and to bring you to a sense of your sin and folly.” Note, As those who seek first the kingdom of GOD and the righteousness thereof shall not only find them, but are most likely to have other things added to them, so those who neglect and postpone those things will not only lose them, but will justly have other things taken away from them. And if GOD cross us in our temporal affairs, and we meet with trouble and disappointment, we shall find this is the cause of it, the work we have to do for GOD and our own souls is left undone, and we seek our own things more than the things of Jesus Christ, Phi_2:21.
III. The reproof which the prophet gives them for their neglect of the temple-work (Hag_1:4): “Is it time for you, O you! to dwell in your ceiled houses, to have them beautified and adorned, and your families settled in them?” They were not content with walls and roofs for necessity, but they must have for gaiety and fancy. “It is high time,” says one, “that my house were wainscoted.” “It is high time,” says another, “that mine were painted.” And GOD's house, all this time, lies waste, and nothing is done at it. “What!” says the prophet, “is it time that you should have your humour pleased, and not time you should have your GOD pleased?” How much was their disposition the reverse of David's, who could not be easy in his house of cedar while the ark of GOD was in curtains (2Sa_7:2), and of Solomon's, who built the temple of GOD before he built a palace for himself. Note, Those are very much strangers to their own interest who prefer the conveniences and ornaments of the temporal life before the absolute necessities of the spiritual life, who are full of care to enrich their own houses, while GOD's temple in their hearts lies waste, and nothing is done for it or in it.
IV. The good counsel which the prophet gives to those who thus despised GOD, and whom GOD was therefore justly displeased with. 1. He would have them reflect: Now therefore consider your ways, (Hag. 1:5) and again (Hag. 1:7) “Be sensible of the hand of GOD gone out against you, and enquire into the reason; think what you have done that has provoked GOD thus to break in upon your comforts; and think what you will do to testify your repentance, that GOD may return in mercy to you.” Note, It is the great concern of every one of us to consider our ways, to set our hearts to our ways (so the word is), to think on our ways (Psa. 119:59), to search and try them (Lam. 3:40), to ponder the path of our feet (Prov. 4:26), to apply our minds with all seriousness to the great and necessary duty of self-examination, and communing with our own hearts concerning our spiritual state, our sins that are past, and our duty for the future; for sin is what we must answer for, duty is what we must do; about these therefore we must be inquisitive, rather than about events, which we must leave to GOD. Many are quick-sighted to pry into other people's ways who are very careless of their own; whereas our concern is to prove every one his own work, (Gal. 6:4. 2). He would have them reform (Hag. 1:8): “Go up to the mountain, to Lebanon, and bring wood, and other materials that are wanting, and build the house with all speed; put it off no longer, but set to it in good earnest.” Note, Our considering our ways must issue in the amending of whatever we find amiss in them. If any duty has been long neglected, that is not a reason why it should still be so, but why now at length it should be revived; better late than never. For their encouragement to apply in good earnest to this work, he assures them, (1.) That they should be accepted of him in it: Build the house, and I will take pleasure in it; and that was encouragement enough for them to apply to it with alacrity and resolution, and to go through with it, whatever it cost them. Note, Whatever GOD will take pleasure in, when it is done, we ought to take pleasure in the doing of, and to reckon that inducement enough to set about it, and go on with it in good earnest; for what greater satisfaction can we have in our own bosoms than in contributing any thing towards that which GOD will take pleasure in? It ought to be the top of our ambition to be accepted of the LORD, (2Co. 5:9). Though they had foolishly neglected the house of GOD, yet, if at length they will resume the care of it, GOD will not remember against them their former neglects, but will take pleasure in the work of their hands. Those who have long deferred their return to GOD, if at length they return with all their heart, must not despair of his favour. (2.) That he would be honoured by them in it: I will be glorified, saith the LORD. He will be served and worshipped in the temple when it is built, and sanctified in those that come nigh to him. It is worth while to bestow all possible care, and pains, and cost, upon that by which GOD may be glorified.