Faithful restoring the temple
It is important to remember there are those who suffer because someone or some group has done something to cause the suffering or has not done something that would have prevented the suffering. I believe there were a few faithful who were trying to restore the temple. But their progress was hindered by the actions of those who should have been working alongside them. These people were neglecting the restoration of the temple. They were misusing the gifts that were given for the restoration of the temple. Did they prosper? No. What have they gained? Nothing. Are they better off than they were in Babylon? No.
The word of the Lord through Haggai gives a remedy to the situation in Judah and Jerusalem.
The cedar wood that was purchased for the restoration of the temple from Lebanon (Ezra 3:7) the people used to their houses; the wood must be replaced. The Lord will not stir up the spirit of the king of Persia or the neighbors as He did when the proclamation was sent throughout the land requiring the people to give gifts of silver and gold and a free will offering to the captives that were returning to Judea and Jerusalem. Now they must provide the material to restore the temple. They are told;
Verse eight - "Go up to the mountains, bring wood and restore the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified, says the Lord."
In verse nine to eleven, we find the judgments for neglecting the restoration of the temple. The Lord will not send the nation into captivity again. He will not bring a foreign enemy against them. He will deal with them. They will sow much and what they sow will produce little.
Our expectations from what we do are often frustrated when they are the highest. We expect a great return from our labors and the return is nowhere near what we expect. This is the situation of the people Haggai was speaking to.
They were asking themselves why they were in this economic situation. The Lord was displeased with what they were doing and He was sending a wakeup call. Their situation was not merely a matter of chance; the One who has control of the clouds shut them up and withheld the dew and rain. He turned the heavens into brass and the earth iron. What grain broke through the iron like ground and promised a plentiful crop was parched by the rays of the sun and withered away. Not only did the Lord withhold the dew and rain He ordered the weather to be extremely hot. The fruits of the vine and trees were burnt up by the scorching heat. Nothing is more beneficial than the heat of the sun. However, if its heat is permitted to go out of control, the benefits are lost.
The drought the Lord called for was universal and its effects were felt by every creature on the earth and in the air above the earth. There was no grass in the pasture lands for the cattle and sheep. The extreme heat had a deadly effect upon the elderly and children. It drove the patience of men and women beyond their control. It brought disease upon the cattle and sheep and they died. The drought caused a shortage of food and fur and wool used to make clothing.
Lest we forget, the wealth that men accumulate in this life can be wiped away in seconds. But the treasures that we lay up in heaven are safely kept.
The drought was a warning to those who provoke the Lord. There comes a time when His blessings are withheld and His judgments are poured out on the land. We may try to candy coat the message the word of the Lord through Haggai has sent to Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the people of Judah and Jerusalem, but the truth is clearly revealed in this first of four messages the word of the Lord delivered through Haggai. Disobedience results in punishment.
The Reaction of the People
Verse twelve "Then Zerubbabel...and Joshua...with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the Lord." All those who heard the word of the Lord through Haggai received it in the love it was sent to them and were convicted by it. Zerubbabel, the governor who had been useful in the service of the Lord did not plead his past merits as grounds to ignore the message. He accepted the reproofs for his past mistakes and failure to obey the commands of the Lord. Joshua the high priest, whose responsibility it was to teach the people was willing to be taught and instructed. The remnant of the people bowed before the Lord and accepted the yoke that was placed upon their neck. The Lord said, "go work in my vineyard (temple) and they said we go." They not only said we go, they had said that before and did not go. Instead of delaying, they went immediately.
The people Haggai delivered this message to looked up to him as the Lord's messenger and the message he delivered was the Lord's message and not the words of a man. What they heard was the word of Almighty God and they obeyed the words of Haggai.
When we listen to what the ministers of the Lord say, we must be aware of who has sent them, receive them for His sake, and not honor the messenger. Someone speaking for the Lord was something new to these people. There has not been a messenger sent from heaven in their midst for many years. Now that there was a messenger of the Lord in their midst, they paid attention to what he had to say. They were not like their fathers who did not listen to or heed the words of the prophet and misused them.
Sometimes it is a good thing when good preaching is missing. It creates a desire in the heart to hear good preaching. Too often in this present age men and women want to hear only what makes them feel good and does not violate their comfort zone. The words Haggai was given to deliver to civil leader, the religious leader, and the remnant of the people did not make them feel good. It violated their comfort zone and they were able to see themselves as the Lord sees them. What they saw stirred up their spirits and they turned from whom they were to what the Lord wanted them to be. They applied themselves as vigorously to the task the Lord had given them, according to their capabilities or abilities.
Haggai brought the message from the Lord on the first day of the sixth month and on the twenty-fourth of the same month, a little over three weeks later they were busy restoring the temple. Their return to the restoration of the temple revealed their shame for neglecting the restoration of the Lord's house and they were determined to no longer delay. They set about the work of restoring the temple while they were still under conviction.