For seventy years the people of the southern kingdom of Judah had been weeping by the waters of Babylon as they remembered Zion, and then a miracle occurred. God heard the voice of their lamentation and through the instrumentality of the Persian King, brought them again to their own land, and prospered their undertakings. Were they grateful? Not at all. They immediately settled down to enjoy life in complete disregard of the God of Israel. The walls of Jerusalem were built again, commerce was restored, life resumed its normal course, but the House of the Lord was desolate and in ruins. There was no vision, the glory that had departed did not return, and spiritually they were a bankrupt nation.
Naturally, God reacted very strongly to this indifference and neglect. The crops began to fail, the whole structure of their social and economic order commenced to totter, and they became very alarmed. It was at this time that Haggai the prophet appeared amongst them with a message from the Lord, and the message is so topical that it might have been written yesterday or even this morning: “Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways. Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Consider your ways”. (Chapter 1:3-7)
The divorce of the spiritual from the material
What a remarkable picture of modern Israel with her social advancement and economic emancipation. Increased wages and higher cost of living; food and drink for all, but unappetizing and without nourishment; abundance of clothing, but lack of comfort. History certainly seems to have a curious way of repeating itself, and in spite of our much vaunted progress, we are little different from our fathers. Why is this? Surely the reason is not far to seek. We also in our folly and waywardness have divorced the spiritual from the material; we, too, have been much occupied with planning for our own comfort, and have ignored the things that really matter most. Once again, a generation has arisen that has largely forgotten God and is completely ignorant of His commandments and precepts. We have not yet learned the sublime and all-important truth that our Lord sought to teach His disciples while on earth: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”. (Matt. 6: 33)
You see, when we are in full harmony with the mind and will of God, and give Him His rightful place in the life of the nation, material prosperity will follow as a natural course, and poverty, disease and strife will be unknown. This truth is emphasized yet again in the historical records of the Bible: “And Hezekiah commanded to offer the burnt offering upon the altar. And when the burnt offering began, the song of the Lord began also … (2 Chron. 29: 27)
There must be a reunion of the material with the spiritual; work must once again be consecrated by worship, and the God of the altar must be reinstated as the Lord of the hearth and the market-place, for only thus can a nation truly live.
The second part of the prophecy can be divided into three portions all closely linked together.
I will shake (make to tremble) all nations—the great day of God Almighty. Few will doubt but that the shaking has already commenced, as the sword of atomic power with its fearful possibilities hovers over all mankind.
I will fill this House with glory—the Presence of the glorified Christ in the midst of His people, reigning over the house of Jacob for ever.
I will give peace – the pardoning of Israel with the consequent reconciling of the world and the establishment of universal peace.
In view of the prevalence of evil in this our day, and the heavy clouds that hang over us, the closing message of the Lord through His servant Haggai should cause us to face the future undismayed: “And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother”. (Chapter 2: 22).
So, despite some rocky times, we should have no fear, for God is still on the Throne.
Written by Rev. Ansley F. Rash