The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ
by Paul R. Van Gorder
This prophet, whose name means ''festive'' or ''festival of the Lord,'' was the first of the post-exile prophets. About 50,000 Jews had come back from Babylon after 70 years of captivity. The task before these people was the rebuilding of the wall and city of Jerusalem, the restoration of the temple, and the reviving of its religious activities.

In spite of the noble endeavor before them, they soon forgot the Lord. As the book of Haggai begins, 15 months have already elapsed since their return. The temple remains in ruins, and no one has attempted to repair it. Jehovah, therefore, raised up two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, so that His name and His house might not be kept in dishonor. [Ezra 5:1-3]

Haggai was the first of these prophets. He is called ''Jehovah's messenger'' [1:13]. Although his style was plain and his language simple, God placed upon him the high honor of being His spokesman.

Haggai preached four sermons to this returned remnant, during a period of three months. They give us the structure of the book.

  1. The Neglect of God's House (ch. 1)
  2. The Problem of Dissatisfaction (2:1-9)
  3. Moral Conditions in Jerusalem (2:10-19)
  4. Future Judgment and Glory (2:20-23)
Haggai's initial sermon was delivered on the first day of September, 520 B.C. He appealed to the people's sense of shame. God's house was in ruins while they lived in comfortable homes. They had shamefully neglected the house of the Lord. You may excuse them, saying, ''They had been there only a few months.'' The Bible clearly tells us, however, to seek ''first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness'' (Mat 6:33).

What bearing does Haggai's message have on us today? Paul said in Romans 15:4, ''For whatever things were written in earlier times were written for our learning.'' It is impossible to ignore God and His interests without reaping the consequences. The people had sowed very little and were reaping little. They ate, but they were not filled. They drank, but they were not satisfied. They put on clothes, but they were not warm. They received wages for their labor, but they had a hole in their pocketbooks. They gathered wood, but God's breath of judgment was upon it. As a result, the dew from heaven had been withheld, and the fields that produced their food had failed (1:6).

The intervention of God is strikingly expressed in verse 11, ''And I called for a drought upon the land, upon the mountains, and upon the grain, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labor of the hands.'' The Jews had put God and His work in second place, and had given priority to themselves. God had responded in judgment.

Haggai's sermon was effective, for we learn that the temple was soon repaired (1:14).

This produced the need for Haggai's second sermon. The people had worked hard on the temple and finished it. But the restored temple was not nearly as good or as beautiful or as grand as the old temple. The prophet observed, ''Is it not in your eyes in comparison with it as nothing?'' (2:3) [cp. Ezra 3:12]. The Jews were comparing the present with the past. The prophet had a message from God for the complainers, and it had four parts:
  1. Jehovah said, ''I am with you'' (v.4).
  2. Jehovah gave the assurance of His presence (v.5).
  3. God predicted that He would ''shake all nations'' (v.7).
  4. God promised that the glory of the heavenly temple would be much greater than the one they were weeping over (v.9).
The picture Haggai gave was taken from the law of Moses. It referred to the regulation Jehovah had given to His people Israel about touching a dead body, thus producing ceremonial uncleanness (Haggai 2:11-13). The prophet applied it to the people of his day, saying, ''So is this people, and so is this nation before Me, saith the Lord'' (v.14). Their hearts were wrong. Haggai was given the spiritual perception to see that the neglect of the Lord's house and the terrible complaining had come from within. Nothing that the people could do would be pleasing to God until they established a right heart condition. They could not see this, however, even though God's stern hand of judgment had come upon them. The moral condition of the Jews in that day pictures the moral degradation of the days in which we are living.
On the same day [that] he gave his third message, the prophet delivered still another sermon. But this time, he spanned the ages and declared the word of the Lord concerning the endtime (2:20-23). We know that he leaped the centuries and saw the future, because the inspired penman of the epistle to the Hebrews quoted Haggai's prophecy as follows: ''Whose voice then shook the earth; but now He hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven'' (Hebrews 12:26). The book of Hebrews gave the same warning to the church in this age that Haggai gave to the Jews.

What will this day of judgment be like? It will mean the overturning of the nations, for the age will end in terrible conflict (see Revelation 19:17-20). Following this, God's chosen One will sit on the throne of His glory and rule in peace and righteousness. Zerrubbabel became a type of the Lord Jesus Christ in this respect, for the Lord said to him through Haggai, ''I... will make thee as a signet; for I have chosen thee'' (Hag 2:23). Zerrubbabel, therefore, is a reflection of Christ in His princely office. [Zerrubbabel, a descendant of king David, is also in the lineage leading to the birth of the great King. Mat 1:12,13]

The words of Psalm 2 are echoed at the conclusion of Haggai's prophecy:

''Yet have I set My king upon My holy hill of Zion.
I will declare the decree: The Lord hath said unto Me,
Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.
Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the nations for Thine inheritance,
and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.'' (Psalm 2:6-8).

In Acts 13, the apostle Paul, in the synagogue at Antioch, quoted these words, declaring to all that they refer to the Lord Jesus Christ.

See the Book Notes on Haggai for a verse by verse study of this book.

Return to table of contents for ''The Old Testament Presents... Reflections of Christ,''
written by Paul R. Van Gorder, Copyright 1982 by RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI.
Used by permission [within The Book from].
Further distribution is not allowed without permission from RBC.

For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in Christ in All the Scriptures, by A.M. Hodgkin.

Go to The Book opening page.