Haggai: Haggai 1:8-The Lord Commands the Remnant of Judah to Complete the Rebuilding of His Temple Lesson # 15
Haggai 1:1 On the first day of the sixth month of King Darius’ second year, the Lord spoke this message through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak. 2 The Lord who rules over all says this: “These people have said, ‘The time for rebuilding the Lord’s temple has not yet come.’” 3 So the Lord spoke through the prophet Haggai as follows: 4 “Is it right for you to live in richly paneled houses while my temple is in ruins? 5 Here then is what the Lord who rules over all says: ‘Think carefully about what you are doing. 6 You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat but are never filled. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but are not warm. Those who earn wages end up with holes in their money bags. 7 Moreover, the Lord who rules over all says: ‘Pay close attention to these things also. 8 Go up to the hill country and bring back timber to build the temple. Then I will be pleased and honored,’ says the Lord.” (NET)
Haggai 1:8 contains two commands and three statements.
These commands were issued by the Lord through the prophet Haggai under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit as well as the three statements.
These two commands and the first statement form a single unit.
They were addressed to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak.
However, ultimately, they like the rest of this first message from Haggai, they are addressed to the remnant of Judah as a corporate unit.
Haggai 1:8 consists of five verbs with the command to rebuild the Lord’s temple at the center of this passage.
The first command required that this remnant go up to the hill country of Judea.
The first statement identifies the purpose for doing so and states that the Lord wanted this remnant to bring back timber.
The hills of Judah were thickly wooded in Old Testament times.
In fact, Nehemiah 8:15 asserts that olive, myrtle and palm were available in the hill country of Judah.
We must remember that all the timber of Solomon’s temple was burned in the last invasion of Judea by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
Therefore, it was necessary that the remnant of Judah obtain large quantities of timber from the forests on the nearby hills surrounding the city of Jerusalem.
The second command which appears in Haggai 1:8 presents the purpose of the remnant of Judah going up to the hill country in order to bring back timber to Jerusalem and required that this remnant complete the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple.
So therefore, the Lord was commanding the remnant of Judah to go up to the hill country in order to bring back lumber for the express purpose of completing the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem.
As we noted, for fifteen years, the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple had been abandoned by the remnant of Judah.
If you recall, under the leadership of Sheshbazzar, 50,000 Jewish exiles returned from Babylon to begin work on restoring Jerusalem and rebuilding the temple.
Approximately two years later in 536 B.C., they completed the foundation with much rejoicing (Ezra 3:8-10).
However, their success disturbed the Samaritans and their other neighbors who lived in fear of the political and religious implications of a rebuilt temple in a restored Jewish state.
Consequently, they stridently opposed the project and were successful in temporarily stopping the restoration.
But in 522 B.C. Darius Hystaspes (522-486 B.C.) became king of Persia (Ezra 4:1-5, 24).
During this monarch’s second year, both Zechariah and Haggai exhorted the Jewish remnant to rebuild the temple.
Tattenai, the governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar-Bozenai and their colleagues attempted to interfere with the rebuilding efforts.
However, Darius Hystaspes ruled in favor of the Jews after investigating the matter in the royal records (cf. Ezra 5:3-6; 6:6-12).
In 516 B.C., the temple was finished and dedicated (Ezra 6:15-18).
We must remember that the work had begun on the temple but was not completed when the Lord issues these commands in Haggai 1:8.
Ezra 3:2-3 assert that the priests were offering sacrifices on a rebuilt altar.
In fact, significant work had already been done to rebuild the temple since Ezra 3:10-11 asserts the builders had established the Lord’s temple, which resulted in the priests and Levites giving thanks and praise to the Lord.
However, Ezra 4 reveals that the project never came to completion because the enemies of Judah successfully persuaded the Persian monarch Artaxerxes to stop the projection.
Therefore, the temple was not in ruins but rather was still in a state or disrepair.
So therefore, Ezra 3-4 make clear that significant work had already taken place in rebuilding the temple, but the project was never completed because the remnant of Judah was forced to stop by King Artaxerxes at the behest of Judah’s enemies.
The second statement in Haggai 1:8 presents the result of the remnant of Judah obeying the previous directive to go up to the hill country and then bring back lumber and then complete the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple.
It asserts that the Lord would be delighted because of this obedience by the remnant of Judah.
The concept of being a God pleaser is found in Ephesians 6:6, Colossians 3:22 and 1 Thessalonians 2:4.
Paul’s sole ambition in life was to please the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:9) who also stated that He always does those things that please the Father (cf. John 8:29).
Pleasing God and His Son Jesus Christ are related to experiencing sanctification (cf. Rom. 12:1; Col. 1:9-10; 1 Thess. 4:1-3) which is living one’s life by obedience to the Spirit’s teaching in the gospel (cf. Rom. 8:6; John 4:24).
It is also related to obedience (cf. Col. 3:20; Titus 2:9).
The believer who is single can be devoted to pleasing the Lord unlike the married believer who also has the responsibility to please their spouse (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32).
The believer who worships the Lord by giving thanks to Him is pleasing to the Lord (cf. Ps. 69:30-31).
The third and final statement in Haggai 1:8 presents the result of the second and asserts that the Lord would be honored because of this obedience to these commands.
As we noted in our study of Haggai 1:4-6, the emphasis of Haggai 1:4-11 is the commands which appear in Haggai 1:8 because of the chiastic structure Haggai 1:4-9.
By obeying these instructions from the Lord through the prophet Haggai as recorded here in Haggai 1:8, the remnant of Judah would demonstrate the fact that they repented from their collective sin of not completing the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple.
Consequently, this would bring to an end the Lord disciplining them for such disobedience.
So therefore, the commands here in Haggai 1:8 like the command in Haggai 1:7 are designed to remove the discipline the remnant of Judah was experiencing so that the Lord could bless them instead.