Though it’s tiny in comparison to its counterparts, the Book of Haggai packs a powerful punch by delivering a timeless message of hope in God. If you have ever felt as though you were beyond the reach of God’s grace and mercy because of a wrong decision you had made, hope remains! In the book of Haggai we discover that God desires to work in and through our circumstances, no matter how desperate we are, if we will but turn to Him and repent.
The Book of Haggai illustrates the twin realities of God’s holiness and His faithfulness to us despite our lack thereof. Within this book are four separate but related messages that were delivered to Israel’s high priest, their governor and others, over a period of just a few months. These four messages are found in Haggai 1:1–1:15, 2:1–9, 2:10–19, and 2:20–23, respectively.
Also worth noting in Haggai is the phrase, “Give careful thought to [their] ways” which occurs some five times throughout the book.
Every so often, a biblical author will use a phrase or literary pattern to draw our attention to a point they want their readers to grasp. These phrases, we discover, invited the people to carefully consider how their disobedience to God had brought on consequences of economic and political hardship.
In the first of four messages in Haggai, we discover the principle of “conviction and contrition over sin.”
Verse 2 records, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.””
A period of more than 15 years had passed since the command was issued for Israel to rebuild the temple. The temple was the one place on earth at this time where an Israelite could make various offerings to God and enjoy fellowship with Him. Over time, though, they’d piled one excuse on top of another, and the temple sat in disrepair while the people busied themselves building their own houses (see vs. 4).
God seeks to convict us of personal sin in our lives or of areas where He desires to see growth. We are convicted as we spend time reading the Bible and sensing His Holy Spirit prompt us by speaking truth to our hearts. Contrition and repentance happens when we recognize those areas God wants to change and we choose to turn away from sin. Fortunately, the time lapse between God’s Word to Israel (1:1) and their repentance was a mere 23 days (1:15).
The second message, delivered within only weeks of the first, teaches us the principle of “continued perseverance and faithfulness to God’s Word.” In this message, the Lord speaks through Haggai in order to draw the people of Israel into a place of deeper personal purity.
It has been well said that God loves us too much to leave us where we are. This is especially true with respect to our personal holiness. God desires to challenge us to grow into the character of Christ. Often the change process takes time and patience. God encouraged Israel through Haggai’s preaching to trust in God’s Word and to persevere in their obedience.
Haggai’s third message speaks of “God’s discipline of His people.” Just as a parent disciplines their children to give them a sense of character and responsibility in them, God also disciplines His people. In Haggai, the Lord asked Israel to remember His laws and statutes that they had covenanted to obey centuries earlier. By considering what His law actually stipulates with respect to certain defilements, Israel contemplates their failure to have obeyed His laws in other ways. He then points out that the reason their agriculture had produced meager returns was because God had to discipline them.
God’s discipline often involves both conviction of sin, a deeper awareness of where He wants us to grow more into the character of Christ and, at times, a withholding of His blessing. He may sometimes withhold blessing so as to create a sense of urgency in us to exam ourselves in light of His character. This is what He did with Israel.
The final message of Haggai reveals the truth of “God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to fulfill His good and perfect plans for His people.”
Knowing that God still has a plan for our lives is enough to encourage to us to continue to be faithful. I remember times in my own life when I thought I had “blown it” with God for good. Later, He would show up in my life and resolve a difficulty or bring down a needed blessing or provision as a result of my contriteness before Him. The Apostle Paul points out in Philippians 1:6 that God is faithful to continue His perfecting work of character-building in us, conforming us into the character of His Son, Jesus Christ.
If you feel as though you are beyond God’s grace, hang in there and continue to be obedient and humble before Him. Spend time reading your Bible and continue in prayer.
As you do, He is faithful to forgive you of any wrongdoing (1 John 1:9) and to strengthen you to become more like Christ (Romans 8, Philippians 1:6).
Allen can be reached at [email protected]