I like the book of Haggai, it is one of the smaller books located near the back of the Old Testament. If you turn the pages of your Bible too quickly you might actually have trouble finding it. It is only two chapters long and can easily be read in one sitting. It is also easy to understand. Unlike some prophetic books which contain symbols that must be interpreted this book is written in very direct language. One does not have to wonder what the Lord meant by the things He said through the prophet Haggai. The Lord’s messages are very clear.
I have preached from the book on a number of occasions. Though it is short there is a lot that can be drawn out of it. I have written notes in my Bible and done some underlining in this book. Here are a couple of lessons that can be learned from it.
First, we can learn about the potential danger of comparisons. Those who had seen the original Temple, before it was destroyed, may have been disappointed with what they saw as they rebuilt it (Hag. 2:3).
A second thing we can learn is the power of prophetic words. The messages of the Lord that Haggai delivered motivated the people to take action. This is not just an Old Testament phenomenon, it also holds true in the New Testament. In the book of Acts the prophetic word of Agabus about a famine that was to come motivated the believers in Antioch to collect and send aid to the believers in Judea (Acts 11:27-30).
The last time I read Haggai I realized something. At the beginning of the book the Jewish people were united, this included both the leaders and the regular members of the community. Normally unity is a good thing for the people of God. It is desirable, everyone is on the same page. Scripture commends this quality. Psalm 133 speaks of the blessings of unity. In the New Testament Jesus prayed for His followers that they would be united (John 17:20-23). However, the unity we find at the beginning of the book of Haggai was not good. As the book opens the people were united in procrastination. They were putting off doing something very important. They built their own houses but they were not working to rebuild the Temple (Hag. 1:4). Their priorities were not what they should have been.
The problem that plagued the people of God in the book of Haggai is still with us today. Christians can (and sometimes do) procrastinate. We can be guilty of serving ourselves and not the Lord. Our priorities can be wrong.
We take time to talk on the phone, to text, to watch television, to check Facebook, and to go to the mall. But we don’t take time to pray, read the Bible, go to church, or fellowship with other Christians. The things that are God’s priorities for us are not our priorities.
The sad thing is that this situation may not be true of just a few believers. Procrastination can take hold of a whole group of people, a whole church, including the leadership. This is not good and if it happens it needs to change. In the book of Haggai the Lord used prophetic words to change the situation. He can use them today as well. Or He can use other means. The Lord can use circumstances or an especially anointed sermon (perhaps by a guest speaker) to wake His people up so they get about doing the things that are on His heart.
The people in Haggai’s day were united in procrastination at the beginning of the book. However, they moved away from that position and were united in action through the prophetic words that the Lord sent to them through His servant. We know that what took place was of God because we are told that all of the people were stirred to action (Hag. 1:14). Of course it is best for the people of God, including us, to never find ourselves in this kind of situation. We should never be guilty of having misplaced priorities. May we ever be sensitive to the Lord’s priorities for our lives and give ourselves wholly to them. If we don’t be assured that He will find a way to call this to our attention.
John P. Lathrop is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University, Zion Bible Institute, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME). He is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies and has twenty years of pastoral experience.