For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 12
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 13; Revelation 3; Haggai 1; John 2
THE PROPHET HAGGAI IS ONE of several “postexilic prophets,” i.e., prophets who addressed the covenant people of God who returned to the Promised Land after the exile. Haggai 1 can be dated to about August 520 B.C., almost twenty years after the first groups of Jews returned home. Although initially addressed to
Zerubbabel and Joshua (1:1), almost immediately it is clear that the message is intended for everyone (1:3-4), for “the whole remnant of the people” (1:14). Zerubbabel was a grandson of King Jehoiachin, who had been taken to exile in 597. He was thus the heir apparent to the throne of David. Zerubbabel was the son of Pedaiah, Jehoiachin’s third son (1 Chron. 3:19); apparently the first son, Shealtiel, was childless. Perhaps Shealtiel adopted his eldest nephew, who would thereafter be called by his name (as in 1:1). In any case, Zerubbabel was “governor of Judah.” This would have allowed him very little freedom, as the relationship of his authority to that of the governor of Samaria, the provincial center, and the borders of their respective territories, were ill-defined. Joshua was son of Jehozadak the priest, who was taken captive in 587 (1 Chron. 6:15). He was responsible for the religious affairs of the community.
The burden of this first chapter, set out in the challenge of the prophet’s message (1:1-11) and the response of Zerubbabel and the people (1:12-15), is that they have delayed far too long in building the new temple. They have had enough time and energy to build their own nicely paneled homes (1:4), but not enough to get on with the temple. That is the reason, God says, why the previous twenty years have been as hard as they have been. He refuses to pour out great blessings on them when they have been so short-sighted with respect to that which should have been at the very heart of their enterprise: the joyful and committed worship of Almighty God. “Give careful thought,” the prophet repeats (1:5, 7), and they will find this assessment of their recent past entirely realistic. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? . . . Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house” (1:9).
The fundamental issue is not one of buildings, but of priorities. Our generation faces this challenge no less than any other. Why bother to ask God to bless us unless our priorities are conscientiously aligned with his? That will affect our conduct and speech, our pocketbooks and our imaginations, our vocation and our retirement, where we live and what we do and how we do it.