The Lack of Prosperity
Haggai 1:6 implies that the people were suffering crop failures because they had lost interest in rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.
6 You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.”
What was the reasoning behind this prophetic statement? What does building the temple have to do with prosperity and the land’s fruitfulness?
As we have already shown, the temple represented the house of God. God indwelt a physical temple under the Old Covenant, but He has intended from the beginning to upgrade His residence to a far more glorious temple that is made of living stones.
Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 3:16 that we are the temples of God and that “the Spirit of God dwells in you.” How does He indwell our bodies? It is by begetting Christ in us by faith, and the holy seed in us is the spiritual “fruit” that God has always intended to produce in the earth.
This promise of Sonship dates back to Gen. 1:28, when God commanded Adam to “be fruitful and multiply.” This Fruitfulness Mandate, along with the Dominion Mandate in Gen. 1:26, is our Birthright. In later years, Judah received the Dominion Mandate, or the divine right to rule the Kingdom (Gen. 49:10), while Joseph received the Fruitfulness Mandate (Gen. 49:22).
Haggai did not concern himself with the Dominion Mandate, but focused rather on the Fruitfulness Mandate. In order for the people to “be fruitful and multiply,” they had to prepare the house of the Lord, for it represented their bodies in a divine marriage. For this marriage to become fruitful, faith was required to receive the spiritual “seed” of the word that would beget Christ. This was why the people in Haggai’s day were required to rebuild the temple.
Though that physical temple could never truly contain the Creator of the Universe, nonetheless, it was a type and shadow of the true Temple that God would indeed indwell. Their reluctance to build God’s house manifested the true condition of their hearts—that is, their lack of faith. They did not realize that their hearts lacked the faith to hear the word and to receive the spiritual “seed” necessary to “be fruitful and multiply.”
For this reason, they sowed much, but harvested little. No matter how much they ate, they were never satisfied, because physical food could never truly satisfy their spiritual hunger. Physical water could never quench their inner thirst for truth.
So Isaiah 55:1 tells us to “buy wine and milk without money and without cost” and to stop spending money for bread that does not satisfy. Jesus, too, said in John 4:13, 14,
13 … Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
The bottom line is that if the people in Haggai’s day had desired to build the temple, it would have manifested faith in their hearts and a desire to receive true food and drink. But because they lacked such faith, their land was only partially productive, and what they did produce was insufficient to meet their needs.
To change the conditions around them on earth, they had to change their spiritual condition. The conditions on earth are the outworking of spiritual conditions. Our dust bodies are part of the land.
So Haggai exhorted them with the word of God, and his gospel produced results. The people responded by rebuilding the temple, and all of us are now able to learn the same lessons. Even though the temple was not nearly as glorious as the first temple, nor was the second temple filled with God’s presence, God was pleased because they had responded to the word. Even though their faith was as limited as their architecture, it was at least a starting point.
The Exhortation and Reward
Haggai 1:8 says,
8 “Go up to the mountains, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,” says the Lord.
The amount of glory that God would receive from that temple was small in comparison to what God had in mind, but it was sufficient for that time. God was “pleased with it,” because they showed signs of faith. Heb. 11:6 says,
6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
To believe is to have faith. If God was pleased with their decision to rebuild the temple, it was because of their inner faith, which was proven by their outward action.
In the end, God’s glory will not again inhabit a temple made of wood and stone, but He will fill us with His Spirit. When He is glorified in us, then He is truly glorified, for that is His real purpose for creating us. Paul says in 2 Thess. 1:10-12,
10 when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—for our testimony to you was believed. 11 To this end also, we pray for you always that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power; 12 in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
When Christ is fully glorified in His saints, then and only then can it be said that we have fulfilled the Fruitfulness Mandate for which we were created. This is our Birthright.
Haggai 1:9 continues,
9 “You look for much, but behold, it comes to little; when you bring it home, I blow it away. Why?” declares the Lord of hosts, “Because of My house which lies desolate, while each of you runs to his own house.
We all need shelter, of course, but when our priorities in life are self-centered, rather than God-centered, then it is plain that we are ruled by idols in the heart and do not have a proper view of God.
Even Solomon himself did not build his own house until the temple was finished (1 Kings 7:1). Those were the days when he was still wise (1 Kings 4:30).
The word of God continues in Hag. 1:10, 11,
10 “Therefore, because of you the sky has withheld its dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. 11 And I called for a drought on the land, on the mountains, on the grain, on the new wine, on the oil, on what the ground produces, on men, on cattle, and on all the labor of your hands.”
It is clear that the land was experiencing drought. The prophet attributes this drought to God and to His divine judgment. Years earlier, Solomon had foreseen that Israel would sin and come under divine judgment, so while dedicating the temple, he prays in 1 Kings 8:35, 36,
35 When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain, because they have sinned against Thee, and they pray toward this place and confess Thy name and turn from their sin when Thou dost afflict them, 36 then hear Thou in heaven and forgive the sin of Thy servants and of Thy people Israel, indeed, teach them the good way in which they should walk. And send rain on Thy land, which Thou hast given Thy people for an inheritance.
Haggai’s message many years later was designed to cause the people to repent and turn from their ways, so that God would send rain to bless their land. While modern skeptics scoff at the connection between sin and drought, or between rain and righteousness, those who understand that earthly conditions have spiritual roots can discern the underlying problems and find the real solutions.
The physical drought was an outward, earthly indication of a spiritual drought, a lack of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:23), and a famine of hearing the word of God (Amos 8:11).
The Response of Faith
Judah had godly leadership in those days. Zerubbabel, the governor, was a godly man, and so was Joshua, the high priest. Yet somehow they had failed to discern the need to rebuild the temple, and so God raised up a prophet to speak forth this revelation.
The response is seen in Hag. 1:12,
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the Lord their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the Lord.
As we see so often, the people tend to follow the lead of their leaders. If their leaders respond by faith, the people also respond. If the leaders reject the word of the Lord, most of the people also reject the word. In this case, Zerubbabel and Joshua were godly leaders who were willing and able to hear the word and to respond in obedience to it.
The Hebrew word shama means both “to hear” and “to obey.” Zerubabbel and Joshua “obeyed” (shama). In other words, they “heard” and this was proven by the evidence—they “obeyed.”
Faith comes by hearing, Paul says in Rom. 10:17. James adds the fact that faith without works (obedience) is dead (James 2:17). Both are correct; there is no contradiction.
The Divine Promise
The response to the word of the Lord was satisfactory, as Hag. 1:13 shows,
13 Then Haggai, the messenger of the Lord, spoke by the commission of the Lord to the people, saying, “‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.”
It was the same reassurance that God gave to Moses when he was sent on the great mission to set Israel free from their Egyptian bondage (Exodus 3:12). It was also the word given to Jeremiah when God sent him to confront the stubborn people of Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 1:8).
Finally, Jesus gave this promise to His disciples in Matt. 28:20, saying, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Without His presence, nothing worth doing is possible. With His presence, all things are possible.
The people in Haggai’s day knew by this promise that rebuilding the temple was the will of God, and that they would succeed in finishing the temple. As we will see, the project took about five years to accomplish.