12 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord.
13 Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. 14 So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, 15 on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.
(Haggai 1:12-15a NIV)
Zerubbabel and a group of Jewish exiles moved from Babylon to Jerusalem and began rebuilding the Temple. When the neighboring tribes found out about the Temple being rebuilt, they forced the Jews to stop the work.
Fifteen years later, the Lord spoke to Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest through Haggai and Zechariah the prophets. This prophecy was a big deal – it was the first word from the Lord since the exiles had returned to Jerusalem.
So what did God have to say? From our text yesterday, God rebuked the leaders and the people for building luxury homes for themselves while the Lord’s house was still not built. In fact, God said that their present distress was self-inflicted because they were living for themselves and not for the Lord. God called them back to their original task of rebuilding the Temple.
In today’s passage, Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and all of the Jewish people living in and around Jerusalem obeyed the Lord and showed great respect for God’s Word given through Haggai (v. 12).
When the leaders and people responded from the heart, God communicated His love and favor by simply saying “I am with you” (v. 13).
And how did God show He was with the leaders and the people? By stirring up the spirits of Zerubbabel the governor, Joshua the high priest, and all the Jewish people to rebuild the Temple, the house of the Lord.
Ezra recorded the event this way: the people arose and began to work on the house of the Lord. And when the opposing forces showed up again, the eye of the Lord was upon the Jewish leaders – they would not stop unless King Darius told them to stop (Ezra 5:2-5).
Notice that God did not help them succeed by removing the obstacles of these neighboring people groups; instead, God gave them supernatural courage, strength, and persistence to overcome the bullying and threats and finish the task God had called them to do.
Verse 15a concludes that this rebuilding work began on the 24th day of the month. God had sent Haggai on the first day of the month. What was holding them back from obeying? Why did it take three-plus weeks for them to obey?
There were several factors involved: 1) they had to go up into the mountains and cut down trees and make lumber before they could begin the rebuilding work. 2) remember that the Jews had a predominantly agrarian economy at this point; this prophecy took place in September, right at the beginning of the fall harvest season. The people had to finish the harvest before they could begin the rebuilding work.
In today’s passage, we see the progression of events unfolded:
- God spoke via Haggai, and the people listened
- The people repented, turning their hearts back to God
- God reaffirmed His commitment to them – “I am with you”
- God empowered His people whose hearts were turned toward Him
- God’s people carried out their calling with supernatural resolve.
Jesus made that same promise to us when He said “Go and make disciples… I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
The author of Hebrews reminds us again of God’s promise:
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5b NIV)
May we follow Him in humility and obedience, knowing He is with us every step of the way, assured that no obstacle or person can stop us when we obey God’s directives.