Scripture Reading on Sunday Mornings

Omri Miles November 16, 2018

SUNDAY MORNING SCRIPTURE READING: HAGGAI

THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE BOOK

  • Author: the prophet Haggai (1:1) who worked with the prophet Zechariah and with Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the people returned from their exile (see Ezra 2:1-2; 5:1-2).
  • Date: 520 B.C. (1:1; 2:10). Haggai preached his five, God-breathed sermons over a period of four months (1:1, 3; 2:1, 10, 20).
  • Significant Characters: 
    – King Darius the Mede (1:1, 15; 2:10; see also Daniel 5:30-31)
    – Zerubbabel the governor of Judah (1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4, 21, 23; see also Zechariah 4:1-10)
    – Joshua the high priest (1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4; see also Zechariah 3:1-10)
  • Purpose: Haggai was written to document God’s instruction to His people to rebuild His house in anticipation of a day of future blessing.

Although Haggai is only two chapters long, it requires that the reader understand much of the Old Testament beforehand. A knowledge of three Old Testament passages seems especially helpful in grasping the significance of God’s revelation through the prophet Haggai: Deuteronomy 28 (Moses’ anticipation of blessing and curses), Second Samuel 7 (the Davidic Covenant), and First Kings 8 (Solomon’s Dedication of the Temple). 

The following post will briefly explain how Haggai shepherded God’s people at a crucial point in Israel’s history by utilizing former revelation and then adding to it more details revealed by God through the prophet. Understanding these connections will serve us well when hearing Haggai read publicly over the next couple of weeks.

HAGGAI AND MOSES (DEUTERONOMY 28)

The book opens with Yahweh’s charge against his people: they have built their own houses, but have delayed building God’s house (1:2-4). The consequence of Israel’s sinful neglect was that the land and its people were severely impoverished (1:6, 9-11). Haggai recorded Israel’s present lack in terms that were clearly originated with Moses. The connection of Haggai’s words to the writings of Moses would have been unmistakable to his original audience. Haggai speaks of Israel sowing much and harvesting little (Dt. 28:38), laboring but never having enough to eat (Dt. 28:31, 33), lacking wine (Dt. 28:39), experiencing severe drought (Dt. 28:23), having no oil (Dt. 28:40), and a variety of other misfortunes (Dt. 28:15-20, 60-61). All of these things were prophesied by Moses, that they would come upon Israel for the people’s disobedience. Because Haggai believed Moses, he reminded the people of God’s faithful expressions of displeasure because of their disobedience using Mosaic terminology. This loving rebuke caused the people to obey God and begin rebuilding his temple (1:12).

HAGGAI AND DAVID (SECOND SAMUEL 7)

Because of David’s desire to build God a house, God graciously established his covenant with David. Among other things, he promised David, “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sa. 7:16). Other writers repeat this promise later in Scripture, most notably, Ethan the Ezrahite in Psalm 89, which says, “Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David. His descendants shall endure forever And his throne as the sun before Me” (v. 35-36). The prophet Haggai continues this theme by making a promise to Zerubbabel, the current legal heir to the Davidic throne. Though the nation has been humbled to the point of only possessing a governor instead of a king, the promise to David still stands. Haggai writes of a day (see also our reading aid for Zephaniah) when God will overthrow every kingdom of every nation in one great military feat, causing the wealth of those nations to belong to his people, Israel (2:6-9, 20-22). God assures Zerubbabel that he was chosen and therefore, like a signet ring, would represent God’s unwavering fidelity to his promise when that blessed day finally came. 

HAGGAI AND SOLOMON (FIRST KINGS 8)

Last, but not least, the prophet Haggai builds upon revelation spoken by Solomon long ago during the dedication of the temple. Initially, it was Moses who prophesied of a specific place within the land where Yahweh would cause his name to dwell (Dt. 12:10-11). David intended to build God’s house there (2 Sa. 7:1-3), but the task was reserved for Solomon (2 Sa. 7:12-13). Once the temple was built in Jerusalem, the temple and city took on irrevocable significance in God’s plan for his people. This is evident in Solomon’s prayer in which he constantly references “this/the house” and “this place” (1 Kg. 8:27-48). Haggai, in keeping with God’s revelation through Solomon, assures God’s people that God’s plan for the temple, like his promise to David, still stands. “‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former…and in this place I will give peace,’ declares Yahweh of hosts” (2:9). This fortified God’s people with courage to continue building God’s house.

IMPLICATIONS FOR SUNDAY MORNINGS

  1. Read the Old Testament beforehand. Consider revisiting the aforementioned passages. The more familiar you are with Deuteronomy 28, Second Samuel 7 and First Kings 8, the more you will recognize what God intends through the prophet Haggai.
  2. Notice Haggai’s eschatology. Eschatology, the study of end times, is inescapable when reading Haggai. Hearing these promises read on Sunday mornings ought to make us long for this future time when God finally shakes the heavens and the earth to remove every earthly kingdom and establish Jesus’ throne here, where we will dwell with our King.

A WORD TO PARENTS

Sunday morning Scripture readings are a great time to include our children in the instruction coming from the pulpit. Here are some suggestions for how to help your children glean from what is being read during this time.

  • Use Haggai as a springboard for the gospel. Repentance was required of Israel in anticipation of God’s future kingdom. Likewise, we must also repent by God’s grace if we desire to see God’s kingdom (see Mt. 11:25-30; Mk. 1:14-15). 
  • Read and discuss the upcoming chapter beforehand. Your kids will benefit as they recognize what they are hearing from the front.
  • For kids who can read or who are on the verge of learning to read and can recognize familiar words, teach them key words in Haggai such as the names of its characters (Haggai, Zerubbabel, Joshua), “heavens,”  “earth,”  “glory,”  “God, “ “the LORD (Yahweh),” etc. This may help keep them engaged and attentive since they can better identify the text being displayed up front.