Hag_1:2-5; Hag_1:12. Thus speaketh the Lord of Hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Consider your ways..
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, 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 did fear before the Lord.
ALL the preceding prophets prophesied either before or during the Babylonish captivity: but Haggai, and the two who follow him prophesied after the return of the Jews from Babylon. What space of time Haggai continued to prophesy, we know not: but all his prophecies which are come down to us were delivered in the short space of two months. His principal office, in which he was soon joined by the Prophet Zechariah, seems to have been to stir up the Jews to rebuild their temple, and to assure them, that, however inferior to the former temple it might be in their eyes, it should in reality far surpass that in glory. In reference to their neglect, he reproves them with just severity; and shews them, that already had God inflicted his judgments on them on account of it; but assures them at the same time, that, if they will recommence and prosecute the work with diligence, his blessing shall be visibly poured out upon them [Note: Hag_2:15-19.].
In discoursing on this subject, we will notice,
The conduct reproved—
They had begun to build the temple about sixteen years before; but having been stopped by an edict from Artaxerxes, they had desisted, and had attended only to their own personal accommodations. But the Persian monarch was now dead; and they ought therefore to have availed themselves of that circumstance, and to have proceeded with the work. A whole year had elapsed, and they had not even thought of resuming the pious labour: they were even well pleased with the obstacle that had been put in their way; and satisfied their consciences with saying, that “the Lord’s time for rebuilding the temple was not yet come.” They did not say that they would never execute that work; but they justified their present neglect of it by this vain excuse.
Now this is precisely what we ourselves are prone to do,
In reference to God’s temple which is to be erected in the world—
[The Church is his temple, “the habitation of God through the Spirit;” and on the whole face of the globe is it one day to be erected. But when we call on persons to arise and work, they answer, “The Lord’s time is not come.” They see many difficulties to be surmounted; and, instead of regarding them as occasions only for calling forth their zeal, they consider them as indications that God does not require the work itself to be performed; thus making the dispensations of his providence a cloak for their own supineness. In reference to the conversion of the Jews in particular, this excuse is offered by many; and offered with as much confidence, as if they were acquainted with all the counsels of the Deity, and knew exactly all the times and the seasons which the Father has reserved in his own power. But this excuse of theirs is nothing more nor less than a plea for inactivity, and an acknowledgment, that they are altogether indisposed for the exertions which they are called to make in this sacred cause.]
In reference to the temple which is to be erected in our own hearts—
[Believers are “temples of the Holy Ghost:” Christ dwells in their hearts by faith: “the Father too dwelleth in them, and they in him:” and such temples all of us are called to be. But when persons of every description are urged to consecrate themselves entirely to the service of their God, they reply, as with one consent, “The time is not come.” They will not say, ‘No; God never shall dwell in me;’ but, acknowledging it to be their duty to surrender up themselves to him, they think themselves excused from it by some providential impediment: one is too young to engage in such holy services as yet: another is too much immersed in business to afford the time: another is for the present afraid of offending some earthly superior: and thus, like the persons invited to the wedding in the Gospel, they all, on some frivolous pretext or other, unite in saying, “I pray thee have me excused.”]
But how vain such excuses are, may be seen by,
The reproof administered—
This consists of two parts; an expostulatory appeal, and a solemn admonition: “Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? Now therefore, thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Consider your ways.”
We then in like manner make our appeal to you—
[Have you time for yourselves, and not for God? for your bodies, and not for your souls? for the affairs of this short transitory life, and not for those of eternity? Is it thus that ye have been taught of God; to “seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness last?” and to “mind your own things only, and not the things of Jesus Christ [Note: Php_2:21.]?”Was this a just return from those who had been delivered from their captivity in Babylon? and, if not from them, is it from you, who have been redeemed by the blood of God’s only dear Son from a bondage infinitely more tremendous, a bondage to sin and Satan, death and hell? Judge ye, whether it becomes you to be seeking your own carnal ease, interest, and pleasure; and to be neglecting the work of God, and the welfare of your immortal souls? Only let conscience deliver an unbiassed testimony, and we consent that you shall be judges in your own cause.]
To you also we offer this salutary admonition—
[“Consider your ways.” Twice is this repeated by the prophet [Note: ver. 5, 7.]: and repeatedly should it be urged on all who are guilty of the conduct before described.
“Consider your ways,”in order to your humiliation. Look back, and see, how highly criminal they have been. The more fully you call them to remembrance, and the more distinctly you view them with all their several aggravations, the more you will see cause to humble yourselves before God in dust and ashes — — —
“Consider your ways,” in order that you may see what indignation they have already excited in the bosom of an avenging God. The Jews were referred to the judgments which God in his providence had inflicted on account of their sin, as proofs of his heavy displeasure [Note: ver. 9–11.]: and, if we could with equal certainty be informed of the reasons of those chastisements which God from time to time has inflicted on us, either publicly in common with the whole land, or privately in our several persons and families, there can be no doubt but that we should find our sins to have been the root and ground of all. But without such infallible information from above, we should not presume to interpret the dispensations of Providence in this way, except in our own particular case; and even then we should do it with great caution and diffidence. Nevertheless in many instances we may clearly read our sin in our punishment. We have preferred the cares and pleasures of the world; and we have been given over to a worldly mind: we have been impenitent; and have been delivered up to hardness of heart: we have disregarded the gracious visits of our God; and he has withdrawn himself from us altogether: he has left us to “be filled with our own devices, and to eat of the fruit of our own ways.”
Once more; Consider your ways, in order to the amending of them in future. To this the Jews were called [Note: Hag_2:4.]; and to this we also are called: and without this, all consideration of our ways would be to no purpose — — — Determine then, with David, “not to give sleep to your eyes, or slumber to your eye-lids, till your hearts are become a temple for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob [Note: Psa_132:4-5.].”]
Happy the prophet who executed his office with such fidelity! and happy the people who were favoured with such a monitor! may our testimony also correspond with his in,
The effect produced—
Great and instantaneous was the change wrought on their minds—
[“The remnant of the people,” from the highest to the lowest, all obeyed the voice of the Lord, and of the prophet whom he had sent unto them. They all began to “fear the Lord,” and in little more than three weeks actually commenced the work to which they were called [Note: ver. 14.]. O that such a change also might be wrought in us! O that our governors also, both in Church and State, might obey the call; and that all classes of the community would begin, as with one heart and one mind, to serve the Lord; first, to get their whole souls sanctified unto the Lord; and then, to promote his glory through-out the world! — — —]
Great also was the encouragement instantly afforded them by God himself—
[No sooner did they evince a desire to comply with God’s command, than God commissioned his prophet to say to them, “I am with you, saith the Lord [Note: ver. 13.].” And no sooner did they set about the work, than God called them to notice the very day, and pledged himself from that hour to bless them [Note: Hag_2:15-19.]. Yea, even the very day of their change did God himself register, not only in the book of his remembrance in heaven, but in the written records of his prophet on earth: “In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king [Note: ver. 15.].” O that this present year of our king might be so marked! yea, that this very day might be so registered, as the season of a remarkable conversion of our souls to God! Be assured, that, if only one amongst us should now begin to obey his call, and to turn from earthly vanities to the Lord our God, it should not be overlooked, nor should it be forgotten in the eternal world. The very angels in the presence of God would shout for joy: and if they would notice it with such delight, we may be well assured that our God and Saviour, at whose call we turn, will not he regardless of so blessed an event.]
[The time will come when you will deeply regret that you have wasted the present hours in frivolous pursuits. Your past ease, and pleasure, and vanities, of whatever kind they have been, where are they? What fruit of them all have you at this time? Compare them with one single hour that has ever been spent in penitential sorrow: Is there any comparison as to the satisfaction they have left behind them?
Again: For what end is your time now allotted you by God? Is it for no higher purpose than to advance your temporal interests? Is there no work that you have to do for him, and none for your own souls? — — —
Again: Will it not be a bitter subject of regret to yon in a dying hour, that the day in which you might have worked is passed away; and that the night is arrived when no man can work?
To all then, I say, in the name of the Most High God, “Consider your ways.” Consider the evil of them, that you may see your guilt; consider the fruit of them, that you may bewail your folly; consider the commands of God relating to them, that you may amend them henceforth, and obtain from God the blessings reserved for you in the eternal world.]