Haggai 1:1-12



In 2015 there were 19 people killed in selfie-related incidents and many more experiencing injury or creating harm to others.[1] This number is more than the number of those who died in a shark attack during the same annual period. Self-absorbed selfie shooters have died from fallen from cliffs, crashing automobiles, electrocution atop train cars, three college students died taking selfie on train track of oncoming train, gun & weapon accidents, small aircraft pilot crashed a plane killing occupants while taking selfie, 7 youths drown in a lake from falling out a boat by standing and taking selfie, a man fell into an active volcano in Indonesia, a man hanging from a nine story building, falling down stairs at the Taj Mahal angling for a unique photo.

Tourists of national parks take selfies with dangerous animals and often bear the consequences. Hashtag #drivingselfie yields thousands of results in spite of auto accidents and deaths occurring each year. Distracted cell phone users walk into poles, lampposts, fall flights of stairs or in manholes.

Our focus on self and thirst for attention can be risky and harmful to ourselves and others. The Bible frequently warns us to not rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), and not to trust the heart of man (Jeremiah 17:9) or follow our own desires (James 1:14; 4:1).

Yet, our self-focus and selfie-syndrome often overrule God’s desires for our life.

Today begins a new sermon series from the book of Haggai. God used the prophet Haggai to exhort Israel from selfishness to service and from apathy to awakening. Haggai logo

EXAMINE       Haggai 1         Priorities

Introduction & Background

–        Haggai is the 2nd shortest book of the OT (first is Obadiah). As an aside, Haggai & Zechariah (book follows Haggai) were contemporaries. The only Scripture content that follows Haggai is Ezra (458BC) Nehemiah (444BC) and Malachi (430-400).

–        Haggai’s name means feast or festival. Likely born during one of Israel’s feasts.[2]

–        Haggai is “the prophet” and “the Lord’s messenger” (Haggai 1:12-13; 2:1) and is mentioned twice in book of Ezra (5:1; 6:14). Ultimately, he was a prophet speaking the words of God to the people of God.

–        Haggai is author of this prophetic book but likely had disciples write his message down. This would likely account for the use of third person nine times in his own book.[3] Also similar to other prophets like Jeremiah.

–        Haggai lived during the 6th Century and preached during a season of just over 3 months: Haggai 1:1 “six month on first day” (August 29, 520 BC) to Haggai 2:1 “seventh month on twenty-first day” (October 17, 520 BC) and Haggai 2:10, 20 for the “ninth month on twenty-fourth day” (December 520 BC).[4]

–        The background of Haggai is that because of Israel’s disobedience their nation was divided (1Kings 12) and would fall to the Assyrians (2Kings 17 / 722BC) and then also to the Babylonians (2Kings 24-25 / 586BC). Israel was exiled away from Jerusalem for 70 years; from 586 temple destruction to 516 temple rebuild (Jer 25:11–12; 29:10; Zech 1:12; 7:5; Dan 9:2; 2 Chr 36:21). Israel would return in 538BC with an edict by King Cyrus of Persia who conquered the Babylonians. They would return 42,360 strong (Ezra 2:64) to dwell in the land and begin rebuilding the altar and temple. Yet, in the midst of opposition they would cease the rebuild. After 16 years later, Haggai spoke the word of the Lord calling the people exchange selfishness to service, from apathy to awakening.

–        Haggai speaks of the “former glory” (2:3) of God’s temple, and thus likely was a young child during the exile who is now seeing fulfillment of prophecy of both judgment and grace.[5] Ultimately, Haggai is bridging the generations to restore the glory of God in Israel. #growinggodlygenerations

–        Haggai spoke not only to the people but specifically to civil leaders (Zerubbabel, governor of Judah – descendant of David, cf Matthew 1:12; Luke 3:27) and to religious leaders (Joshua, the high priest – descendant of Aaron brother of Moses).

o   A nation in disrepair and moral depravity needs a word from the Lord.

o   Today, there is a need for both religious and civil leaders to listen and learn God’s message. Not every religious leader is aware or accurate of God’s message. Likewise, not every civil leader is ignorant or inconsiderate of God’s message. We must be careful to not assume either error but simply return to listening and learning what God is saying in the Scriptures.

o   For the church, “all Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17)


Haggai 1:1-11

Haggai called God’s people to build a temple. Today, we are not building a monument but a movement of God’s kingdom. God’s people are His temple (1Cor 6:19) and does not live in temples made by human hands (Acts 17:24). Haggai’s prophetic theme command is to “consider your ways” (1:5; 1:7; 2:15; 2:18). The idea is to reflect, evaluate, and make a determination; setting the path of life before an individual (cf 1Sam 21:12; Ps 54:3; Ez 14:4; Isa 47:7).

–        Teachers give tests, employers give reviews, all for the purpose of increasing the capacity of productivity.

–           We must affirm and not avoid the truth that assessment leads to achievement, evaluation produces effectiveness.

–        “The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Socrates 

–        “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Can you pray this prayer and heed this exhortation?

In this passage we will examine the obstacles that keep us from evaluation and effectiveness for building God’s kingdom for our life and our church.


1) APATHY/COMPLACENCY is an obstacle keeping us from evaluation & effectiveness in building God’s kingdom.

Beyond disobedience and idolatry, perhaps the primary presenting sin of Israel at this setting is their apathy. They were spiritually complacent. God, through the prophet Haggai, sought to awaken Israel from their apathy through three methods:

–        Refreshing their vision for God. Haggai uses the name “Lord of Hosts” (Yahweh Sabbaoth) 14x within 48 verses of the entire book. The name represents a military figure commanding the armies of heaven. The prophet wants to remind Israel that Assyria and Babylon are not all powerful but God is incomparably greater.

–        Rebuking their attitudes and actions. Haggai will harshly rebuke Israel’s sin. The initial rebuke from the Lord is when God says in Haggai 1:2 “These people” and not “my people” (cf. Hosea 2:23). Israel was God’s chosen and treasured possession (Deut 7:6), yet at times their unfaithfulness to the Lord would arouse His anger and rebuke. Once again, God’s discipline is being used to confront and call them to repentance.

–        Refocusing their commitment.

Haggai reminds Israel of their purpose among the nations to be a shining light of God’s presence that was reflected in rebuilding the temple. The house of the Lord was a symbol of God’s presence, purpose, promises, and blessing. The temple was a place where Israel could meet with God, hear His word and respond in worship. Yet, since the temple was destroyed the people could not and did not meet together for corporate worship.


à Signs you have spiritual apathy

–        Is your vision for life’s problems and pains bigger than God and His promises?

–        Is your vulnerability to being confronted of sin or challenged low and unapproachable?

–        Is your vow of commitment to obey God frequently filled with excuses or far too easily satisfied, and lacking passion and teachability?

God is calling you/us to awaken from apathy.

2)   BUSYNESS is an obstacle keeping us from evaluation & effectiveness in building God’s kingdom.

The first prophetic message from Haggai is a statement with a question: “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord… [BUT] Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies in ruins?” (Haggai 1:2-4). The repetition use of the word “time” indicates the Lord’s conflict and confrontation over their perceived sense of purpose for their time.

It is unmentioned but implied with the dating, 16 years have passed from setting a foundation to not continuing the building project. Their half start was a mockery of their faith and commitment to God.

Further, the Lord evaluates their use of time and life purpose with 5 deficiencies:

–        fruitless labor: “sown much and harvested little”

–        unfulfilled hunger: “eat but never have enough”

–        unsatisfied thirst: “drink but never have your fill”

–        ineffective actions: “clothe yourselves but no one is warm”

–        fleeting riches: “earn wages placed into a bag with holes”


à      Busyness distracts us from our priorities and God-given purpose.

à      Busyness destroys us from self-evaluation and the necessary work of the Word in our hearts to respond to God in authentic relationship and adoring worship that He deserves (cf. Mark 4:13-20).

à      Busyness is the enemy’s bullet against our souls.

à      Busyness is perpetual motion disguised as purpose. Busyness works hard but at the wrong priorities.

à      We must not choose busyness over God’s blessing.


à What priorities with actions/habits will you set so that you avoid the obstacle of busyness? What non-priorities with actions/habits will you set so that you avoid not giving attention or action?


3)   COMFORT is an obstacle keeping us from evaluation & effectiveness in building God’s kingdom.

The Lord not only rebukes Israel’s apathy and busyness but their comfort. Their comfort is in self-pleasure but not in satisfying God. Haggai notes that God’s house lies in ruins while the people dwell in paneled houses. Certainly there was nothing wrong with the people having a house for shelter, food to eat, and jobs to earn a living. The context of the passage suggests that the people were doing more than just build a house but were filling it with luxury and busying themselves with non-essentials.

Haggai 1:4 “you yourselves dwell in your paneled houses while this house lies in ruins”

Haggai 1:9 “You looked for much… you busy self with your own house… [BUT] my house lies in ruins”

à      Purpose and priorities are costly.

–       Education or work will cost your commitment to skill development and laboring implementation.

–       Friendship will cost you scheduling time, perhaps travel, and ultimately emotional vulnerability and sacrifice.

–       Godliness will cost you commitment to spiritual disciplines of praying without distraction, regularly reading and internalizing sections of Scripture, and not to mention accountability with other believers and service in ministry.

–       Purpose will have a constant confrontation, competition, and combat to our comfort. We must consider our priorities.



We may conclude this message with 2 summary principles.

1)    If we deal superficially with sin then God will deal grievously & gravely with your life.

2)    If we deal seriously with sin then God will deal gently & graciously with your life.

–  –   –  – – –  – – –

[1] see https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-fallible-mind/201512/selfies-kill-more-people-sharks-do. Understandably the presentation of data can mislead: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/10/05/debunking-the-great-selfies-are-more-deadly-than-shark-attacks-myth.html.

[2] Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale Commentary: Haggai.

[3] Pieter A. Verhoef, New International Commentary: Haggai.

[4] Baldwin.

[5] Baldwin, references tradition about Haggai from Rabbi Eli Cashdan, The Twelve Prophets (Soncino Press, 1948), p. 254.



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