The Message of Haggai: Are Your Investments Sound?
The book we come to this Lord’s Day in our study through the Minor Prophets may challenge your confidence in your investments. It is the second shortest book in the Old Testament, the book of Haggai.
What do we know about Haggai? His preaching is mentioned in Ezra 5 and 6 in connection with the rebuilding of the temple. Yet nowhere else is his name mentioned outside this little book. His name comes from a Hebrew word which means ‘festival’ or ‘pilgrim to the festival,’ not unlike an Arabic word meaning ‘to go on a pilgrimage.’ This prophet is ‘haggai’ – one who has been on the pilgrimage.
As for the historical background, we need to trace briefly back to the days of the prophet Jeremiah and Ezekiel, when Jerusalem was first invaded by the Babylonians (606 BC). At that time, many people were taken away as exiles, including Daniel. A second invasion occurred in 597, during which Ezekiel was taken away. The city was then besieged again in 587. In 586, Jerusalem fell and was burned. The temple was destroyed. And there was another great deportation of Jews to Babylon. The Jews stayed in Babylon for decades. In 538, the Babylonians themselves were overrun by Cyrus of the Medo-Persian Empire. Cyrus, a couple of years into his reign, issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem and even promising to help finance the rebuilding of the temple of the Lord.
So in 536 BC, a large number of Jews (maybe 50,000) made the nine-hundred-mile journey from Babylon back to Jerusalem. Many more Jews remained in Babylon where they had settled and flourished. Those who returned laid the foundation stone to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed, but then they were effectively stopped by the nearby Samaritans. A number of years passed. The Persian Empire went through a couple of rulers. Then in 522 Darius came to the throne, and it was during the period that Darius reigned over Persia that Haggai preached. From late August to mid-December (520 BC), Haggai gave four prophecies that comprise the two chapters of his book. After Haggai started preaching, Zechariah began preaching as well.
In brief, Haggai called the returned exiles to prioritize the rebuilding of the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem. And the people listened to him. Though Haggai’s prophecies stop in December 520 BC, we know from the book of Ezra that the temple was rebuilt, completed, and dedicated scarcely more than three-years later, by March 516. Chronologically, then, Haggai stands in between the exiled Ezekiel’s vision of the rebuilt temple (Ezek. 40-48) and the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah.
In this overview of Haggai, we learn three things: first, ‘poor investments show themselves’ (1:1-11). Second, ‘bad investment strategies must be corrected’ (1:12-15). And third, ‘sound investments prove themselves in their returns’ (chap. 2). My prayer is that as we survey the book of Haggai, you will be encouraged to consider your investment strategies: to review what you are investing your substance in, and whether your investments are wise.
I hope you can join us this coming Lord’s Day as we are called by the Word of the Lord to consider our investments. Are we investing our lives in things that will bring eternal returns? This would be a wonderful Sunday to invite your friends and/or family to join you for a review of your investments. It would also be a wonderful day to invite those who may not be followers of our Lord, especially as we see two young ladies confess their faith in Christ. Will you pray for this day as it approaches? See you Sunday.
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