Majoring in the Minors: Haggai

Even after the rebuilding of the temple commences, a second threat to its progress arises. The new temple built in their impoverished condition is not nearly as impressive as Solomon’s original structure. Haggai asks a progressive series of rhetorical questions, “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes?” (2:3) When we look at the state of our churches, we may be tempted to engage in cynicism and golden-age fetishizing, or withdraw for more promising prospects. But Haggai does not end with negative rebukes. He concludes with strong promises of God’s faithfulness to his purposes.

Some people build bookshelves, cabinets, or houses. Some build investment portfolios. Some amass niche collections of books, art, or memorabilia. Some build new businesses or non-profit organizations. Some focus on building their careers or their families. Many Christians in our day are engaged in the work of church planting and many others are in revitalization scenarios. Every building project has its ebb and flow, its setbacks and stages, and any project of significant scale takes patience, persistence, passion, and focus. You build what you care about. God himself is a builder. Hence, two of the twelve minor prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, are behind a massive building project. A re-building project, to be precise: the rebuilding of a temple for God’s worship and reputation.

The great fact at the foundation of the Old Covenant was the Exodus from slavery in Egypt. The great the foundation for the New Covenant, from the vantage point of the prophets, is the return from exile. (Jer. 16:14-15) Along with this return comes the rebuilding of the temple destroyed by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. Having transgressed the terms of the first covenant, the people of God have suffered the curses outlined by Moses. The result of their sin has been a 70-year exile into Babylon. But, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” (Rom. 11:29) God has a plan to rebuild. And, since “the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets,” (Amos 3:7) we have two prophetic books dealing with rebuilding.

The great scribe of the long awaited return from exile sets the scene for the work of these two prophets in Ezra 5:1-2. This passage mentions two other key leaders these prophets inspired to take up the work: a local Jewish magistrate, Zerubbabel, and the high priest Joshua.

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