Haggai 1:3
It must not be supposed that, for purposes of revelation, there was any suspension of the powers of the men who were honored of God in being the medium of communicating a knowledge of his will; rather there was the retention of their own individual peculiarities and natural gifts, the Divine Spirit operating through these, and turning them to the most profitable account. One beauty of the Bible lies in the fact that, whilst upon the writings of each of its contributors there is unmistakably the impress of the operation of the Spirit of God, there is likewise throughout the whole clear indications of the preservation of those natural endowments which the respective writers possessed, and hence the remarkable variety in style and form of presentation meeting us in the Holy Word, and which constitutes one great charm of the volume. Viewing this particular book of Scripture from this human standpoint, biblical writers have described it as being inferior in respect of literary merit as compared with other prophetical writings; and it must be granted that we find lacking here "the poetical swing" and "the finished beauty" characteristic of "the curlier prophetical diction." The circumstances, however, under which he gave utterance to his message will account for this. It did not devolve upon him to any extent, as it had done upon his predecessors, to make prophetic announcements concerning the future age; his simple mission was to stimulate and stir a lethargic people to renewed action, to reprove them for their neglect of solemn duty, and to impel them to fulfil their trust. And whatever there may be lacking here of poetic genius, the picture presented to us of this noble-hearted man standing "in grey-haired might" amidst the ruins of Jerusalem, and, strong in conviction that the favour and blessing of Jehovah was the great essential in order to the happiness of his people, urging them to knowledge him in all their ways, and without further delay to rear his sanctuary, is one truly beautiful, and which we could have ill spared from these holy records. Consider his stirring appeal.

I. HIS SUMMONS TO REFLECTION. "Consider your ways" (vers. 5, 7); i.e. "Set your heart upon your ways" - your conduct, actions, designs, purposes. Thoughtlessness is the source of so much evil. Men do not always intend to do wrong or to fail in respect of duty, but they do not "give heed." They allow their minds to wander into other courses, and to be preoccupied with other matters.

"Evil is wrought by want of thought,
As well as want of heart." It is in view of men's highest interests, then, that God by his providential dealings, or the ministry of his servants, or the inward voice of conscience, says to them at times, "Consider your ways." We should consider:

1. Whether our ways are true and right.

2. How they stand affected to the claims which God has upon us.

3. The motives by which we are being influenced.

4. The results to which our actions are tending, whether the sowing is such as will yield a harvest of good.

The momentous importance of the admonition is seen in its repetition here. Man is wondrously free. He can choose good or evil. This freedom increases his responsibility, and the sense of this should lead to frequent self-examination. "Let each man prove his own work" (Galatians 6:4).

II. THE WEIGHTY CONSIDERATIONS HE URGED UPON THEIR ARRESTED ATTENTION. Their great excuse for the unwarrantable delay which had taken place in the work of the temple was the hardness of the times; and in his stimulating address Haggai kept this excuse before his mind, and completely exposed to them its hollowness and swept it away by setting before them two important facts.

1. He brought home to them a sense of their own inconsistency. Hard though the times were, the fact remained that in these hard times they had built for themselves durable dwellings, and had enriched these with costly adornments; and surely if they could do all this for themselves, they might have done something by way of proceeding with the erection of the house of the Lord (ver. 4). Clearly they had lacked not so much the ability as the disposition to do their duty.

2. Admitting the severity of the times, Haggai pointed out that the way in which to have improved these would have been by their discharging more faithfully their duty to their God. In vivid language he described the depressed state of things then prevailing (ver. 6), but his contention was that God had visited them with such adverse experiences in retribution. They had forgotten his claims, and had selfishly cared only for their own interests; and lie, knowing their hearts and observing their ways, had withheld from them the dews of heaven, and had caused drought to prevail, that by failure and loss they might be led to reflection and to a truer and more devoted life (vers. 9-11). When the times are hard - trade slack and commercial depression prevailing - men too often begin retrenchment by withholding from God his due, and long before they sacrifice a single luxury of life will they plead inability to sustain his cause. Wiser far would it be for them to give full recognition to him and to his claims, and, whilst thus honouring him, to look to him for his blessing and the renewal of the temporal blessings of his providence.

III. THE PROMPT ACTION, IN VIEW OF THESE THOUGHTS, UPON WHICH HE SO STRONGLY INSISTED. "Go up to the mountain," etc. (ver. 8). This stirring appeal of the prophet was made on "the sixth month, in the first day of the month" (ver. 1), i.e. the new moon's day. That day was a special day amongst the people. A festal sacrifice was offered (Numbers 28:11-15), and a solemn assembly of the people at the sanctuary took place (Isaiah 1:13; 2 Kings 4:23). On this occasion, therefore, we may suppose the people as gathered together on the site of the temple, the bare foundations of which silently testified against their inertness, and the prophet appearing amongst them, addressing words of stem reproof to them, and then bidding them without longer delay go to the mountains and fetch the cedars, and build forthwith the house for God. Such he declared to be the will of God, obedience to which, on their part, would yield pleasure to the Most High, and bring glory to his Name, and would result in the promotion of their own temporal and spiritual well being (ver. 8). - S.D.H.







Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses, and this house lie waste?
The decree of Artaxerxes prohibited the building both of temple and city, but it seems that the people had persisted, spite of the decree, in building dwellings for themselves, though no progress had been made with the temple. The mission of Haggai and Zechariah was to rouse the people to the long-neglected work, to reprove the indolent, and encourage the desponding. The excuses of the people, like those commonly of men who defer religious duties to more convenient seasons, were but marks of a secret resolve to escape, if possible, altogether from a labour which must interfere with more congenial pursuits. Our text contains the prophet's expostulation, meeting the excuse that the time was not come for building the Lord's house. The temple may not be indispensable in spiritual Christianity, but it is certainly valuable. There may be privileges attached to it which we have no right to expect, elsewhere. We need not confound our case with that of the Jews, though we address to Christians the expostulation of the text, as if the change in dispensation had made no difference in its pertinence and force. Christianity, unlike Judaism, is not tied to places; its ordinances may be everywhere celebrated. Then what necessity is there, under this new and better covenant, for structures devoted to sacred uses, or what loss is it to us if "this house lie waste"? It is contrary to the established order of providence that miracles should be employed where the: result might be accomplished through ordinary means. The propagation of Divine truth has been entrusted to the Church. The public ordinances are therefore indispensable; and suitable places for such ordinances must be provided. We can safely contend for the indispensableness, under the existing dispensation, of sanctuaries, or Churches, maintaining that cities without these sacred edifices would be cities that must ere long be wholly sunk in irreligion, and occupied by a population with no fear of God. We can no better spare our Churches than the Jews could their temple. In proportion as we allow any city, or any portion of our population to be destitute of the public means of grace, we fasten On that city or population something of the same religious incapacity as was fastened on Jerusalem, whilst its temple lay in ruins. The Jews are not blamed for having built their own houses, but for not having, at the same time, built the house of God. Wherever there is a community, there ought to be a house devoted to God.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

I propose to excite you to greater diligence, and to a more fervent zeal in the work and cause .of God.

I. AN EXISTING DEPRESSION IN THE CAUSE OF GOD. There is a painful imperfection in the work of God as it exists in the present day. The cause of God is by no means in the state that Christians desire. What are the scenes presented to our view in lands where Christianity is professed? In our own land, what do we see? What in other Christian and heathen lands? We are compelled to confess that the temple of God lieth waste. We are too apt to triumph: we are prone to forget the present state of things. We despair not; but we do not feel enough.

II. TEMPORAL GRATIFICATION MAY BE PURSUED TO THE NEGLECT OF THOSE EXERTIONS WHICH GOD SO JUSTLY DEMANDS. These people were dwelling in ceiled houses, while the temple of God was in ruins. We see now wealth, talents, genius, property, fully used for self-interests, and estranged from the cause of God. Especially may be noticed neglect of claims of Christian missions. Viewing our efforts in connection with the claims of God and of men, we must surely confess that there are many claims not answered, many duties not fulfilled. Regard the text.

III. AS CHALLENGING THE EMPLOYMENT OF OUR VARIOUS TALENTS, AND URGING THE CLAIMS OF GOD.

1. Consider the nature of those obligations under which you are placed by God, with regard to the services you are called to render.

2. Consider the peculiar nature of the system of the Gospel you have embraced. Is there not a sentence pronounced on all those who are ungrateful and disobedient?

3. Consider that, while there is not this energy in the cause of God, there is an amount, an awful amount of misery resting on your fellow-men.

4. Consider the prospect of success. Let then the vast importance of the work, and the consideration of the past neglect of it, urge you to exertion.

(James Parsons.)

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