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Haggai

 

Background for the Book of Haggai---

The Captives Who Returned to Jerusalem, 536BC

 

In Ezra chapter 2, verses 1-70 are mentioned the 50,000 Jews who were repatriated back into the various cities of Judah, including Jerusalem.  Verse 2 mentioned the one assigned as the leader of this group.  Verses 2-3, “Those who came with Zerubbabel were Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordicai [not the Mordicai of the book of Esther, he was much later, and I don’t think that Nehemiah is the one who is Nehemiah in the book by that name], Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai…” and so the list goes on through verse 67, all adding up to 49,897 people, plus some people who couldn’t be officially numbered because they weren’t certain of their genealogy, their records having been lost during the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple (verses 59-63).  So fifty thousand is a good estimate of those who returned under Zerubbabel and Jeshua, or Joshua.  The actual number might have been slightly higher.  This same Zerubbabel and Joshua are mentioned in Zechariah chapter 3, verses 1-5.  The prophecies found in the book of Zechariah, although most if not all directly apply to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ, were written to the Jews who had returned to the land of Judah and Jerusalem.  These returning Jews had no concept of the Messiah’s first or second coming, and all Jews to this day only think there is going to be one great coming of the Messiah (since they don’t recognize Jesus of Nazareth as being the Messiah).  Zechariah’s prophecies, even though most, if not all, apply to the 2nd Coming, were written to help inspire the returning Jews to get busy rebuilding Jerusalem and particularly the Temple.  Both Zechariah and Haggai were what we call “post-exhilic prophets”, and their God-given job was the same, to help inspire and motivate the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem, and specifically the Temple itself.   So as the Jews heard the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, they were led to believe that the LORD was visibly going to return to this temple they had been sent back to rebuild.  The book of Haggai in particular was written to inspire them to get going.  All these glorious 2nd Coming prophecies, pointing to the ultimate fulfilling of the Messiah coming to actually live on earth in the Temple, were written to get them going, even though they were ultimately written depicting a much later event, a time we may be living in right now, just before the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  Little did the poor Jews realize that these prophecies given to Zechariah and Haggai by God, given to help inspire them to get going on construction of the Temple, wouldn’t be fulfilled for thousands of years.  Jesus, the Messiah, would ultimately come to the Temple they were constructing during his first coming, and he is yet to come again, to another temple yet to be constructed.  That’s what messed up the Jews so much, many if not all the Old Testament prophecies about the great coming of the Messiah had elements of both his first coming and his second coming woven together in them [see http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/2ndcoming_2.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/prophecies/1stcoming.htm].  Zechariah 3:1-5, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him.  And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan!  The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.  Then he answered and spoke to those who stood before him, saying, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him.’  And to him he said, ‘See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’  [Comment:  Only God, God the Son, Yahweh, can forgive sins.  So this is Yahweh speaking to Joshua in this prophecy.  Obviously there was some kind of sin in his life that needed forgiving, covering, just like all of us.]  And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’  So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him.  And the Angel of the LORD stood by.”  This short prophecy found in Zechariah 3, verses 1-5 is addressing this same Zerubbabel and Jeshua, who were leading these 50,000 Jewish captives back to the land of Judah and Jerusalem.  I can’t wait to get to the Minor Prophets in these studies.  But realize the LORD was inspiring these prophecies to be written by Haggai and Zechariah, writing about 520BC, addressing the Jews who had returned.  These 50,000 Jews were facing local opposition from the Gentiles who had come into the land of Judah during their 70 years absence, many probably coming from the region of Samaria, which the king of Assyria had repopulated with pagans in the 720s BC.  This is going to be an ongoing problem as we read through Ezra and Nehemiah.  We pick up the story again in Ezra 2, verse 68.  [Comment: About the use of the term “Israel” as found in verse 70 and elsewhere in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  In Ezra and Nehemiah the word “Israel” was used to apply to the Jews, who were made up of part of the tribes of Benjamin, Levi and Judah, basically three tribes which had made up the southern “House of Judah.”  Throughout the books of Samuel, Kings & Chronicles, the name “Israel” either referred to all 12 tribes (before 931BC, Judah only being one of the twelve) or the ten tribed nation composing the “House of Israel” to the north of the “House of Judah” (after 931BC).  That House of Israel is no longer in Palestine (after 721BC), but is mainly residing up in the Russian steppes at this time.  But in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, when the term “Israel” is used, it denotes “the House of Judah”, which had returned from Babylonian captivity.  This throws people a historic “curve ball” in the sense that most Gentile Christians, due to this, think of  the name “Israel” as just referring to Jews, which in the historic sense is very inaccurate.  For some reason the Jews even go along with this historic interpretative error, even though privately they will argue amongst themselves about where the “lost ten tribes” could have gone, and which nations they could be now in the world---“for certainly any child of Abraham was promised to become a nation or a group of nations,  even look at the Arab nations, they came from Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, and God promised twelve nations would come of Ishmael.”  The Jews are aware of this distinction.  But if  you try to tell a Jew this, he gets angry with you.  Always got to scratch my head over that one.]

 

Rebuilding of Jerusalem and the Temple Opposed---How Civil Governments of Man Can Oppose a Work of God

 

First of all, we must get a clear understanding of the Persian line of kings which are mentioned in Ezra.  The Bible translators called some kings by the same names when they were different people entirely, but this is straightened out by the order of succession which is mentioned if you understand who ruled in Persia and when.  First you start with Cyrus the Great, which provides a historic benchmark to pin the beginning of the book to.  If you take it from Cyrus to Darius the Great, from Ezra chapter 4 through chapter 5, which are the real kings going by their real names, then everyone inbetween had to fall into the Persian line of kings who where were clearly inbetween Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great, Cyrus’ son-in-law.  So we need a little bit of history here to straighten things out.  Cyrus ruled from about 560BC, consolidating the Empire, and finally conquered the city of Babylon, collapsing its empire, in October 539BC.  Cyrus the Great, as we observed, died at the hands of Queen Tomyris, queen of the Massagetae in 530BC.  Cambyses II, his son took over the reigns of the Persian Empire and he ruled from 530BC to 523BC according to Herodotus, and 522BC according to other sources.  He died under uncertain circumstances, Herodotus and other historians disagreeing with each other.  Either the brother of Cambyses II (Smerdis, also called Bardiya) or an imposter who some say had killed Smerdis, and was thus called Pseudo-Smerdis, took over the reigns of the Persian Empire for a very short reign of 7 months, 522/521BC.  It is then that Darius, a former lance-bearer of Cambyses II, takes over the reigns of government, marries Atossa daughter of Cyrus the Great (perhaps to legitimize his office), and then this Darius, now Darius the Great, rules the Persian Empire from 521BC to 486BC.  Darius the Great and Atossa his wife bear Xerxes and his brothers (most of whom died at Thermopylae at the hands of Leonidas and his 300 Spartiates).

 

Cyrus the Great, reigned 559/560BC to 530BC

 

Cambyses II, reigned 530BC to 522/21BC

 

Smerdis (Bardiya) or Pseudo-Smerdis, 522/21BC

(reigned 7 months)

 

Darius the Great, reigned 521BC to 486BC

(wife Atossa, daughter of Cyrus)

 

 Xerxes, reigned 486-465BC

(wife, Esther (Hebrew Hadassah)

 

Artaxerxes (long-hand) I, reigned 465BC to 424BC

(Persian king who wrote the two decrees, one to Ezra in 458BC, the other to Nehemiah in 445BC)

 

So, in Ezra 4:6, this person called Ahasuerus is really Cambyses II (not the same person as the Ahasuerus mentioned in the Book of Esther, who is Xerxes).  So these malcontents from Samaria write an accusation to Cambyses II (called Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6).  That is as much as we know.  This accusation, as we see from the verse had to have been written around 529BC.  Ezra 4:6, “In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.”  Obviously Cambyses II pays no attention to the accusation, knowing his fathers’ intentions toward the Jews, and honoring it.  But in 523/522 Cambyses II dies.  In verse 7 of Ezra 4 it says “In the days of Artaxerxes” and then in Ezra 5, verse 7 the detractors are writing to Darius, which is Darius the Great.  So this Artaxerxes is none other than Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis, and he reigns for a very short period of time, 7 months.  But due to a change in rulership these malcontents in Samaria give it another try, and they write to this new ruler who is really either Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis, and they appear to make some headway in stopping the Jew’s Temple construction project.  Ezra 4:7-24, “In the days of Artaxerxes [either Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis, 522-521BC] also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language.  Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to king Artaxerxes in this fashion:

‘From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions---representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper [Asnapper, king of Assyria in the 700sBC] took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River---and so forth.

(This is a copy of the letter that they sent him)

To King Artaxerxes [i.e. Pseudo-Smerdis] from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth:  Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations.  Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished.  Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king’s dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers.  And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.  We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River.’

 

The king sent an answer:

 

‘To Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the remainder beyond the River:

 

Peace and so forth.  The letter which you sent to us has been clearly read before me.  And I gave the command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it.  There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River [Euphrates]; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them.  Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me.  Take heed now that you do not fail to do this.  Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings?’

 

Now when the copy of king Artaxerxes’ [Pseudo-Smerdis’] letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease.  Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.”  Now this “Darius king of Persia was none other than Darius the Great, who reigned from 521BC to 486BC, and was the father of Xerxes the Great, who reigned from 486BC to 465BC.  This means the two previous kings, Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes, mentioned in verses 6, 7 and 11 of Ezra 4, fall inbetween Cyrus the Great and Darius the Great.  Consider Cyrus the Great and Darius the great like historic bookends, and between these two known bookends, the identification of the two kings named Ahasuerus and Artaxerxes can be accurately and properly identified.  Only two kings fell between that reign, Cambyses II and either Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis.  Then came Darius the Great. 

          This account in Ezra gives us a historic example of people from the land stirring up civil government against a work of God which was being performed by the Jews.  This mixed race of rabble living in Samaria since the 720s BC was stirring up trouble, and influencing the civil government of the Persian Empire to stop the Jews from doing a work God had commanded them to do.  Are there any modern counterparts to this happening today?  You bet there are.  In Sweden a pastor was almost jailed back in 2005 merely for preaching through the Word of God, and when he happened to come to a text that forbade homosexuality, he faithfully preached about the meaning of that passage, preaching the truth of God as written in the Bible.  This was prosecuted by the Swedish government as a “hate crime.”  Similar laws exist in Canada and Australia, attempting to muzzle the clear preaching of the Word of God in private churches!  What was God’s, Yahweh’s reaction to this?  It’s very interesting.  First, this Smerdis or pseudo-Smerdis, the one who listened to this rabble and ordered a halt to Temple re-construction, was assassinated.  God took care of things at the Persian end of things.  Then the LORD had two prophets living with the Jews in Jerusalem at the time, Haggai and Zechariah.  When God is doing a work with his people, whether those are his people racially, or his people now, believers in Yeshua, Jesus Christ, he always has his prophets or leaders in place to inspire and lead his people.  The LORD has a major reaction here, he will not be muzzled by any man, or any government of man.  Let’s see how the LORD reacted to these rabble-inspired government sanctions.  Ezra 5:1-2, “Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them.  So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.”  God went into action, through his prophets!  What could these men have prophecied to these Jews that would get them to potentially defy a decree from the king of the Persian Empire?  Fortunately, we can read just exactly what Haggai and Zechariah prophecied to the Jews, for they are written in the Books of Haggai and Zechariah.  Let’s read from Haggai now.  Defying a king of Persia was serious business, and the tattle-tail rabble in Samaria were sure to tell on the Jews when they went back to work on the Temple. 

 

First Problem Haggai Addresses, Jews Doing Their Own Thing Instead Of Supporting the Work of God---Message For Our Time As Well

 

First of all Haggai addresses a problem we all seem to get into (although this problem was inspired initially by the decree from Smerdis to cease construction in Jerusalem and on the Temple).  This admonition from Haggai applies to believers in Jesus now, as well as to the Jews back then, for God is doing works all around the world, and that is the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Salvation to all the world, that’s the Work of God today.  What is the Gospel Jesus told us to be proclaiming?  See http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm.  But let’s read Haggai 1, verses 1-11, and as you read it, see if this applies to you.  For as you’ll see, when we get further into Haggai, these prophecies also apply to the future right ahead of us---they have duel meaning---as well as to the Jews back then.  Haggai 1:1-11, “In the second year of king Darius, in the sixth month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, ‘Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying:  This people says, The time has not come, the time that the LORD’s house should be built.”  Oh isn’t that a common excuse people make when it comes to really supporting the work of God in their lives?  Almost all of us are guilty of having said that and done that, if we’d really be honest with ourselves.  It’s time for self-examination here.  From the period of time from the sending of the first letter to Pseudo-Smerdis in 522/521BC by the Samaritan rabble, and his decree to cease construction of the Temple, to the 2nd year of Darius the Great, another letter has been sent to Darius by this rabble from Samaria.  It causes, as we’ll read in Ezra 5 and 6, Darius to countermand the decree Pseudo-Smerdis made commanding cessation of construction, and commands the construction of the Temple to resume, uninterrupted.  But in that space of time the people have ceased work on the temple and gone about planting crops and trying to make a good living for themselves.  They weren’t even putting aside some of their earnings for Temple construction when it would resume. They were thinking, ‘Ah, that’s it guys, the king of the Persian Empire ordered us to stop, this project is going nowhere, let’s get busy making money for ourselves and forget this foolish project.  As we’ll see, Darius commanded Temple construction to resume, but with the people having this attitude, God needed to stir them up to get going and finish rebuilding the Temple.  So Haggai’s message, in time order, is being giving to the people at the end of Ezra 6, but it also fits into this whole Ezra 5 through 6 portion of Ezra.  So we can read it now.  Let’s resume, and see the LORD’s admonition, for amazingly, it is for us believers in Jesus right now as well.  Don’t think it is just for the Jews of this time, it’s for us as we’ll see in Haggai 2.  Because it also applies to the period of time coming up to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.   

 

The People Need an Attitude Adjustment---same as we Christians

 

Haggai 1:3, “Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?  Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts:  ‘Consider your ways! 

You have sown much, and bring in little;  you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’

Thus says the LORD of hosts:  ‘Consider your ways!  Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the LORD.  ‘You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why?’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘Because of my house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his house.  Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds the fruit.  For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, and on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.’”  I’m going to give a comment by Pastor Chuck Smith here, as it fits, titled

 

CONSIDER YOUR WAYS

 

“God pointed out to the people that things hadn’t been going so well for them lately.  Their lives hadn’t been fruitful.  “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”  As God pointed out that their lives weren’t fruitful, he suggested “Consider your ways!”  Then he told them to get to work on the temple.  They had built and decorated their own houses, but had neglected the house of God.  Their priorities were turned around.  Sometimes it is a good thing for us to consider our ways and to reflect on our lives. Is life really working for us?  Do we see the blessings of God on our lives?  Or does it seem like we are coming up short?  Not enough money, too small a house, a lack of joy and fulfillment?  These can all be signs that we aren’t putting first things first.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  In other words, put God first and everything else will be taken care of.  Do you feel like you have holes in your pockets?  Maybe a little more attention to the Lord’s work would be in order.  Think about it.  Consider your ways.”  (p. 1195, The Word For Today Bible, (NKJV))

Now I would like to add to that good comment, following up on what the Temple of God represents.  We’re in a huge economic demise right now.  How much of that may have been allowed by God because we’re just not serious about “building God’s spiritual Temple”?  Read the next paragraph while keeping that thought in your mind.

 

Spiritual Counterpart to the Physical Temple of God---this applies to us, folks!

 

We are called “the Temple of God” by Paul, and we as Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, are a holy building God is building up for himself.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s see what the apostle Paul had to say on the subject.  1st Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”  2nd Corinthians 6:16, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’”  The analogy is that each one of us is a part of God’s spiritual holy temple for the Holy Spirit to reside in. Paul is making the analogy that all of us, collectively, are being fashioned into a holy Temple whom the Lord will dwell in and amongst at his return, a building fitly fashioned, as Scripture says.  [Comment:  the word “you” in those two verses is “you” plural, not “you” singular---he’s addressing the whole Corinthian congregation.  So each one of us isn’t an individual temple, at least as far as the grammar for these two verses show.  But we are individual building stones within God’s spiritual Temple, and as such, each of us does have the Holy Spirit indwelling us individually.  So we are sort of a temple for the Holy Spirit as individuals as well.  Just the grammar in these verses doesn’t exactly say that.]  Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”  How much clearer can you get.  The physical Temple is a mere type of what God is doing in us and through us.  How is this spiritual Temple being built?  Through evangelism, and God’s calling of a people to become believers, individual building stones, being added to his holy Temple.  You see, in the Bible physical things represent spiritual things, especially when you come to something as significant as the House of God, the holy Temple.  In Mark 16:15-16a we see Jesus Christ’s major commission to the Church, all believers in him, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”  That’s evangelism, folks, plain and simple.  And then what does he say.  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”  Is that it though, for those who are saved and have been baptized into the Body of Christ?  Is that all we have to do is evangelize to the world?  No, we get the rest of the answer in Matthew 28:19-20, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”---How?  Evangelism, plain and simple---“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…  So, we see in this cross-reference to Mark 16:15-16 a few more details which Matthew fills in.  In Mark we are told we are to preach “the gospel” to the world.  In Matthew 28 we’re told what to do with those who respond favorably to our preaching of the Gospel.  1), first, we’re told in whose name we’re to baptize everyone who believes the gospel message we’ve been preaching, and then, 2) we’re also told to spiritually nourish those who have responded to the gospel we’ve preached, those who have been baptized---“teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…”  This is how we are to build the spiritual Temple of God Jesus is going to dwell in. 

 

What is the Gospel, and how can we support it?

 

What is the Gospel we are supposed to preach to the world?  Well in Acts 2 we see Peter preached about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (there were elements of the 2nd Coming in Peter’s Gospel message as well).  Paul reiterated the same message in the beginning of the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians.  1st Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved [i.e. pretty clear here, we are saved by hearing this gospel], if you hold fast that word which I preached to you---unless you believed in vain.  [another important part of salvation people often ignore, even though God will never let go of you, you must never let go of God, you have to see the process through, salvation is a lifetime deal, not a one-time confession (cf. Matthew 24:13)]    For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,…”  So, the Gospel of Salvation according to Paul, contains knowledge of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and then in verses 49-54 of the same chapter, also contain the knowledge about Jesus Christ’s 2nd Coming and our resurrection to immortality.  Those are all elements or key components of the Gospel of Salvation (which by the way, is the only Gospel Paul said we’re to be preaching).  He said elsewhere, ‘If any man preach any other Gospel than what we have been preaching, let that person be accursed,’ or something like that.  Pretty strong words of Paul.    To see a good article which explains the Gospel of salvation more thoroughly log on:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsThrGospel%20.htm.  How can we support the various works of God within the Body of Christ which are preaching this Gospel message worldwide? What does God’s Word have to say about the principles of giving?  See:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/gifts.htm

         

[Comment: I might add here that a major leader of a Sabbatarian Church of God denomination has read the article “What Is The Gospel?” linked here, and gives it his 100 percent approval as being an accurate description of what the Gospel of Salvation is.  But sadly, the Sabbatarian side of the Body of Christ has not properly recognized that many in the Sunday observing side of the Body of Christ have been properly preaching this very same Gospel of Salvation to the world as defined in that article, and that support of the non-denominational evangelistic organizations is proper and right, because if fulfills supporting the preaching of the simple Gospel of Salvation, again as defined in that article.  The Sabbatarian Churches of God need to look into this matter quite seriously before the end-times smack us in the face, and they’ll have done nothing to have supported the proclamation of the Gospel at the most critical period of time for doing so.]

 

How Did the Jews Respond to Haggai’s Message From God?

 

Haggai 1:12-15, “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, 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 feared the presence of the LORD.  Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, spoke the LORD’s message to the people, saying, ‘I am with you, says the LORD.’  So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of king Darius.”  The second year of king Darius II would equate to 521BC – 2 years = 519BC, in the 6th month, the 24th day of that month.  This is when the people ‘got with it’ and took Haggai’s message from the LORD to heart.  You can make the spiritual connections of these verses to getting serious in supporting evangelism of all kinds within the Body of Christ before the 2nd Coming of Jesus, which is an accurate connection to make, based on the passages we’ve already looked at in 1st Corinthians 3:16-17, 2nd Corinthians 6:16, and Ephesians 2:19-22.  You take it from there.  It’s God’s message to you, and it’s your life, as they say.  We find one prophecy in Zechariah, the companion prophet to Haggai, about Jesus Christ’s first coming, and how this BRANCH (Christ) would go about building “the temple of the LORD.”  Based upon what the apostle Paul has told us, this “Temple of the LORD” is a spiritual Temple, made without hands, and that’s us, folks!  Let’s read this short prophecy.  It ties right in with Joshua and Zerubbabel’s rebuilding of the 2nd Temple, but then looks forward to Christ at his first coming and his building of this “temple of the LORD” (which is an ongoing process from Pentecost 30AD to the 2nd Coming).  We see elements of Jesus Christ’s first coming, and what he is doing now, from the start of the Church up until the 2nd coming, and also we see elements which occur after Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming, all contained in this very short prophecy about the BRANCH.  It’s fascinating, when taken in context with what we just read Paul stating.  Zechariah 6:9-13, “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Receive the gift from the captives---from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon---and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah.  Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.  Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying:

‘Behold, the man whose name is the BRANCH!  From his place he shall branch out, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.  He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on his throne; so he shall be priest on his throne.  And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’”

 

More Incentive Given by the LORD Through Haggai to the Jews, And To Us

 

The LORD gives Haggai one more message for the people, to kind of kick them into high gear and really give them some incentive.  Haggai 2:1-9, “In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month [this is the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Lord is giving a special message through Haggai to the people], the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying:  ‘Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying:  Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory?  And how do you see it now?  [Remember, all those who had seen the former Temple of Solomon were crying when they saw the foundations being laid for this Temple?  God’s calling their attention to that, and is about to tell them something really important and inspiring.]  In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?  Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD of hosts.  according to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’  For thus says the LORD of hosts:  ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.  The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,’ says the LORD of hosts.  The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.’”  Now here in verses 6-7 this can only be a direct reference to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  These two verses portray worldwide upheaval only found described in the Book of Revelation, and some in Isaiah.  God at the end of Haggai pronounces a blessing on Zerubbabel for his efforts and service in bringing the people back to the land of Judah and constructing the 2nd Temple.  Strong 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ pronouncements are included in this blessing.  Haggai 2:20-23, “And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, ‘I will shake heaven and earth, I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms.  I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword of his brother.  In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the LORD, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  This prophecy ties right into the end-time destruction of nations which we see taking place in the Book of Revelation (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation4-10.html ; and http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/Pentecost-Revetion1.htm  ).  Almost all of the Book of Zechariah, the companion prophet of Haggai, is about the time of the Tribulation (World War III) and the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  When the LORD preached what he did here in Haggai and then what we see written in Zechariah chapters 12 through 14, well, these poor Jews thought this was all about to occur in their lifetimes, and so they got real busy and finished the construction of the Temple.  Just take some time and read through those three chapters in Zechariah, with statements like “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.  And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it…The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah.  In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them.  It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2-3, 7-9) and also, “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst.  For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished.  Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle.  And in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.  And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half toward the south…And the LORD shall be King over all the earth.  In that day it shall be---‘The LORD is one,’ and his name one…And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:1-4, 9, 16).  But we know these prophecies, as almost all of them do in Zechariah, apply directly to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  And we have also just seen how the Lord Jesus Christ is building his spiritual Temple, which is us, folks!  And he wants all of us to be busy helping the Lord build his spiritual Temple just before the end, when no man can work, and there will be a famine of the Word of God, as Amos said in Amos 8:11-12, “Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it.”  We don’t have forever to finish the proclamation of the Gospel message to the world.  There will be a time when the Lord allows our works for him to be cut off, a time when there is time no more.  This will be like the calm before the storm, just before the Tribulation strikes.  Those prophecies in Zechariah are more for us now, those of us who are building the Temple of the LORD that the apostle Paul spoke of, they were written to give us our incentives toward the Temple Jesus is using us to help him build. But we don’t have forever to get the job done.  It behooves us all to find out for ourselves what the Gospel of Salvation is, and be promoting it however and wherever we can, as well as helping to nourish the Body of Christ, those precious building blocks Jesus has already gathered for his Temple.  That’s the whole purpose of this website (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/memphisbelle.htm ).  I’m doing my best to do both of those things.  What are you doing? 

 

Promised Blessing Because They Heeded the LORD’s Message Through Haggai---does it apply to us today?

 

Now you remember how God had cursed the Jews’ crops, clothing and everything they were doing to make an income in Haggai chapter 1?  Then it says they heeded the LORD’s message through Haggai and Zechariah.  What was God’s response?  We find it in Haggai 2:15-19, “And now, carefully consider from this day forward:  from before the stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the LORD---since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty.  I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to me,’ says the LORD.  ‘Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation was laid---consider it:  Is the seed still in the barn?  As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree has not yielded fruit.  But from this day I will bless you.”  The United States, and a lot of the rest of the world, but particularly the United States, has been in a HUGE economic downturn.  Now in the spiritual sense, God is not judging the United States nor any physical nation yet.  But is he judging ‘the household of God’?  Have we as believers in Jesus been more interested in pursuing our careers than the things of the Lord, the two major things he’s interested in, nourishing the Body of Christ, and evangelizing the world?  Have we been more interested in fixing up our houses than supporting the various Works of God which promote those two central parts of Jesus Great Commission for believers?  I am quite sure, if we heeded Haggai’s and Zechariah’s message of encouragement for us by doing so, we’d be equally blessed in our physical harvests as well.  Just think how much more Haggai’s and Zechariah’s messages apply to our time than theirs.  God can bless in lean times, and curse in fat times.  The economy of the nation and world doesn’t have to pick up for God to bless your physical harvest, although he may just chose to do so.  Don’t try to put God in a box.  Just do his will in your life and see what happens.  Now let’s continue on in Ezra 5.  In verses 1-2 we saw that “the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem”, we just covered that. 

 

The Jews Get Busy With Temple-Construction, Samaritan Opposition Begins Again

 

Now we pick up with Ezra 5:3-17.  Whenever you’re doing a real work for the Lord, and begin in earnest, opposition always seems to rear its ugly head.  It just goes with the territory, as they say.  Ezra 5:3-17, “At the same time Tattenai the governor of the region beyond the River and Shethar-Bozni and their companions came to them and spoke thus to them:  ‘Who has commanded you to build this temple and finish this wall?’  Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were constructing this building.  But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius.”  So Smerdis or Pseudo-Smerdis is dead, and Darius the Great is reigning in his place.  Darius the Great reigned from 521BC to 486BC, and the 2nd Temple was completed in 515BC, so this correspondence that took place between this Tattenai tattle-tail/busy-body and Darius probably occurred between 521BC and 519BC, is my educated guess.  “This is a copy of the letter Tattenai sent:

‘The governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Bozni, and his companions, the Persians who were in the region beyond the River, to Darius the king.’

(They sent the letter to him, in which was written thus)

‘To Darius the king:  All peace.  Let it be known to the king that we went into the province of Judea, to the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones, and timber is being laid in the walls; and this work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands.  Then we asked those elders, and spoke thus to them: ‘Who commanded you to build this temple and to finish these walls?’  We also asked them their names to inform you, that we might write the names of the men who were chief among them.  And thus they returned us an answer, saying: ‘We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and completed.  But because our fathers provoked the God of heaven to wrath, he gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and carried the people away to Babylon.  However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to build this house of God.  Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple that was in Jerusalem and carried into the temple of Babylon---those King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon, and they were given to one named Shesbazzar, whom he had made governor.  And he said to him, ‘Take these articles; go, carry them to the temple site that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its former site.’  Then the same Shesbazzar came and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem; but from that time even until now it has been under construction, and it is not finished.’  Now therefore, if it seems good to the king, let a search be made in the king’s treasure house, which is in Babylon, whether it is so that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send us his pleasure concerning this matter.’”

 

Darius’ Response and Decree

 

Ezra 6:1-12, “Then king Darius issued a decree, and a search was made in the archives [lit. the house of scrolls], where the treasures were stored in Babylon.  And at Achmetha [Ecbatana, the ancient capital of Media], in the palace that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found, and in it a record was written thus:

‘In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem: ‘Let the house be rebuilt, the place where they offered sacrifices; and let the foundations of it be firmly laid, its height sixty cubits and is width sixty cubits, with three rows of heavy stones and one row of new timber.  Let the expenses be paid from the king’s treasury.  Also let the gold and the silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God’---

 

‘Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there.  Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site.  Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God:  Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered.  And whatever they need---young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem---let it be given them day by day without fail, that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons.’

 

‘Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap [King James, dung hill, i.e. a compost pile where cow and/or sheep manure is composted] because of this.  And may the God who causes his name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem.  I Darius issue a decree; let it be done immediately.’”

Wow!  The tables have turned against the Samaritans.  They are now to raise taxes from their lands and pay them to the Jews to assist Temple construction, and they are to stay in their own lands, and mind their own business.  And anyone who tries to alter this decree from Darius the Great will have a timber pulled from his house and he’ll be hung on it (by the neck until dead, like in the wild west), and his house will be turned into a dung heap, compost pile where cattle and sheep manure is composted.  God took action through the king of the Persian Empire to see that the Temple construction continued, and even gave them tax money collected from their enemies.  There is a proverb that says that when our ways please the Lord, he will even make our enemies be at peace with us.

 

Temple Completed and Dedicated, 515BC

 

Ezra 6:13-18, “Then Tattenai, the governor of the region beyond the River, Shethar-Boznai, and their companions diligently did according to what king Darius had sent.  So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo.  And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.  [Artaxerxes may be a reference to Pseudo-Smerdis, or it could be a reference to Xerxes, who would be the son of Darius the Great, and a young boy at this time, a prince.]  Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, which is the sixth year of the reign of king Darius.  [The sixth year of the reign of Darius the Great would be 521BC – 6 = 515BC]  Then the children of Israel [again, the children of Israel means the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi, not the ten tribes of Israel who have disappeared into the Russian steppes], the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy.  And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.  [i.e. they were sacrificing for all 12 tribes, even though ten of them are not present, sacrifices were made for them as well, in absentia.]  They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem as it is written in the Book of Moses.”  The Book of Moses is composed of the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  This was a big hoopla, a gala occasion with steaks, mutton and lamb on the Barbie as our Aussie brothers would say.  The priests and Levites were reinstalled and officiating over the whole celebration.

 

The Passover Celebrated

 

Verses 19-22, “And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month.  [Comment:  the Jews now currently observe their Passover Seder at the beginning of the 15 day of the first month.  Ezra was observing it according to the commands in Exodus 12, on the 14th day of the first month as it should be.  For more on about the Passover see http://www.unityinchrist.com/lamb/exodus1.html]  For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.  Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel.  And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”  So we find that Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest finished the job they had set out to do, when they first left the region of Babylon with the 50,000 Jewish captives who had just been released by Cyrus in 536BC.  Cyrus died in 530BC in his ill-fated war with the Massagetae and Dahai Scythians.  The Temple was finished and dedicated in 515BC, and the Passover has just been celebrated in the first month of the Hebrew Calendar probably at the beginning of 514BC. Then in 513/512BC Darius the Great attempts to invade the Black Sea Scythians.

 

Related links:

 

To place the book of Haggai in complete context with the Book of Ezra and that historic time, log onto and read through the section on Ezra, Esther and Leonidas at:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/ezra/ezra1.html.

 

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