27 September 2014

Haggai 1:15 - 2:9

“Take courage, all you people of the land, says the Lord; work for I am with you, says the Lord of hosts, according to the promise that I made you when you came out of Egypt. My spirit abides among you; do not fear.” (vv. 4b-5)


Haggai was prophesying around 600BC. Some of the Israelites had returned from exile in Babylon and had been granted permission to rebuild the temple, the symbol of their religious identity, and the holy place, where God's presence with his people resided with greatest intensity.

Haggai has received a word of prophecy from God to exhort the returning exiles to stop their delay in the temple rebuilding. They needed to show their thankfulness to God for the return to exile, and to remember who they were as a people.

In today's passage Haggai's word from the Lord, came to both those representing both political and religious power in Judah, to the governor Zerubbabel and to Joshua the high priest.

Haggai challenged Judah to look at sad sight of the temple in its present state, compared to its former glorious sight before the exile. He asked a question from God as to who can remember the temple in its former glory and how it compares with the sight of nothing now (verse 3).

Haggai then speaks the word of God into their discouragement as a people, trying to pick up the pieces after the disarray of exile. It is time to take courage and build. It is time to stop being afraid.

God's spirit resides with them. Haggai reminds them of God's promises of old when he brought them out of slavery in Egypt and into freedom in the Promised Land (verse 5). In a little while God will show his power in the heavens and on earth (verse 7). Silver and gold belong to God (verse 8), and the rebuilt temple will be even more splendid than the temple of old. God will bring them prosperity in this place (verse 9).

Psalm 23 picks up the theme of God being with us in troubled times. It is a pray of reassurance, a call to stop being afraid and a call to trust. God has our welfare in hand, even when enemies oppress us (verse 5).

To Ponder

  • When you think of yourself as part of a community, (for example your church or neighbourhood) or as part of a nation (England, Scotland, Wales, the Islands) what might make you afraid?
  • What is the difference between burying your head in the sand and pretending all is well, and taking courage to build together believing that God has plans for your prosperity and not disaster? How can you tell which is which?
  • How do you conquer and move through fear?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jenny Ellis

Jenny is a Methodist minister and this year has permission to study, as well as work alongside a rural chapel to help it find a new physical presence and sense of mission in its village. She is leading a number of quiet and study days.