4 December 2015

Haggai 1:1-8

“Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honoured says the Lord.” (v. 8)

Psalm: Psalm 139


The name Haggai means festal or festive. Haggai's message was one of exhortation and strong encouragement to the Israelites returning from a time of exile to rebuild the temple. Haggai perhaps anticipated the time when Israel's great feasts would be celebrated again in a rebuilt temple, which at present was lying in ruins.

It was the 6th century BC and some of the Israelites had returned from exile in Babylon and were permitted to rebuild their temple. The temple was the religious centre of the people of Israel, the place of the where in the holy of holies, resided the presence of God. The temple was core to their religious identity as a people of God. However initial efforts had faltered and other day to day priorities had taken over.

Haggai pronounced a word of challenge from God. The people were more preoccupied with rebuilding their own houses, rather than the house of God. God's challenge to them was that they used much energy and effort to build homes, grow food and cloth themselves, but it did not seem to have rewarded them with much. They harvested little, did not have enough to drink, and were still cold.

The time had come to rebuild the house of the Lord, the place where the presence of God resides with God's own people. The time had come to focus on their core identity and priorities. They need to show their thankfulness to God for bringing them out of exile and back home.

Psalm 21 is a song of thanksgiving for victory. The king of Israel, thankful for the victory God has given, does the will of God, and has given God his heart's desire (verse 2). This demonstrates the king's trust (verse 7).

To Ponder

  • Why do you think it is important to pay attention to the core traditions and values of a religious or any other identity?
  • Why do you think it was important for those returning from exile to think about the priorities of the whole community and not just their individual families?
  • Is having a communal identity important? If so, how do you create it or maintain it?

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.